Getting back to running after pregnancy might be easy. It might be not. Some moms run a marathon within months after giving birth. Others don't. But, at least in my opinion - and after consulting a PT, there are some guidelines to follow. 1. Start whenever you feel ready and start slowly This might be right after giving birth. This might be after a couple of weeks. This might be after several months. Golden rule is not to push it. My PT warned me about getting back in full-on training mode too early, and noticing the negative effects of this on your pelvic floor after several years. Start with shorter distances and work from there. Listen to your body and don't try to push limits you shouldn't. 2. Try to ignore public opinion and pressure We have al heard them. The 'so and so was back to running after just a few weeks, and ran a marathon within a couple of months' and 'well, you should at least be back in pre pregnancy shape within 3 months' and 'wait, what? you haven't lost all the pregnancy weight yet? It's already been 2 months!'. Well, the truth is, every body is different, every mom is different, every pregnancy is different and every family is different. Try not to judge. But since it is in the nature of people to judge, you might feel bad about yourself from time to time, because others (runners or not) expect you to do things that aren't realistic and/or your body isn't ready for. Try not to compare you to others. It does not make you weak if you're back to running full on weeks/months/or even a year later than other moms. In my case, I do consider myself a seasoned runner. I have several marathons and ultras under my belt, managed to run a 3 1/2 hour marathon (which isn't fast, I know, but at least it got my a qualification to run the Boston Marathon, which was something I really wanted), and averaged 10-16 hour training weeks. I had every intention to run through my pregnancy, but reality was I was on bed rest from 16 weeks on (starting with semi, and on full after a while). After giving birth I had pelvic floor issues (and yes, I did have a rock solid pelvic floor pre pregnancy, did my exercises during and after, but - as my PT explained - you can tick all the boxes and still have leakage (yes, I said it ;)) and pain after running for a longer period of time). It happens, and it is not something that should make you feel like less of a runner. You are still a runner. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. And then there is the 'time for running' issue. I'm a single mom, and need to juggle running around my little boy's schedule. There is not significant other I can ask to watch baby Q, to give me some time to run. No complaining here. But, juggling in runs is a bit more challenging. Luckily, I do have a baby jogger. And yes, a 2 hour baby jogger run, feels like at least 3 hours without a stroller. And you have to work harder to keep the same pace. Hello, muscular arms. ;) Plus, reality is, there are quite some times when you want to cuddle with your baby, you're just too tired or just want to chill out on the couch with a book. Nothing to feel guilty about. Most of the time your running buddies will understand, but sometimes they won't. And might even make you - unintentionally - feel bad. Seeing your running buddies run in front of you with others, because you can't keep up yet, is just not a fun thing. 3. Down size your Twitter / Instagram / Facebook time Reading about everyone else's accomplishments might make you feel bad. Even though you know you just gave birth, this won't stop that little voice in the back of your head, that is telling you that you are slacking. 4. Cross train It might be easier to do core work outs/strength training/a stationary bike session with the baby sleeping next to you. It will give you that 'I worked out' rush and it helps your running. 5. Watch that pelvic floor My PT pointed out that this is a big one. Most new moms seem to forget about this, and end up in pain years after giving birth. By paying attention now, doing your exercises, and not rushing back into running/exercising, you can do everything to prevent this. 6. Set a reasonable goal Don't make yourself run a marathon PR months after giving birth. Pick a race that has a high fun factor for you (for me this was running one of the Swiss Alpine Marathon distances - the half marathon with quite some altitude gain- 4 months after having my son), and set yourself a goal of not finishing last. In my case I did not finish last, but was much slower than pre pregnancy, and in pretty much yucky pelvic pain from the half way point on, but I did have a lot of fun and a great experience. Do you have any other tips that might be helpful for new moms?
Ok, just to clear this up. No, I am not running an ultra this summer. Nor am I running a marathon. I am not super woman! Am I training to get back to marathon and ultra running, yes. 'But, I know this girl, who ran a marathon at 9 months pregnant.' Well, considering the fact that I was induced at 37 weeks, I didn't do the full 9 months, huh. 'Ok, but I know this other girl, she ran through her pregnancy. That's also a great way to stay in shape and not gain too much weight.' Well, yes, I had every intention to keep running throughout my pregnancy, but it turned out, that I was on semi bedrest from 16 weeks on, and on complete bedrest from week 26. And no working out since 8 weeks pregnant. Childbirth was a breeze, pregnancy wasn't. But I would do it again in a heart beat. Apparently, not every pregnancy is the same, so you really can't compare one pregnant lady to the other. 'So, you're not in marathon shape yet?' Uhm, no, I'm not. Hence the answer to your last question. 'Ok, but surely you're back to working out 10-16 hours a week, right?' Ha! Oh, you're serious? I'm a single mom, and self-employed, so I want and have to fit in work outs in my boy's schedule. 'Well, if you're not working out 10 hours a week, how are you going to get rid of the pregnancy weight?' Uhm, most of it is gone, and those last couple of pounds - slowly. I'm no Hollywood celebrity that is back to working out 24 hours post delivery. And that six-pack - well, I think I'll manage fine without it. 'So, you're not into running anymore?' Uh, what? Are you even listening? Nope, I am very much into running. I just had to stop running due to pregnancy. One of the best reasons out there, right? ;) Plus, pregnancy is an ultra marathon by itself. ;)
You're running an ultra this summer. A mountain ultra. Whether it being your first, your second, or your twenty-fifth. You're running an ultra. And you're mildly intimidated by the elevation profile/course map/cut-off times.
I've been there, believe me. I have. Although this whole 'getting into shape post pregnancy and realizing your pelvic floor isn't the sturdy one you had pre pregnancy and your belly will probably never look the same' thing makes me feel like a pathetic excuse for a runner, I do still feel the ultra love. As far as running goes, ultras have my heart. As far as life goes, my heart is in the hands of a now 3 months old boy. Yeah, I know, enough already with the proud new mom talk.
Post pregnancy hormones aside. You are running an ultra, and you are mildly intimidated. Does that quite sum it up?
Well, again, I have been there, and I am not even close to being a speedy or expert runner, but I did run some mountains - during races or just during me time. Those mountains truly are something created by the hand of a higher power. At least, that's how I feel. The views, the sounds of cow bells in the distance, marmots whistling, I'd take those mountains over a tropical beach any day.
But they are intimidating. The weather can do a 180 on you within minutes. The trail you ran yesterday, can look like a completely different trail today. Twice as challenging. Those mountains change by the hour.
In 2011, after my first 50 miler at the Swiss Alpine Marathon in Davos, Switzerland, I read on Janina's (a German ultra runner) Facebook page, that you are only a guest in the mountains. And I find that true. You are a guest and should act accordingly. Respect those mountains, but feel honored to be allowed to visit them. To spend time with them. Feel blessed to be up there. Breathing in that fresh mountain air.
Do set a goal of finishing pre race, but don't be too set on doing so. Some days a 50 mile race, just turns into a 30 mile trail run. Or a 5 mile long chat with friends. Don't beat yourself up over not crossing that finish line. Instead, enjoy having run some trails.
If you plan on running under XX hours, plan accordingly, but accept changing conditions. Weather, an upset stomach, that amazing view you'd like to enjoy for a couple of minutes. Honestly, no one will think less highly of you for not finishing or finishing slower than you'd hoped to. At least, no one with their sanity in place.
And yes, your legs will probably hurt. A lot. But the good thing about ultras is, your legs will hurt to a point where you think you can't take any more, and then the pain just doesn't get worse. Also, ultras are a chain of rough patches and easy breezy moments. That's the beauty of them. And no matter how hard the climb, the view will always be worth it.
[To all the ultra running moms: yes, your legs will hurt, but honestly, it's not child birth. And most definitely not natural and unmedicated child birth. Uh huh.]
Plus, in the end it's just a mountain. A mountain that has seen more people succeed than not.
So, promise me this - set a timer, on your phone, watch, whatever you have in your pack. For, let's say, every two hours during that ultra you're running. An when that alarm goes off - stop. In your tracks (obviously while taking note of other runners while doing so…uh huh). Close your eyes. Inhale. And exhale. Smile. And open your eyes. Look around. Truly look around. Take in your surroundings - no matter if it's snowing/raining/night time. Look around. And breathe in those mountains. It will make all the difference. Trust me.