Running after having a baby

0
939
Running after having a baby
© Katherine Perrin
Getting back to running after having a baby can be difficult. Katherine Perrin of Brighton & Hove Women’s Running Club tells us about her experience of postpartum running.

The first run

I didn’t have the birth I’d hoped for. It escalated to emergency theatre. While I avoided a c-section, it resulted in him having phototherapy for the bruising/jaundice, and me with lots of stitches and the offer of a blood transfusion. Sitting, walking, laughing and peeing all hurt. Let alone peeing when you shouldn’t…

But I was keen to get back to running, for my physical health, my mental health, and to catch up with friends. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to there also being an element of running from my responsibilities too.

So, at 8 weeks postpartum, I did my first wag. Such a slow jog it was more of a walk. But I was out and that’s what counts. It wasn’t a decision taken lightly. I’d got my abdominal gap checked, my anaemia and stitches checked (both gone), had GP sign off, done lots of research into recovery plans, gleaned advice from running friends and bought a piece of scaffolding for my new breastfeeding boobs.

Building up to parkrun

With the help of an intervals app on my phone, I did 1-min jog and 1-min walk. I felt incredible to be out, a bit stiff and unsteady, but I was out. I came across some unexpected judgement (undoubtedly well intentioned, but unfortunately delivered) about running so early. Incidentally, from non-runner friends who hadn’t made any effort to find out how I was doing it, just decreed that I shouldn’t. (I guess that’s a good introduction to some elements of parenthood!) But I was confident I was listening to my body and had taken good advice.

So I formed a plan. A rematch with my nemesis: parkrun. And two months of careful intervals later I completed Hove Park doing 2 mins jog/1 min walk, in a respectable 34 mins (which just proves you should never be too proud for a walk/run combo). And trust me, I hate a 5K distance with a passion at the best of times, so it was TOUGH. Often the toughest bit was keeping to the plan and sticking to the walk/run. Running my own ‘race’ rather than getting carried away by the crowds, and letting go of my frustration of where I used to be.

Call me naive, or hopelessly optimistic, but there was a small part of me that hoped I’d just slide back in. But it’s like my body had forgotten how. I didn’t have the breath I used to, or the strength in my legs to push up hills (or on the flat, to be fair). There were points where I was gutted. Devastated at what I’d lost, from running a half-marathon in my first trimester to not being able to make it 10 mins. I didn’t appreciate how much I’d have to reconnect with my body, and slowly carefully lay those foundations again.

The standout moment for me was when I offered to lead a Sunday run for my club, desperate to be back involved. I’d marketed it as very slow and steady, great for those new to trails, hoping (desperately) that someone would join who I could use as an excuse to take lots of breaks with. And what happened? A load of my friends showed up, all ridiculously experienced and speedy (my heart sank!). And I will never forget it – the 5-mile route I’d struggled to complete in recce the week before, I did with a massive grin.

The challenges

Running postpartum has had all sorts of challenges I’d never thought about – new kit, being padded within an inch of your life (when you don’t know what to be more in fear of – your pelvic floor or leaky boobs!), running on minus figures of sleep, and timings. Breastfeeding a ganet of a child meant not only was I always desperately thirsty, but ravenous too. Forget eating for two while pregnant, I was eating for three with a newborn!

 

And your ability to pop on a run is suddenly crammed into an unexpected half-hour between feeds regardless of how ready you are. Even now with a toddler, I maybe make runs every 1 in 3 that I’d like, let alone all the races I miss. But such is the great balancing act I’ve taken on. Stretching is my new religion (competing heavily with chocolate & gin), doing daily back and hip stretches when I remember did wonders to lessen new aches.

 

So for all the times I’ve run with a forest for legs (although I probably can’t entirely blame the baby for that one), or something questionable in my hair, with the faintly haunted look of a new mum, or *only* done a mile of barely jogging, I just remember the mantra I’ve held since I started trying to run – “I’m still lapping everyone else on the couch”.

In summary

So in summary, running postpartum was possible for me. It took a supportive partner, great running friends, research, patience and a crap ton of perseverance. I found out the hard way unfortunately you don’t get a few months grace and then snap magically into your reasonably fit, reasonably toned, non-leaky pre-baby self. You need to readjust your expectations, and be kind to yourself.

 

I know people who haven’t managed to get back to running and so I’ve vowed never to take my body for granted and be grateful for what it can do. I might even throw it a few new challenges in celebration. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my amazing running club for everything it’s given me: fitness, friends and the insanity to run with a newborn!

Katherine Perrin running after having a baby
© Katherine Perrin