Training for a Half or Full Marathon After Baby: How to fit running into your busy schedule.

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Let’s face facts, 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 marathon after baby. Or a 5k, 10k, half. . . well, you get it.

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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!

marathon after baby

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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?

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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?

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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

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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! 

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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.

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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.

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Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon Seattle 2016

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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!

Favorite Running Gear

Favorite Runners Fuel

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, 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. It can also do something awful: lead to weight gain. I was not able to lose all the pre-baby weight from Evelyn while marathon training. When I crossed the finish line I was still up about 15 pounds from where I wanted to be. 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. 

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Not that I wanted 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. 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 a full extra month for training wiggle room so you don’t feel stressed if things come up. Worse yet, you’d hate to have to bow out of the race because you tried for too much too soon.

Have you ran after baby? How was it for you and do you have any advice to share?

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Eryn Whalen

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  1. Great tips! I just had baby number 3, and am looking forward to getting back into working out. However, this time around I plan on easing into it with gentle muscle strengthening exercises, just like you suggested!

    1. Congrats on baby number three! That’s so wonderful. The more sweet babies the better!

  2. these are great tips. I’m itching to get back to a normal fitness routine after I have this babe. You’re so motivational!

    1. Thank you! It feels so good to get back to something normal like working out after baby!

  3. Running post-baby definitely feels a little different at first. Running (really any exercise) is so good for your body and mind!! I’m a big fan of MOVING! Thanks for sharing these tips and your experience, Eryn!!

    1. I’m glad you found them useful! And you’re totally right, moving in ANY way after baby is great!

  4. I’m a mom of two boys and I am training for my first half marathon and I usually have to take my youngest, he’s three, on my shorter runs…between 3-5 miles. I have a double jogger that I take both my boys in. I drop the first off at school and then run the rest of my mileage with the little guy. The nice thing is that I don’t feel like I have to work on strength training too much since the extra weight of the stroller is helping to build muscle. I can definitely tell a difference on my longer runs that I do by myself. I do my long runs on the days my hubby as off. Sometimes, that doesn’t work for his schedule, so I call in favors from friends and family to watch the boys so I can go. It’s been a great journey so far! I can’t wait until I can run alongside my eldest. What fun that will be!

  5. I’m training for my first half marathon in September. I do my long runs on the days my hubby as off. Sometimes, that doesn’t work for his schedule, so I call in favors from friends and family to watch the boys so I can go. It’s been a great journey so far! I can’t wait until I can run alongside my eldest. What fun that will be!

  6. This is great, Eryn! I’ve been running for almost 10 years now and it’s my favorite form of exercise. I love running alone, just to have time with my thoughts. BUT, I also love running with friends. A neighbor of mine has been a running partner for about 8-9 years. I always tell her I don’t need a pyschiatrist because she’s free! Lol! Thanks for sharing your running story!

  7. Wow you are doing great Mama! I started running for the first time in my life this year. I’m doing a 10k in 3 days. I agree with all these tips. You are so right about the significance of getting some much needed alone time all the while helping your body.

  8. Thank you for all this great info! It’s been a goal of mine to run a half marathon (and who knows, maybe even a full marathon) for a while now. My little guy is 1 now, so I think it’s high time I got my butt into gear and started training!

  9. Running is such a stress relief for me. It’s also my alone time 🙂 I started training for my first half-marathon when my second baby was 5 months old. It was a little challenging waking up early to pump milk and then leave for a run, but so worth it! I also did the Rock-n-Roll Marathon Phoenix in 2016! That was an experience to remember! Great encouraging article. I also liked how you said to write up your running schedule and go over it with he hubby first before making the commitment!

  10. I don’t have any kids but I really enjoyed this post. I go to school and work and cardio is something I hate, but need. This really inspired me and gave me helpful tips to really get into getting cardio in.

  11. Wow! You are one dedicated runner! Great advice for moms who have small children and who like to run. Good luck in your future races too. 🙂

  12. I always said one day I want to Train to do Boston Marathon on the Boston Children’s Hospital Team. One day One Day. Thankfully my kids are in school now so I walk/Jog after i drop them off at school before i start work

  13. More power to you! This is absolutely awesome, I couldn’t do much after my little one and it’s hard to fit anything for me into a schedule.

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