Running After Childbirth
Becoming a mum is such a wonderful experience and running is not at the forefront of your mind. The most important thing is to enjoy that lovely newborn time and to try to get used to those sleepless nights! Eventually there will be a moment when your mind turns to running and you might find yourself wondering how to get back. Here are some of my top tips based on my experiences and the approach I adopted
Getting Back To Running
How Much Running Did You Do During Pregnancy
This is going to determine the amount of running you can do when you start back.
If you didn’t run at all during pregnancy then I would wait a lot longer after childbirth before returning to running. Your body is going to be completely de-conditioned from running due to the lengthy lay off and you'll need plenty of time to re-condition so you must start back gradually. You’ll need to progress your running at a much slower rate and I would advise that you treat yourself like a beginner and use a similar approach to the couch to 5k. Listen to your body and wait until you feel like running, don’t force it upon yourself!
How Long Before ChildBirth Did You Stop Running
Some women run right up to the day before they give birth! I personally stopped about three weeks before which was because I felt very tired. I was listening to my body and it felt right for me. We are all different and I would advise following what feels right for you.
Because I had three weeks off it meant that my return would have to be just a little more gradual to allow my body to re-condition after the relatively short lay off. The need for a couch to 5k programme would not be necessary but you still may want to start with walk – jog – walk for a few days, just to ease yourself back in. The rate at which you can build up the running would be much greater than if you did no running during pregnancy but you would still need to be very careful. I think the priority is to focus on enjoying being a mum and being the best mum you can be and fit running around that.
How Long After The Birth Did You Wait Before Returning To Running
This is similar to the previous factor. If you took only a few days off and then started to run then your are not going to have lost much conditioning but if you took a few weeks you will have to start much more gradually. Again this will also relate to the running you did in pregnancy and how long before the birth you stopped running. You’ll need to consider all these factors when you plan your return.
Did You Have Any Birth Complications And Did You Have A Natural Birth Or C-section
Not all births are the same and this going to impact on your return. In 2009 I had an emergency c-section and a very poorly baby and so running was very far from my thoughts. I was only thinking about my lovely little baby boy and spending every second devoted to him. Fortunately after a blood transfusion he made a quick recovery but due to only weighing 5lbs 9oz I had to feed him every 90 minutes to try to get his weight up. This soon became 2 hours and then 3 hours but it was exhausting. I breast fed but then had my own complication as I was hospitalised with mastitis. I felt very poorly for a few days but I was determined to continue breast feeding. It was extremely painful but I really focused my mind and eventually got through it. I was then really pleased to be able to continue breast feeding my son beyond six months.
All of this of course delayed my return to running but I didn’t even think about running for a couple of months. When I started back I did so very cautiously and really took my time. However after a month or so my son was admitted to hospital with bronchiolitis. He was very ill and I stopped running for a couple more weeks. I eventually started up again but it was now around four months after the birth.
You can see how personal circumstances and complications can greatly impact on any return to running. My only thoughts were for my son. With my second child, due to risk factors, I also had a c-section but there were no complications and after my recovery from the c-section I was back running gently. Both births were so different and my return to running was therefore very different. You can’t plan any of this, you just have to go with the flow and do the best you can. Just make sure you follow the golden rule of putting your baby first.
The Needs Of Your Newborn
That newborn time is so precious and wonderful and it’s also really exhausting. Your babies feeding and sleep routine is going have an impact on how you feel and when you are going to be able to start running. If you are breast feeding and doing all of the feeds throughout the night you might feel different to a new mum who is either formula feeding or bottle feeding with expressed milk. This is because they might have a helping hand from their partner during the night. For my first born I had to do all the feeds whilst in hospital but when I got home my husband could help with some bottle feeds of expressed milk. However this didn’t go quite to plan as my son had severe reflux meaning we lost lots of the expressed milk and so I would have to feed him myself. With my second child Emily, although she had no complications, I still had to do all the night feeds as she refused to take expressed milk from a bottle. They really don’t make it is easy for you! I found it very comical and didn’t stress about it. Again you can see how you can’t plan any of this. I remember mums saying that it would be ok as you can get Gav to do the nights feeds. This would have been great but it didn’t work out that way. All your ideas before giving birth are just that, they are ideas. The reality can be very different.
The health and weight of your baby will also be a factor and smaller babies often feed more regularly. This will also impact on a return to running. Again don’t worry about it. Just do what you can.
Your Own Needs
Finally, try to remember that you matter too! You may have also had some complications or just feel extremely exhausted. My advice here is to first focus on being healthy, both in body and mind, before even thinking about running. Give yourself the time you need to adjust to having a new baby, overcoming any issues you had and just feeling ready to run again. You might find your raring to go a few days after the birth but equally you might need a month or so. It really doesn’t matter and there are no hard and fast rules.
I would also keep in mind that running might actually benefit you even if you don’t realise it. Sometimes what you need isn’t always what you feel like. Perhaps a little time out in the fresh air doing some gentle exercise might help to re-energise you. So maybe venture out and just see how it goes. Don’t worry if you start back running only to stop again. It really doesn’t matter. There is no brownie points for how quick you can get back. Whether someone takes a few weeks or a whole year, it really doesn’t matter. We are all different and you must do what’s right for you.
Your Return To Running
You can see how all these factors come together to determine your return to running. You might have to consider one of them, some of them, or even all of them.
What’s really important is to focus on your newborn baby. I had no thoughts at all about any timescale or targets. When I had Emily I wasn’t stressing about getting back to training. I just took each day at a time and very gradually I got back into my running. It was only a few months later when I was running every day that I then started to have thoughts about races.I then did something that might be considered a bit bonkers and entered the national 10000m championships as my comeback race!
Further advice →
Hope this has been helpful. Good luck!