If you’ve just had a baby, be sure to ease back into running—and make it fun!
If you are reading this as a new mom, you are probably working to establish your post-baby “normal.” And even though the early days of parenthood may feel like a world away from your pre-baby life, you will be able to work your way back to running. Whether your goal is a weekly run with friends, a 5K or charging for a PR, it can happen, but finding your stride will take time. One school of thought is that since it takes 40 weeks to grow a baby, it can also take that long for your body to fully recover.
Thankfully, active recovery is a healthy choice for women who have clearance from their doctor and who like to recover on the run. Not only is running a proven mood booster, it can help increase your energy, relieve stress and make you feel better about yourself.
As an avid runner, mom and coach, Dr. Kristina Pinto, EdD, a specialist in women’s health and psychology, experienced the positive impact running can have on new mothers. She endured her own challenging bout of postpartum depression before rediscovering running, and eventually co-authoring the book Fit and Healthy Pregnancy: How to Stay Strong and in Shape for You and Your Baby to help athletes adjust to pregnancy and life as a parent.
Read on for her top five tips to getting back in your fitness groove.
Rest And Recover
Your body has gone through a physical trauma and you need time to recover. Think of it as similar to the recovery period after a really hard marathon (and then some!). Rest, pay attention to bleeding (consider it a sign that your body is still healing) and listen to your doctor. With a vaginal birth you can start walking as soon as you feel up to it and can even try jogging at two to four weeks, or when your doctor gives you the OK. If you had a C-section, please check with your doctor about postpartum exercise.
Set a schedule
Having a baby is amazing, stressful and exhausting all at the same time. Setting a schedule can help you feel more in control of your life. What the schedule includes is up to you (getting dressed, a shower, baby reading time and naps are some suggestions), just make sure you pencil in a daily walk—you can count walking as a step towards running!
Go Easy On Yourself
This isn’t the time to push for concrete goals—including trying to lose all of the baby weight right away. Eating six small meals throughout the day is a good way to keep energy even and ensure you have the nutrients you need to be healthy, especially if you are breastfeeding. Your focus should be feeling good, sleeping, getting help with the baby when needed and taking care of yourself.
Bring Baby with You
Alone time is nice, but heading out with your baby in a Jogger is a good way for moms to get exercise and everyone to enjoy some fresh air and Vitamin D. Ligaments and joints are often loose for several months postpartum and equilibrium can be off too. A stroller has the added benefit of providing some support and balance.
Pick a few events and put them on the calendar for your first year as a mom. It could be a race (with reasonable ambitions for what you feel like doing), volunteering at an event (like helping at a water stop or handing out medals) or setting a goal with a friend. The more accountable you are to the goal, the better. Select a range of goals, from ambitious to more simple, and include ones that aren’t just about speed or a hard distance to accomplish.