After having my first, I was so anxious to get back to running. My identity was so wrapped up in “being a runner.” It was (is) my stress relief, my me time, the source of so many of my friendships, my main mode of physical fitness…
… and in my mind, my ticket back to the “old me.”
I started about 7 weeks postpartum and went out for a slow couple of miles. To be honest, I peed my pants A LOT. I accepted it as my new postpartum normal and just kept running.
Side note: many women can get back into running without this particular issue. I was not one of those women. I also believe that if I had been more intentional about how I progress back to running, my chances of having this particular issue would be a lot smaller.
I kept running, added in some strength training, and by many accounts "bounced back" relatively quickly - on the outside. I was running local races and seriously competing in my age bracket, finishing Spartan races with successfully completing all obstacles and coaching other mamas to do the same.
I was still occasionally peeing with running, jumping, and sneezing - and just living with it.
I had terrible back pain if I wasn’t regularly seeing a chiropractor - the chiropractor helped the symptoms but didn't fix the problem (which was un-balanced musculature in my hips and relatively weak core stabilizers if you were wondering).
My shoulders and neck were constantly tense - massages barely helped.
It all came to a head while racing in a local 5k. My husband and I were running on a team. We were both on track to be the first finishers on the team male/female. I was cruising!
...until the downhills. I could not run the downhills without completely wetting myself, and not just a little bit. Who runs the uphills and walks the downhills?? Something had to give! This was 6 years postpartum!
It took me 6 years before I finally admitted I had a problem and sought to fix it! (don't be like me!)
I started working with a Women's Health PT and with some relatively simple tweaks to my training, breathing and movement mechanics, it took me mere months to come back stronger than ever (major facepalm for waiting so long). It also completely changed the way I coach moms!
I can’t help but think where I could have been with my fitness level (because I’m competitive AF) if I had implemented this stuff from the beginning.
...and then I got pregnant again.
My approach to my return to running this time around has been completely different. I’m armed with more knowledge, now as a Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist, AND a different mindset.
The following are the 3 main things I'm doing differently this time and what I coach other moms to do:
...ok, actually 4. Go see a pelvic floor PT asap too!
I’m looking at this time as an opportunity.
I have a hard time slowing down (can you relate?).
Postpartum is an opportunity to slow down and work on the foundations, perfect our movement mechanics, connect with our muscles - where we need more strength and what muscles may be overworking and build a better connection with our core and pelvic floor. I know doing so will make all my movements better, stronger, more efficient and effective… but to be honest, without getting pregnant again I probably wouldn’t have slowed down enough to do so.
I focused first on getting strong enough to run.
Running is a single leg, dynamic, plyometric exercise... it’s not easy.
When you land the force comes up through your arch, knee, hip, and pelvic floor. That means you need strong arches, strong lower legs, knees, quads, glute, hamstring, and pelvic floor, and a core with the appropriate amount of tension. If the whole chain isn’t firing correctly the pelvic floor will be overworking leading to leaks, tightness, pain, etc.
I intentionally built up the strength first and didn’t even try to start running until I knew I was strong enough (around 11 weeks postpartum).
I’ll talk strategy in another post soon, but for now, check out my Postpartum “Ready to Run” Checklist.
You can use this one of two ways:
I started with intervals.
Instead of slowly plodding along to get in my miles, I started with run/walk intervals - beginning with 1 minute of running at time. Intervals like this are ideal because they help you maintain the integrity of your running form. Form is usually better when you are running at your efficient pace. Your form suffers when you are tired and it takes time to build the endurance needed to run at your efficient pace for bigger chunks.
Starting with intervals allows you to build up your endurance, while running with good form and allows you to practice monitoring your body for signs and symptoms you may need to slow down (pain, heaviness/pressure in your pelvic floor, leaking, etc.).
As runners we are trained to run through the pain, we need to intentionally learn to tune in with our bodies.
I’m currently 7 months postpartum and still building back volume and intensity slowly but feeling good. My pace is solid, I’m pain free and I don’t even “just in case pee” before going out the door!
If you are in this postpartum period with me mama, give yourself grace.
Don’t get so caught up in going back that you miss who you are becoming.
I know you just want to get out there and get back to running! Trust me, I've been there.
Taking it one PURPOSEFUL step at a time will get you back to 100 the fastest!