I have a special guest post today from my younger sister Laurie, all about training for the City of Lakes half marathon after having her second baby, and using a coach (yours truly!) for the first time. Enjoy!
Don’t let anyone lead you to believe that training for a half marathon post-baby is easy. I’ve gone through it two times – doing it two different ways – and both had their unique challenges, making me have moments where I questioned my goals. However, the second time around, even though the training was much more aggressive and my goal was more ambitious, I came out on the other side feeling much stronger and finished the training with a definite feeling of success, which I attribute to having a coach.
As a bit of background, I had my first son almost five years ago. I was running (easy short runs only) up until a month prior to having him, so I thought that running a half marathon four months after he was born would not be a problem.
My only goal for the race: finish. I set a quick turnaround time to return to running, so I didn’t set a goal pace. My training plan was just to put in the miles (and not the sort of miles I did with Jessie’s plan.) I did one or two short runs each week (3-4 miles) and then built up a long run on the weekends, building to 10 miles just before the race (for reference on Jessie’s plan, she had me run “OD” or over distance, which I’d never even considered before.) I was cleared to start running four weeks postpartum, so I essentially trained for three months before race day.
Terrible idea! But I finished. It wasn’t pretty, but I completed the grueling Hospital Hill Half Marathon in Kansas City just about four months after having my first child.
With my second son, I wasn’t as active prior to giving birth. I was one of the (un)lucky women that felt sick throughout my entire pregnancy. I was able to go for walks a few times a week and do low-impact cardio on the elliptical every so often, but virtually I went for almost nine months without running. I knew I needed to do something different when it came to my post-baby running goals this time around. What I did the first time wouldn’t cut it. I also wanted to come back safely and stronger this time. I also knew that pregnancy number two was my last, so it was more important to me to work hard to get my body back in shape for the long-term.
So this time around, I decided to try a run coach! Lucky for me, I have two sisters who are RRCA certified run coaches (my sister Erin and Jessie of The Right Fits!)
My training plan began 14 weeks postpartum. I spent the first two weeks in recovery and then did 12 weeks of Body Boss Method. (BBM came as a recommendation from other of my sisters who is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist; she said it was a good way to ease back into physical activity after having a baby.)
The plan Jessie and Erin put together was customized around a goal of completing a half marathon in under two hours for the first time after having children. My PR is faster than my goal time to accomplish that, but truth be told, my PR was from over 11 years ago – when I was still in graduate school, without a stressful job and with no children. I was a little nervous setting this goal given my long lapse in running and the fact that it had been that long since going under 2 hours.
The whole “run coaching” concept was definitely new to me. I had never even been part of a run club before and do not have a lot of friends locally (in Cedar Rapids, Iowa) who like to run. So, the idea of using an app (Final Surge) to track my runs, report progress to my coaches and keep me honest, surprisingly gave me the support I needed to fill this void in my running! I was able to discuss runs with them – comment on how things went and ask questions about what I should do differently – and they were very accessible, which I really appreciated. It was invaluable to have that kind of support.
The concept of doing a run “workout” was also new. As I mentioned, I always just ran to get the miles, never focusing on pace. I never even considered tempo runs, progressive runs or hill repeats. Adding this component into my weekly runs, I believe it made all the different to get my pace where it needed to be. And I definitely wouldn’t have done that without a coach.
I wouldn’t consider myself to be a novice runner, but I almost felt novice when it came to the benefit of running things like a 5-4-3-2-1 workout. I wasn’t really sure it was working and grumbled through some of the hill repeats. However, Jessie and Erin encouraged me throughout and told me I would see the benefit long-term. And toward the end of my training, I could see how my speed was improving.
And how did I manage to train with two kids at home and a full-time job? I got lucky this summer and was working remotely most of the time, which gave me quite a bit of flexibility in terms of when I ran. I was also upfront at the beginning of my training, letting my (amazing) coaches know that I could only do 3-4 runs per week, with one of those being my long run. The other days would need to include workouts that I could do at home while the kids slept (i.e., cross training and strength training). Some of my runs would also need to be easy so I could push a stroller and not be concerned about time. This was all worked into the plan at the very beginning. I found that it is important to be honest about what I could and could not manage when it came to time commitments and weekday distances. A good coach will be able to create a successful plan given that information.
So, after 19 weeks of training, I completed my half marathon – the City of Lakes Half Marathon in Minneapolis. (even if I wanted a standby excuse for not running well 😳). Race day was cool with a slight drizzle for most of the race. The route was relatively flat and it wasn’t a crowded race by any means.
Even after a “memorable” experience running TCM together in 2005, Jessie agreed to pace me for the race. (Let’s just say that Jessie pulled me through the last 10k of that one for sure!)
How about a vintage Twin Cities Marathon photo? Look at those shirts!
Jessie monitored our pace and I ignored the time completely while we ran. I’ve found that I am terrible at being consistent with my pace, so it was liberating to be able to set that concern aside and just run and trust Jessie to keep us on pace.
Yes, there were times of self-doubt. I got tired and had to dig deep at the end. Jessie didn’t have to “pull me” like she did TCM 2005, but she was there giving me words of encouragement – building my confidence. And I am so proud to say that I hit my goal and ran a sub-2 half marathon for the first time in more than 11 years, and the first time since becoming a mother. (Official time: 1:57:22!)
Even though I put in the work and did my best to stick to the plan, I can honestly say that the big part of my success was due to the run coaching! Jessie and Erin were awesome coaches. They supported me with a manageable plan and with the “community” I needed during my training.
Coach’s note: Laurie, you still did all the work and deserve the credit. Congratulations!
In summary, I followed two completely different approaches to postpartum running. I did the same distance in two different ways – in the shortest training time with no time goal, and with a longer training time and a strong time goal. Both posed their own challenges and their own rewards. However, taking the time to train right and train longer was a better decision for me long-term. I felt good the entire race and didn’t feel the soreness that normally would accompany a hard run. And most importantly: Having a plan, and sticking to that plan, was smart training and better for my long-term health and fitness. Coaching made the difference for me.
(If you’re interested in working with me, Jessie, and/or my sister Erin as a personalized run coach, don’t hesitate to reach out!)