Hey friends! Remember way back when the Right Fits started, and I co-wrote it with my sister Laurie? Well, she’s had a lot going on lately, but she’s back today for a guest post about getting back to running post-baby. Please enjoy!
“It took you 40 weeks to put the baby weight on, so don’t expect to lose it all in only a few months.”
I cannot tell you how many times people said that to me during and after my pregnancy. I would politely agree with whoever was saying it, but then secretly believe in the back of my mind that I would bounce right back into shape within a couple months. Granted I wasn’t Sarah Stage, but I figured that my pre-pregnancy fitness level and the fact that I stayed relatively active up until my son was born would make me more of an exception to the rule. Yes, I would be back running races and wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes before I returned from maternity leave (which was approximately eight weeks). To keep myself honest, I went ahead and signed up for Kansas City’s most challenging half marathon (and the longest running half marathon in the United States) – Hospital Hill Run. It would be four months after my son was born – giving me two and a half months (after subtracting the standard six week postpartum ban on physical activity) to train. Piece of cake…
Little did I really comprehend at eight months pregnant just how difficult running would be with a newborn. My days of going out for a run on a whim were over. Instead, I soon learned that I would have to coordinate my runs with my husband. In case you didn’t know, you cannot just leave a baby at home so you can run. And jogging strollers are not normally approved for babies under three months, so I couldn’t bring him with me either. In addition, getting up for a run first thing in the morning became nearly impossible when I was waking up every one and half to two hours for feedings. It became very apparent that it wouldn’t be easy to get any workouts in, let alone long runs away from home.
One thing I had working in my favor to prepare for Hospital Hill is that I had a complication-free, vaginal birth. That means that I was able to begin low-impact cardio and light strength training about three weeks after my son was born. I began small with some core retraining and short elliptical workouts that I would squeeze in while my son napped in the middle of the day. I also found small ways to integrate strength exercises and cardio into my day-to-day activities. This included squats while my son “hung out” in the Moby. After my six-week clearance, Jess got me started on the 30-Day Beach Body Challenge. These little things helped me get my strength back and prepare me for running.
Now, running wasn’t as easy to add into my day as small bouts of cardio and strength. As I mentioned, it required coordination with my husband’s schedule. And, lactating and reduced kegel strength meant that I couldn’t get far from my son or a toilet. But I was determined! And it helps that I have sisters who love to run and were behind me every step of the way – quite literally; Jess pushed me through my first run when she came to meet my son while I was on maternity leave!
- Time – My son is my first child and I am not a single mother, but I still found it nearly impossible at times to get out for a run (props to parents of multiples or single mothers who run!). It is hard to squeeze in even thirty to forty minutes for a run when you are at the beck and call of a newborn child.
- Energy – When you are sleep-deprived, you barely have the energy to shower and brush your teeth. Do you really think you have the energy to push your body through a run?
- Endurance – Even though I was doing low-impact cardio up to the day my son was born, I did not have the endurance I once had. I could barely make it through four miles, let alone 13.1!
- Bladder control – TMI alert! But if you have a vaginal birth, you are likely going to lose much of your kegel strength, which in turn means you lose your bladder control and cannot run far without requiring a bathroom break.
- Sore breasts – Again TMI alert! Lactating mothers will learn that your new found cleavage might help you fill out your shirts a bit nicer, but can cause a lot of unnecessary pain that even the best sports bra cannot remedy…oh, and you might leak while out for a run.
- Myself – I quickly realized how hard I am on myself. I refuse to let myself walk, not even up hills. I criticize myself for not running longer or quicker instead of congratulating myself for running as long as I did at whatever speed was possible. It is hard to give yourself a break for not being at the fitness level you were before.
I went through multiple phases where I told myself that I would not be able to run Hospital Hill. For goodness sake, the entire course is one nasty hill, including but not limited to Broadway (a long steady climb for about 2.5 miles) and Trinity Hill (a 40 percent gradient for about 350 yards). A nice elevation map can be found here. With less than 10 weeks of training (aka runs squeezed in around a newborn’s non-schedule) and many things working against (see list above), this was a bad idea!
But I did it! With a little help from some friends, I “conquered the hill.” Four months and two days postpartum, I ran what is known as one of the most challenging half marathon road races in the United States, and I finished. No, it wasn’t a PR, but it was a post-baby PR. Or as my older sister says, it was a Badass Mother Runner PR! #BAMR!
I wasn’t amazed by my time, but I was amazed by and proud of what my body could do.
The Hospital Hill Run doesn’t just include a half marathon. It has a 5k (run the night before) and a 10k (which is the most popular race of the weekend). I did not like that the 10k started with the half marathon, which is the beef that I always have with a shorter race within a longer race…overcrowding at the start with runners who are running way different paces for way different distances. (Side note: There is a cool “re-run” option where you can run the 5k the night before, followed by the half the next morning.)
The course was VERY hilly. I really felt that the hills never ended. Some are worse than others (as were the two mentioned above). My friends and I would go back and forth as to which was worse – a low climb with a small gradient or a quick, steep climb. We really hated whatever type of hill we were currently battling.
The course is great because it really highlights Kansas City – downtown, UMKC Campus, Brookside, the Plaza. Just as with most other road races, it is a great way to see a city.
Since the race is always the first weekend in June, you cannot predict the weather. All week long, the forecast changed. Day of the race, it was 70 at the start and humid. At mile 6, it opened up and rained – a nice steady rain – the rest of the race. I don’t really like running in the rain (the soggy shoes, the vision impairment), but it provided much needed relief from the humidity. Additionally, there were plenty of aid stations along the route to help with the heat.
All finishers got a huge “Flava Flav” style medal and finishers flip flops. And, the end of the race had a variety of refuel options – beef sticks, ice cream sandwiches, chocolate milk, you name it.
All in all, it was a challenging race for multiple reasons, but I enjoyed it and would consider running it again. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the race for your first postpartum. But think of the story you get to tell your child: “Just four months after you were born…”