Returning to running post-pregnancy
I miss running. I’ve missed lots of things about it. I miss heading out for a six miles on the trail and getting lost in my thoughts. I miss pushing myself in a hard workout and the feeling of satisfied tiredness that follows. And I miss racing, running hard from the gun and the fine line between (self-defined) success and failure.
But I’m in no rush to return to these things.
I see plenty of women return to running after their six week post-birth check with varying degrees of success. Some are able to pick up where they left off and run a marathon nine months later or less. Some return to running only to be plagued by injuries and have to stop again.
There are so many factors that determine how you will respond to returning to exercise after pregnancy and birth that it’s imposdible to predict which camp you’ll be in. Just a few…
- whether you had a vaginal delivery or C-section
- other interventions during labour (forceps, episiotomy etc)
- issues such as round ligament or pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy
- how much exercise you were able to do during pregnancy
- your mental health post birth
- whether you’re breastfeeding
Most of the list above are beyond our control, it’s just the luck of the draw. And while it’s easy to say ‘everyone is different, do what’s right for you, listen to your body’, it has been my experience that many people don’t listen to their body until it starts shouting at them. Instead we look at other people doing great things a few weeks after labour and expect that our journey will be the same.
So if you were reading this post expecting to see a week-by-week roadmap laid out of how exactly I plan to get back to running over the coming months that you too could follow, I’m sorry to disappoint but I don’t know what to expect.
Instead of miles and dates on the calendar, I’ve thought about my return to running in several phases with no deadline as to how long each stage will take.
Stage One is recovery.
It’s easy to overlook this as a step on the road to running. But your body has been through a major ordeal, however well your pregnancy and labour went. Imagine the hardest race you’ve ever done and times it by a million.
Recovery can take longer than the six weeks we’d all love it to be. And it takes patience. The longer you spend honouring what you’ve been through and truly recovering, the smoother your return to health and fitness will be in the long run.
Stage Two is moving your body again and that’s where I am right now (though the recovery is still ongoing too). Nothing extravagant, walking and paying attention to the changes that have occurred. How long this stage will last, I’m not sure right now. I’ll keep you updated as I move through the stages before an eventual return to the things I miss: running hard and racing. It may take some time, but hopefully it will be worth it.