Running after pregnancy: the first year
It’s been a year since I had my son. As cliched as it sounds, it has gone so fast. It’s crazy to think that a year ago we were in hospital with this tiny person who felt so fragile but is now running around pulling everything off my shelves and generally causing chaos.
I don’t want to be a blueprint for anyone else’s journey after pregnancy. There’s so many factors at play when it comes to your postpartum fitness. But here’s my timeline of returning to running, because I definitely found it helpful to read other women’s experiences.
Please be aware that your own journey (or that of your friend, sister, partner) may be very different. I want to emphasise that I did start very gradually. And though I’m now posting pictures of half marathons, this comes after many months of patience.
My son was born early December and in January I went for my 6-week checkup. A lot of emphasis is put on this appointment as a time to get ‘signed off’ to exercise again. In reality it’s a conversation with your GP about your general health. They’ll ask about your mood, your bleeding, offer to check any stitches you may have and then they do an examination of the baby.
Yes, you may still be bleeding at this point which doesn’t often get addressed when we talk about post-partum exercise. While this doesn’t mean you can’t exercise, to me it’s a pretty outward sign that your body is still repairing post birth. At six weeks I still had similar to a very light period.
So in terms of your suitability so hit the gym again, your GP can give no guarantees everything will be ok. I want to stress that six weeks is not a magical number where suddenly you’re recovered. You might not be and you definitely still need to be careful.
I started postnatal pilates at six weeks. The teacher was great and mostly my son slept through the first couple of classes so that I could concentrate on getting the moves right. If you’re anywhere near it I recommend Yoga Home in Stoke Newington.
I saw a specialist postnatal physio for a checkup at eight weeks. I’d been doing A LOT of walking up to this point and I wanted to start running again.
My appointment involved an internal examination of my pelvic floor which was apparently functioning well. She also checked my ab seperation, how my gluteus were behaving and my posture There were some things to work on but no red flags.
In all honesty, I had no desire to start running before this. I was physically exhausted from the birth and disrupted sleep. It was like no fatigue I’d ever experienced. I’d eat my dinner and feel it had barely touched the sides. I apparently lost ‘quite a bit’ of blood during delivery, but not quite enough to need a transfusion, which contributed to the fatigue.
But once February came around I was ready to start getting out for 30 mins here and there on my own. That began as a 1 min run/ 1 min walk and those first few times I went out everything felt strange, like my legs had been screwed on backwards. My body felt all out of place.
I carried on following the 0-5k schedule of running that my beginners use. It was hard to hold back when I felt I could run further, but I knew it would be better in the long term.
As I wasn’t really getting big fitness gains from my run/walks, I went to the gym on the bike trainer a few times too.
It’s hard to describe just how much I walked around the park. My son only seemed to want to nap in the buggy so I spent hours walking round with him every day. Most days I was doing more than 20,000 steps and this was exhausting.
My running groups started again. Thankfully I was able to run with them as this had been a big concern for me. Running is part of my job and if I hadn’t been able to do it, I’m not sure what I’d have done.
It was fitting that I was getting fitter along with my new beginners. Last year I had the opposite problem; as my beginners got fitter I got bigger and slower.
I also ran 6 miles for the first time in April, which felt like a real milestone for me.
In May I ran 8 miles for the first time which was another milestone because it meant returning to the canal.
The canal is less than 2 miles from my front door, but those 2 miles aren’t very picturesque, and involve a big hill. So I don’t do this route unless I’m running 8 miles or more this is where I do my long runs, so it definitely felt like a return to running longer.
At six months, I was able to start buggy running with my son. The first run I did 3x 1 mile because my shoulders really ached. Pushing extra weight wasn’t much of a problem, it was just getting used to running without pumping my arms.
As my son only wanted to nap in his buggy, it was a handy way to double up on his needs and my wants. The best bit about running with a buggy is you can stash dry clothes, snacks and water in the bottom for when you finish and your baby still has 30 mins left to sleep.
I also run my first parkrun. I’d been running more than 5k for a couple of months but didn’t want to race until I was ready to push myself. I finished in 23:17, really happy with my time.
My son started sitting and pulling himself up. Which meant we had to lower his cot and I spent hours bent over trying to get him to sleep. By back was ruined for at least a month.
I ran the British 10k. It was my first proper race and experience of getting up, feeding the baby and getting to a race in time. It went pretty smoothly, and I managed to get to the race, run it and get home all between my son’s two morning feeds.
I’ve been breastfeeding and I’m not against giving him formula – he has a bottle when I’m not around to feed him. But skipping a feed is uncomfortable for me and pumping is really annoying, so this was a big plus.
I ran the 10k in 49:22, which was under my 50 min goal, and it was a pretty hot day. More on the race here.
The British 10k had gone well, but the race I’d been aiming for was the Pride 10K. I wanted to run as fast as I could.
I was a little misguided starting out and didn’t look at my watch, but everything worked out brilliantly and I finished in 46:34.
I went away on holiday and ran some miles by the sea. I also ran 10 miles for the first time and felt like everything was coming together.
My goal since January had been the Royal Parks Half marathon. I wanted to run 1:45, and although that didn’t happen, I’m really proud of the run. More on that here.
I was also a pacer at the Great South Run which was really fun too. Though doing these two races a week apart while having a cold had a massive impact. I rolled into the next month with a cough that just wouldn’t budge.
I spent much of November getting over the cold from the month before. As I eased back into running I pulled a muscle in my side pushing the buggy, which meant more time off.
And that brings us back up to date. I’m back running and this month I did my first cross country race in about two years, which was awful and brilliant. And I ran a parkrun to celebrate a year since being in hospital having my son.
I’m about to start training for a spring marathon and, although I’m really excited about that, I seem to have lost the drive to want to run fast. It might return, but after an autumn of very stop/start running, I just want to get going again without worrying about the speed.