Let’s face it, it’s hard to find any extra time after a new baby enters the family, especially to run, and more than that, to train for a race.
It’s not unusual to experience guilt hitting the road for training, leaving a new baby behind with your spouse or sitter, sometimes hours at a time. I experienced this first hand. But, running made me feel human, sane, and helped me function better in all other areas of life, which ultimately benefited my baby and family. Plus, what better way to get back into shape after birth than making an exciting goal!
Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon 2016
How though, as a new mom, can you make training for a race a priority? Having ran four half marathons the summer after giving birth to my first child, and a full marathon the summer after my daughter’s birth, I feel like I know a thing or two. Some things to do, and others that you simply shouldn’t! So, let’s dig in shall we?
When can I start running after birth?
Running while on vacation in Palm Springs 2014
Once you get the all clear from your doctor. Unless you have some medical reason, you should be able to get out for short walks with baby starting a week or so after birth. We took small evening walks around our neighborhood daily and it felt SO GOOD to move. I was cleared to begin working out with each child about six weeks postpartum. Once cleared I started muscle tightening workouts. Pregnancy does a number on your hips, pelvis, and abdomen. The muscles in these areas are loose and relaxed to aid in the birthing process. It’s a big no to simply start running as this can lead to injury. Please guys, trust me on this one, it’s vital to do muscle strengthening workouts along with running. Skip this step and you will face injury, especially training for a half or longer race. Plus, bringing everything back together and strengthening those areas can only enhance your ability to run and improve your posture, which makes running longer distances obtainable. Some programs I love to help with cross training: PiYo and Yoga. You can find them both here, as well as many other of my favorites!
Can I run with baby?
Not until baby is six months old. Babies have little to no head control until six months postpartum and can easily become injured if you hit an unexpected bump in the sidewalk or trail. There’s controversy on this subject, with some moms stating that if you get a high quality stroller and go on smooth roads you can run earlier, but I didn’t. It wasn’t worth it to me to test out if my baby could withstand the neck jostling. Plus, I’ll be the first to admit I’m clumsy, so I didn’t want to put my infant at risk training before he was old enough.
How do I find time to run without my baby?
If you have a race within a few months after baby then obviously you need to hit the road solo to get your miles logged. There are a couple ways to do this.
1. Evening Runs
Evening run in Edmonds WA 2014
I did a lot of evening runs after Travis got home from work. I’d feed him, feed the baby, get them all settled and then hit the road. Sometimes this worked great, and sometimes I was called back after only a few miles because our first born, Tyrion, was a mamas boy to the core and would cry for me no matter what. But that’s life. Not ever run went perfectly. Thankfully Evelyn, our second, was a lot more relaxed and didn’t mind mama leaving. At that point Tyrion was older and he’d simply say “Mom, you going for a run? Bye!”
2. Early Morning Runs. And I mean early!
A morning run along the beach in Ocean Shores 2016
If Travis worked a late shift or it was going to be dark by the time I could get out, I would have to switch up my evening routing and run before everyone woke up. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) unusual for me to get up at 4:30 and do a 7 miler before Travis is up to get ready for work. I’d typically nurse Tyrion around that time, place him back in bed and take off. When training for my marathon morning runs were my only option for the 15+ milers. Getting up once a week at 3:30 am was the norm towards the end. I needed to get it over with before the summer heat made me want to die on the pavement.
3. Plan your runs ahead of time, know your schedule.
Sometimes Travis went to events without me, sometimes I missed doing other fun things because I made a commitment to run. But anytime it became frustrating I had to remind myself I picked this, I wanted to do it, so it was time to buck up and see it through. Travis does not have a set work schedule, so I’d have to sit down every week with his schedule, and map out my runs accordingly.
Running after baby is a whole family commitment.
Leavenworth Half Marathon 2014 – Pregnant with Evelyn and didn’t know it yet!
Travis watched the kids a lot so I could train. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say at time he got frustrated with the amount of time we all had to invest in my dream. But, he supported me and had my back 100%. He knew how important it was to me. After the marathon I took a running break, not only to rest my body and give it a chance to heal from some of the injuries I had, but also to give Travis a break, because our life was “Eryn needs to run” for the past six months of training. Want to tell your spouse you’re interested in a race? Research some training plans, find a race that interests you, and sit down with your spouse and lay it all out. You both need to know what you’re getting into before you make a commitment. Especially if the race requires traveling which makes for added expenses and time.
Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon Seattle 2016
The baby is old enough, what stroller should I use?
Yeah for you! Running with a baby adds a whole new intensity to your training! Get the calorie burn of a six mile run in three, especially if you’re going up hills! We have a Graco Fastaction Fold Jogger Connect Stroller and I love it! Still going strong after four years of use. I like how I can easily recline whoever’s in the stroller if they fall asleep, and how they can have a sippy cup and snacks at all times to help keep them occupied.
When Evelyn was born we got a Schwinn Turismo Swivel Double stroller and man, pushing two is twice as intense! This one is neat because it has canopy mounted speakers that hook to your phone, so you can still play music and not need earbuds. The only issue is Tyrion is long, so his little outside foot always dangles off the end, (he started using this stroller with his sister when he was about 2.5 years old) and I can tell it bothers him a bit.
I have a few friends who yell BOB strollers from the rooftops, but they were not in the budget when we looked!
Another great tip if you have two kids is to take the younger one with you and leave the older, easier to entertain child at home. This makes dad’s job easier and you get to push the smaller of the two!
Nursing and running? Let’s chat.
Nursing and running is totally doable, but there’s a few things to remember. It will be harder to lose weight while running if you nurse. To lose weight you need to place yourself in a calorie deficit, but if you cut back calories too much while nursing your milk production suffers. While running and nursing I was constantly starving! Even for smaller three mile runs you’re burning an average of 300+ calories, so I felt the need to eat constantly! However, I was able to lose all the baby weight, slowly, with Tyrion while running. Evelyn was a different story. Training for a marathon puts your body through some major stress that can lead to a stalemate in the weight loss department, or even weight gain. I was not able to lose all the pre-baby weight from Evelyn while marathon training. I was still up about 15 pounds from where I wanted to be when I crossed the finish line. I went on to drop 10 pounds in two months afterwards from not running but instead concentrating on strength training and reducing my carb intake. A lot.
I really didn’t want to share these! But just in case you questioned me! 😉
Overall, be gracious with yourself.
Don’t make goals that are super hard to reach. For the typical non-athlete, a half marathon isn’t reasonable three months postpartum. Tyrion was nine months old when I ran my first half marathon, and Evelyn was 11 months old when I completed my first full. I gave myself plenty of time for training, setbacks, and any other issues that could arise. (And believe me, something will!) Give yourself at least a full extra month for training wiggle room so you don’t feel stressed when things come up, or worse yet, have to bow out of the race because you tried for too much too soon.