Postpartum Triathlete: Getting Your Run Back

This is the 3rd article in a series I am writing for triathletes who have been out of the sport for whatever reason and working toward coming back.

Postpartum Triathlete: Getting Your Run Back

In case you missed the 2 previous, here they are…

Whether you were out by choice or forced out due to injury, surgery, etc, any time away makes coming back a challenge. I wanted to share what helped me in case you are struggling and looking for a way to get back into running.

Out of the 3 disciplines of triathlon, for me the run was the hardest to get back in to, but the easiest to get back to where I was before I stopped running.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, about 2 months in, I made the choice to stop running. I had a “high risk” pregnancy and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. A week before I found out, however, I had run a marathon, so I was still in great running shape when I stopped.

I didn’t run for the remainder of my pregnancy (6 months), the 6 weeks following the birth of my baby, and then another 4 weeks after that. During the 4 weeks after I was cleared to begin exercising again,

I rode the bike and did the elliptical and stepmill every single day at the gym. So although I wasn’t building up my “running” muscles, I was definitely building up my cardio and fitness levels before I started actually running. This helped me a LOT once I started back up!

The first thing I did was during my walks with my mom, Coura, and the dogs, I would run ahead with the dogs a few minutes and then run back to my mom and the baby.

The first couple times I did this I totaled about 5 minutes of running, the next week I did 10, and the following I did 15.

In those few weeks I also started focusing more on my nutrition and started overall feeling better due to being able to exercise, so I started losing some of my unwanted baby weight as well. Running also became easier as the pounds started coming off.

At the end of the 4th week I decided to sign up for a 5K. I personally do better with my workouts when they are “training” runs and not just running for “exercise”. I also like having a place to start so I can see improvements. I had no expectations and I knew whatever my time, it would be a post-partum PR (personal record).

I had a blast at the 5k. It was about 5 minutes slower than what I was doing before I got pregnant, which is about 1:20 per mile slower, and my effort was much much higher than my time showed! My heart rate felt almost maxed and my body was tired. But my heart and soul were happy and I had a starting point for getting back into running shape.

Over the next 4 weeks I started running 2x a week. One was “longer” (typically 3-4 miles) and one was a few minutes here and there either during a walk w the fam or on the treadmill a few minutes before or after I taught class at the gym.

After that 4 weeks, I did another 5K and took a minute off my time. At this point I had also lost most of my baby weight and Coura had just turned 6 months old which meant I could run with her in the stroller. It was coming into winter so I only ran with her a couple times, but it gave me hope and excitement for the upcoming spring/summer!

At this time, I decided to do a monthly 10K time trial on the treadmill to chart my improvement as well.

My first one was about 10 minutes slower than my usual 10K, but again a post-partum PR. My monthly 10K TT was my “long” run and I continued with one other run each week of about 1-3 miles. I was still doing stepmill weekly and biking at the gym 5 times a week. This improved my overall cardio and fitness level.

At the end of 6 months was my big test, I signed up for a half marathon to start running longer because my “A” race for the year was the St George 70.3 which was 3 ½ months later. Since my longest run had been 6.2 miles, the 13.1 was a challenge but I just took it easy with a goal of just running the whole thing. And guess what? Yep! A post-partum PR!!!

I kept up with my monthly 10K, my other shorter run, threw in a couple 5Ks, and weekly stepmill and biking at the gym. I did another half marathon 3 months later and took off almost 15 minutes!!!

The hardest part about getting back into running was getting started. For me it helped giving myself time on other “easier” cardio equipment to get some fitness back and shed a few pounds before I started running again.

It also helped me to have a monthly goal like my time trial and a few races set up to “test” my fitness and running.

And lastly, it really did help when I lost my baby weight and got back down to my pre-pregnancy weight. Running, in my experience, is much harder when I have more weight on my body. Running never came naturally to me so every advantage helps!

I am now officially one year out from the birth of Coura (her birthday was yesterday) and I would say I am only a few months away from being back to my pre-pregnancy race times. If it takes longer for you, don’t get discouraged, just make everything about your best NOW, not your best then! All my new distances are post-partum PRs and I’m learning to navigate my training/racing with a baby which is always an adventure in itself.

Have fun with it, be kind to your amazing body, and love yourself NO MATTER WHAT!!!

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