Running After Baby

>> Sunday, April 22, 2012

I finally got a chance the motivation to run my timed mile this afternoon. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to head to the track like I wanted, so I picked one of the flattest runs of pavement I could find. In typical procrastinator-Ashley fashion, I decided to run it after a failed attempt at a long run (it's SO COLD! and I'm already ahead of the LSDs prescribed on my half marathon plan) and after drinking a beer with a large lunch.

Excuses, excuses. But I'm happy with my time. Here's a quick rundown.

Pre-preg PR: 6:48
1 month PP: 8:05
2 months PP: 7:45
3 months PP: 7:29
5 months PP: 7:05

I shaved off 24 seconds since March 1st. And I did it without doing anything to quicken my pace. I think running longer distances has helped (my half is two weeks from today). Otherwise, I've just been doing a few intervals every now and again. I have only 17 seconds until I meet my pre-pregnancy PR. I feel confident I can meet that by the summer if not sooner.

I've received a lot of emails asking about running during my pregnancy and how it's going now. I thought rather than write back individually, I'd answer some of the more commonly asked questions in a quick post. For posts directly related to running during my pregnancy, head over to our Running Page and check out the section titled Running & Staying Active During Pregnancy.

#1: Do you think running during your pregnancy helped you bounce back afterward? If so, how much should I run?

In a word: Definitely. However, I wouldn't classify my running during pregnancy as hardcore . . . nor do I think pregnant women need to keep up an intense regimen to stay in shape during or after pregnancy. During the first trimester, I didn't necessarily have to, but I slowed my paces considerably. After my half marathon at 13 weeks, I dropped mileage also considerably. Toward the end of my pregnancy (around 35 weeks), I was jogging a couple miles at a time on our treadmill -- barefoot at 5.5 MPH. Those last couple weeks, a brisk 4-mile walk was my exercise of choice. Surely keeping up running has helped me get back in shape, but moving -- in any way, shape, form -- was really the key.

There were many times I had to take several days to a week off at a time when I had Braxton Hicks, which -- for me -- started at like 17 weeks. I'd get them every couple minutes all afternoon, for example. On those days, I was instructed to lay on the couch, drink lots of water, and not move a muscle. And I did what I was told. Other days, it was so hot and humid outside (great timing with being huge in the summer!) that all I could do was walk a mile or so. I kept an open mind and even used some light cross-training to keep myself moving.

As far as how much I think pregnant women should run in general? Obviously I can't tell you what will work for your unique situation. Keep in mind that I was able to run a half marathon during my first trimester because I had just come off a long season of marathon-training. Before I got pregnant, I was perhaps in the best shape of my life. I don't think pregnancy is a time to START training for long distance races or to try and meet any other fitness-related goals. My best advice is to roll with it. Take off the watch. Listen to your body and baby. There were more days than I wanted to admit that I just went for a walk or even rested. I did the best I could, and that's all you can really do. Pregnancy isn't the time to set goals or fret about the scale. And mile times? Forget about 'em.

#2: Now that you've run through a pregnancy and know what it's like, do you think you'll do it with future pregnancies?

My answer to this one might surprise you all. I don't know what I'll do for future pregnancies. I certainly want to try to stay active. And running is my favorite sport. However, there were certain aspects of running while pregnant that I truly didn't enjoy. My bladder was always squished and uncomfortable. Breathing became more labored as the weeks went on. I was always concerned with getting my heart rate too high or drinking enough water or making sure I didn't fall on my stomach (I'm prone to falling for some odd reason!). And I do wonder sometimes if running contributed to the number of Braxton Hicks contractions I ended up having. Overall, my experience was a good one. But there are days now when I'm running and I think: "Thank GOD I'm not pregnant. It feels good to not worry or feel uncomfortable anymore!"

I think a lot of it has to do with the individual pregnancy. I carried Ada low since day 1, which I'm convinced contributed to my discomfort. Other women write that running during pregnancy is a blissful experience. I had my ups and downs for sure. So, I guess my answer is: I hope to and will give it a good go. But it really will depend on my specific situation whenever we choose to have another child, which -- by the way -- isn't anytime soon!

#3: What has your biggest challenge been with getting back into shape after baby?

Physically, my speed is returning slowly but surely. Not necessarily as fast as I would like -- yet I can't believe that I'm able to run a near sub-7 minute mile 5 months postpartum. My biggest challenge physically has been some aches and pains in my pelvis, believe it or not. This month I've noticed a big difference for the better. For a while, though, I'd return from a run and just have a general ick-feeling. I may have started back too soon after giving birth, which I'll definitely have to think about with future pregnancies.

Oh, yeah. And being a breastfeeding runner is challenging. Timing runs around feeding sessions. The crazy dehydration. Etc. I am also holding on to a good 6-8 pounds of what I'm assuming is breastfeeding weight. At the end of long runs, I actually do feel heavier than I used to. Though, it could definitely have a big mental component to it.

But I think my biggest challenge has been motivation to run. I feel like I've stuck to my half marathon training plan as well as I've been able. However, there have been multiple times when I've skipped runs or shortened workouts because I didn't feel like running. Or Ada was cranky and emotionally I just didn't have energy. I've lost my desire to push through those daily nagging things that can make workouts fail. And I'm not terribly competitive anymore. I think in a way I lost it when I found out I was pregnant out of necessity to not overdo things. And now, I think it'd be helpful to get some of it back. It might help me with my training.

#4: What are your goals with running these days? Is it realistic with a newborn to train to PR?

Of course I'd like to smash my old race times. I'm amazed by women, like Jen, who can PR by minutes! They inspire me so incredibly much. But a I mentioned above, I just don't have the drive right now. I'm not doing the work necessary. Oh, I do have a goal, though. I would like to run a marathon in spring 2013. I may not be competitive right now, but I would like to finish 26.2 in under 4 hours. My DNF in 2011 left me a bit frustrated because I know for sure I could do it!

I hope to get to an emotional place where I feel like training hard sometime soon. Until then, I'm really happy with how far I've come since November. Balancing being a new mom with getting back into the groove athletically has been, for lack of better words, interesting. It's well worth the effort. And I'm learning new things about myself as new challenges are presented to me. My ultimate goal is to be a good role-model for Ada. I want her to see her mom enjoying being active for years to come.

Someday, I hope to lace up to a race with her. And just the thought of it makes me a little teary-eyed. I'm a runner for life and I can't wait to share my love of the sport with her.

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