A Realistic Running Guide for New Moms
My husband and I started trying to conceive a few months before I signed up for the New York City Marathon. But, I’m 33. I knew realistically it would take some time. I remember thinking if by some miracle I got pregnant before the race, it probably wouldn’t impact it much. I’m healthy, fit, and it wasn’t my first marathon - it was my second. After all, I’ve seen professional marathoners on YouTube run well into their third trimester. It would be fine.
Two months into a five month training cycle, it happened. Two pink lines. I was shocked, ecstatic, and my training plan had me running 12 miles that morning.
The run was amazing. My husband and I travel and live full-time in an Airstream, which was parked on Lake Superior that day. It was fall and we ran on a beautiful path by the lake. Every mile felt like I was running on cloud 9. We were going to have a baby!
That’s probably where my expectations being met around running and becoming a mama ended, or at least shortly after that. Now, with a year of running through pregnancy and post-partum under my belt, these are the lessons I wish I had learned sooner.
Give Yourself Grace
Fast forward a few weeks after our pregnancy-celebration run and morning sickness set in. If I got up early enough, I could power through it and stay on track with my training schedule. Some mornings, not so much. Despite knowing this was often part of the journey to motherhood, I was so hard on myself. I had goals. I just needed to power through it.
Don’t fall into this trap. You have your entire life to crush those goals. There are only so many precious months in your life where you’ll be growing a human! No one enjoys waking up nauseous, but don’t make it worse physically and emotionally by pushing yourself too hard. Be kind to your body.
Celebrate the Wins
At 3 months pregnant, I took to the starting line of the New York City Marathon. My best friend made a sign and put it on my back that read “Baby on Board.” Fellow runners and spectators cheered me on and celebrated with me. I was doing it - running a marathon with my unborn child!
Did I hit my PR goal? Nope. But, when I crossed that finish line instead of feeling disappointed, I felt insanely proud of myself. It was a win worth celebrating. No matter where you find yourself in your running mommy journey, don’t forget to give yourself credit when credit is due. Whether you’re running a marathon or simply jogging down the block, take the time to celebrate the wins both big and small.
Expect the Unexpected
At just under 5 months pregnant, I was still running at least three miles a day. I felt great.
Then we had the 20- week anatomy ultrasound. We were over the moon to find out our little one had all ten fingers and all ten toes. A few hours later, we got a call from the doctor. The radiologist reviewing my ultrasound noted that my placenta had implanted too close to my cervix - blocking baby’s exit. It’s called complete placenta previa. I had to stop everything. No more running. No more traveling. I needed to limit the number of hours I was on my feet to four hours a day, and be within a 20-minute drive from a NICU hospital. The risk of delivering our sweet baby early, and potential hemorrhaging in the process, was real danger.
I was in shock. How could this happen? I spent weeks trying to rectify the way I felt with my physical reality. Thankfully, at 38 weeks and only 24 hours before my water broke, my uterus grew just enough to move my placenta out of the way allowing a safe vaginal birth.
Being able to roll with the punches during pregnancy is critical to having a positive experience, running or not. But, for many, the journey to mama-hood won’t be simple and keeping your routine may not be possible. That’s okay. Talk to your doctor and determine things you can do. I was cleared for daily walks and prenatal yoga. This kept me sane during a stressful time. Give yourself the space for the unexpected. It will benefit you immensely in the long run.
Listen to Your Body
At the eight month mark, I told my doula my running plans post-birth. I was going to run the Chicago Marathon - only four months after my due date. She smiled. “You’ll have to just listen to your body,” she said.
Within the first couple of weeks after our son was born, I started taking evening walks with him in our Orbit Baby stroller to get moving. By the fourth week, I’d read enough articles on the internet that said it was fine, and went on my first run in over six months.
The first mile felt great. The second was harder, as the pressure in my pelvic floor was pretty uncomfortable. I wanted to do three, but decided it was better to stop. That night I was sore everywhere and knew I needed to slow down. I decided to stick to walking until my six-week post-partum appointment, when they gave me the official clearance to run again.
Taking those two weeks off was hard, which sounds silly. But, I wanted to get back into a groove of feeling like myself again. The reality - my body simply wasn’t ready. The good news, is that it will tell you. Listen to it. I’ve talked to so many fellow runners and mamas who ignored the warning signs, and it made their recovery so much longer and more difficult.
Ready for Running with Baby!
Will I run the Chicago Marathon? I’ve signed up and am working on a beginner training plan. That being said, I’m committed to listening to my body. If I need to postpone it to next year, I will and that will be a-okay.
But, what I am super excited about, is running with my son. He’s not quite big enough yet, but as soon as he is, we’ll be adding the new Orbit Baby jogging stroller to our traveling caravan. Sharing our passion for running and living a healthy lifestyle with him is a gift that I can’t wait to share, and love that we get to do so in style.