Babies, bodies and running

I take it for granted that post-partum bodies are just ready to go and run, but that isn't the case.  It takes a bit of work to get back to running and a lot of work to get back to racing.  That said, it is worth every ounce of effort.

My experiences have been something like this:

After having the baby and feeling that natural high that cannot be matched (I CAN DO ANYTHING!) I usually then look in the mirror and feel a bit huge.  And tiny.  Tiny compared to last week when there was a 6lb baby in my belly, 3 lbs of water, and all of the swollen body parts that indicate pregnancy.  But huge compared to the me I have known since the age of 15.  I still have a belly and my skinny jeans aren't even close.  I am very forgiving and know that it will come off, so I just avoid the mirrors.

I begin with simple kegels and belly tightening exercises. It's important to learn how to do a proper kegel and I suggest working with a rad pilates instructor for the first 12 weeks post-partum to make sure you are getting everything tightened up properly.  Then I embrace walking. I've been known to walk for miles- maybe too far for a tiny baby mama- and the lbs start to melt off.  If course, breastfeeding is so important for weight loss and getting back to the old you.  I always fed on demand- rather than a schedule- and the baby's growth spurts were really good for my body image.

Around 4-6 weeks I begin to run.  Not long and not hard.  Just a little jog to know what it feels like to run again.  That run became a mile or two and then a few more.  All the while working on my core strength, because as we now know, my navicular stress fracture was likely caused by a weak core 2 years after having my first child.  Weakness adds up and stresses are compounded with time.  Don't let the little pains get away from you!  Think of a tent- one pole breaks and while the tent doesn't fall down, the entire structure leans and sways, is weakened to compensate for the one broken pole.  Bad news for a high mileage runner!

Anyhow, by about 4 months I start to feel like myself again.  I get rid of the Medium sized running clothes and get out on the trails on a regular basis.  I try racing- but I like to do something different so that I am not comparing my new self with my old self.  In 2010 it was the Empire State Building Run-Up.  This time, I strung together a few races and refused to push hard at first.  My first postpartum goal was simply to run sub-20mins in the 5K.  Then I ran a half marathon I'd signed up for so many months before, and finally another 5K where I let myself run.

It was a good approach and helped me develop the confidence I needed to run and train again.  And of course, before you know it, my body was back and I forget what it was ever like to feel heavy, slow, and pregnant.