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!

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To earbud or not to earbud? That is the question.

To be honest, for me, it is not a question. I never run with earbuds. But so many do! Here are my thoughts, and I’m curious what you think, too.

Why I actively avoid wearing earbuds while running

Safety

This is probably not my primary reason, but maybe it should be! How do those of you with earbuds hear approaching cars, trains, bikers, other runners, etc.? I like to know what’s coming and prefer to continue my streak of never being hit by a car. There are plenty of articles that focus on why it’s safer to listen to your surroundings while running than closing off your hearing with music or a podcast.

high school female in white and blue marching band attire, standing on a podium in front of a field, with an audience in the stands in the background, cheerleaders sitting on a bench in the foreground
Drum major of the marching band

Keeping the beat

This is cheesy, but listening to music is an interactive activity for me. Maybe blame my stint in high school marching band, but I must keep the beat, when I hear one. When I first tried running, I downloaded several workout tracks that maintained specific bpm (beats per minute) throughout. And let me tell you – there is perhaps no greater pleasure than running to the beat of a continuous pump up song. However, every time I encountered a hill or got tired or just wanted to vary my pace a bit, the music threw me off. That frustrated me, and made me feel slow or incapable of keeping up. So, no more music while running for me!

What did they say?

I’m not hard of hearing. Ask my mom, the audiologist. However, I may have selective hearing. Ask my husband…

And it drives me bonkers when I can’t hear a portion of what’s being said, especially when I’m expected to respond. For that reason, listening to podcasts or talking on the phone while I run are strictly off limits. They don’t keep me entertained and they bother me more than help me run.

Why I actually love keeping my ears open while running

Reflection

As working parents, when do you take time to think? Maybe on the toilet, while showering (briefly), laying in bed before precious sleep time…

I take my running time as a chance to consider how I’m doing, what’s going well, what I could improve. Or I think forward by planing some creative activity or charting out how to accomplish a life goal or even considering how to respond to an email. These days, I occasionally outline a post for this blog, too! When else would I have time to think?

I also (maybe strangely), often count while I run. Every fourth step on my left foot (thank you again, marching band), to achieve something like a meditative state. It’s so peaceful!

Me time

I’m an introvert. With a family, friends, and a full-time job, there is little time to recharge on my own. Running provides that opportunity without mental distraction. It’s sometimes the only time to myself I get in an entire day!

Spontaneity

While running, I often seek out new places to explore (see my post on Routes), and to do that, I need to concentrate in order to find my way afterwards. I also frequently run into (no pun intended) neighbors, friends, and acquaintances in our small town of a city. I enjoy the ability to take a detour or pause for a chat without needing to deal with headphones, cords, and devices.

Do you run with headphones or earbuds? Why? Why not? How do you entertain yourself while running?

Running Routes and Tracking

I don’t know about you, but it kills me to get in my car in order to run. Maybe that’s why I’ve always valued living close to running and biking trails. And when my total run is 4-5 miles, it better not take me 3 miles to get to the pretty park for running, or else I’ll never get there.

I tend to map out routes on MapMyRun in advance, and send the route to my phone, so I can track it in action. I don’t necessarily race against myself, but I am terrible with directions, so having a map in front of me is vital in order to end up where I intend to. Some of my favorite runs, though, and the best way to distract myself, are unplanned. If I don’t know the distance I’ve run so far or how fast I’ve been going, then I’m more likely to push through.

Either way, my favorite running routes include beautiful scenery, shade, a bike or running trail devoid of stop lights, not too many hills, and a bit of exploration or variation. From my house across one of Portland’s many bridges, and back is a 3-mile loop. It’s a perfect evening run because it’s not too crowded, includes minimal road crossings, and the Willamette River is a constantly changing and gorgeous thing to observe.

yellow grass in Tom McCall Park with toddler running ahead of woman pushing double running stroller, Hawthorne Bridge in the background
Walking with the running stroller in Tom McCall Park with the Hawthorne Bridge in the background

For every run and every long double stroller walk, I use MapMyRun on my phone to track my pace, time, and distance. It also syncs with MyFitnessPal, which means I can track how calories burned through my runs affect calories ingested through my meals. I keep my apps on private mode and don’t connect to friends through the app. I prefer my accountability structures to be in-person or more meaningful than through only an app.

Several of my friends use Strava, which allows competitions, racing, and tracking while you run. I can see how that would be valuable features for some!

How do you map out your routes, track your progress, share your successes?

Half Marathon Training for Mom

The whole reason (or one of them) I started this blog was to continue holding myself accountable for my own half marathon training, and share the tricks I’ve learned in order to make this possible as a mom. We’ve discussed my four strategies as well as how I came to be a running, working mom.

So, how is this half marathon training going in real life? Let’s check on the plan first.

I’m a list-maker, an excel geek, a planner. So, of course I developed a 16-week half marathon training planner for me and my neighbor. At the onset, this seemed like the ideal way for us to reach our intended number of runs and distances each week. Having run the plan by a physical therapist, we confirmed that this (in addition to an initial month of running up to 3 miles and/or long quick walks of up to 5 miles, 1-2 times per week) this is reasonable and healthy for recent moms in training.

In practice, we’ve been using it to stay on top of our long-distance mileage, though the details have gotten a little fuzzy along the way. We’ve also been better about running the distances prescribed when we do them together, rather than when we attempt them on our own.

You can see just about how good I am at following a scheduled running calendar with the “Record” tab. (Hint hint – not particularly good.) You’ll also notice all the long walks I take with the double stroller, considering that my cross-training. Sometimes I run a few blocks with it (particularly if A says he has to go potty…), but usually when I’m pushing the million+ pounds of stroller/kids/supplies, I’m walking.

double stroller in the bottom left corner, view of the Burnside Bridge and the Willamette River to the right.
Walking around the Portland bridges with the double stroller

You’ll also see how I’ve had trouble sticking to the long-run part of the calendar. These tend to be scheduled on weekends which means I need to employ my partnership strategy. And with all the travel and weather challenges of the summer, I have not been great about following through. Hoping to do 8 miles this weekend, but we’ll see!

Any tips to keep me motivated for those long runs? Scheduling suggestions? What keeps you going?

Four key strategies to running as a working mom

Before kids, I could sleep in on weekends or build up the motivation to go for a run. I could go to a happy hour after work or lace up my running shoes for a work out. I could shower and go straight to work or set my alarm a little earlier and squeeze a jog in beforehand.

And back when I was in college, I didn’t even have to plan around the American classic 9-5. I could run in the middle of the day if I wanted, or at midnight. Why not?

Now that my husband and I both work full-time and co-habitate with a toddler and a baby who are largely dependent on us to do literally everything for them, from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep (and sometimes in between), those whimsical workouts seem like a luxury.

We could wallow and complain about how easy life used to be, not only our schedules but our metabolism, our idealism, our expectations for the future… Or we can can be grown-ups and find a way to make what matters to us a reality.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a doctor, a therapist, a professional athlete, or a parenting expert. So consult all of those before taking any of my advice.

That said, I’ve found a formula that works for me to fit running into my life while also making the time and space to be a successful professional and engaged mom. In other words, my formula for work.run.mom…

And it boils down to four key strategies:

Join me in the next several posts as we explore each of these in more depth. And share the strategies that have worked for you in the comments!