Injuries for Running Moms

Imagine you’ve gotten the kids to bed after a long day of work. Your partner is home in case they wake up. You’ve scheduled your evening run with an accountability buddy. And in the first mile of your well-intentioned 5 mile training run, your knee starts to ache. Or you get a cramp. Or your ankle rolls.

Injuries happen! Watch out for those red flags.

Welcome to the world of inconvenient and often painful injuries! You don’t want to be here. Neither do I! Here are a few reg flags for recently-returned runners after kids…

Again, I am not a trained medical professional, so talk to your doctor about your own body and experience.

In my experience, I started to notice some low-grade pain in my right pelvis/lower abs after running, a few months ago. It didn’t prevent me from running and it didn’t hurt too much, so I mostly ignored it. (Red flag #1 – don’t ignore pain.)

About a month ago, as my mileage increased, it started interfering with my physical activity for the rest of the day after my run, so I decided to get it checked out. I was referred to a physical therapist, who was respectful, knowledgeable, and encouraging. She ruled out several of the more alarming potential reasons for pain in that area (hernia, appendicitis, etc.) and determined it’s probably just a muscle strain. Having pushed out two kids from approximately that area, those muscles are weaker now than they used to be!!

The PT gave me a few exercises for my off days, a warm-up routine for my running days, and told me that I can do this. No excuses. Given my training regimen so far, if I were to attempt the half marathon tomorrow, I could finish. Tough love!

So, it’s been about 5 weeks since that appointment and I’ve done my exercises and warm ups about half the times I was supposed to. (Red flag #2 – do what the PT says. They know what they’re talking about!) The issue hasn’t really gone away or changed at all.

In fact, when I attempted a 9-mile run with my neighbor 2 weeks ago, I had to stop at 7, and she continued on, finishing it.

My follow-up appointment with the PT this week was similar to the first. With a little less patience after I admitted I hadn’t been particularly religious about my exercises, she adjusted my prescribed routines and told me that my body can do a half marathon. She provided a few suggestions to handle mental stamina for long training runs. In particular, she recommended trying two shorter runs in one day, tricking my mind into that energizing feeling of being almost done twice instead of attempting 10 miles all at once!

More than the physical pain, this experience is getting into my head, affecting my morale, mental commitment, confidence that I can do this. Luckily, I still have an accountability plan and only about 3 more weeks until the half marathon!

Wish me luck on my remaining long runs!

Have you experienced an injury as a running mom? What were your red flags? What was your solution? How did it affect your morale?

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Post-Partum Running

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a medical professional. Talk to your doctor to determine your own abilities and limitations post-partum. I write only from my own experience as a mom.

In the days after giving birth, my body was a mess. Like many of you, I delivered full-term, vaginally, and am fortunate that I did not encounter serious complications. That said, 6.5 lbs of human came out of me, twice, in addition to a lot of other stuff. Then, I was plagued by night sweats, hormonal swings, continuous leaking from ungodly parts, and pain in most places. Meanwhile, I was prevented from sleeping and suddenly responsible for the survival of a tiny creature with no business being out in the world on its own.

Why did I not realize that it would take me a few days to walk comfortably again? That I’d continue being exhausted for weeks? That my underparts would never be the same?

All that to say that running was out of the question immediate post-partum. I remember going on my first “long walk” (read: approximately 4 blocks) with my mom, about a week after A was born, and remarking, in surprise, that it felt like my insides might just fall right out of me. Of course, they didn’t. And over time, that feeling subsided. But can you imagine attempting to bounce or do anything remotely like a run, while worried that your skin might not hold your organs in?

Ok, enough gore and guts. Let’s talk about what brought me back from that brink.

  1. First of all, I started walking farther and farther, with A or B strapped to me in one of my many baby-wearing devices (neither one tolerated their car seat/stroller for their first 3 months). These were my favorites: Moby Wrap, Ergobaby with Infant Insert, Moby Ring Sling, and occasionally the Baby Bjorn as he got older but not too heavy.
  2. Starting at 6 weeks post-partum, I joined Fit4Mom, which involved participating in Stroller Strides twice a week for the remainder of my maternity leave. This was an incredible group and challenged me to move again in ways I had forgotten my body could! It also eventually taught B to fall asleep in his car seat.
  3. Then I stopped cold-turkey and did almost nothing for 3 months. I don’t recommend this part. That said, it was winter in Portland (aka raining and cold). And I was learning how to be a working mom of 2. In other words, if you need it, give yourself a break.
  4. I tried a few Barre3 classes. This was lots of fun and I LOVE the beat. I also enjoyed going with friends! But it didn’t help my confidence that I could do literally none of the ab exercises.
  5. Then, when B was 6 months old, I started training for my upcoming half marathon. This is taking all four of my strategies to make possible. I worked up to 3-4 runs per week with long walks, then 1-2 runs per week, increasing my distances over the course of a few months.

Things to watch out for:

  1. Diastasis Recti – separation of ab muscles common after giving birth
  2. Pelvic Floor issues – incontinence, prolapse, and other results of vaginal delivery
  3. General muscle atrophy – after not using certain muscles for months, I needed to take it slow before building up the stamina and strength to do much more than lift and feed my babies
  4. Probably lots of other things – ask your doctor!

How did you get back into running after having a baby? What worked for you? What didn’t? Share in the comments!