There are so few resources on running (or maintaining a high-level active lifestyle) while pregnant. This is something that frustrated during my entire pregnancy. As soon as those little two lines appeared on the test, I immediately took to Amazon to start searching terms like “pregnancy running,” “running while pregnant,” and “waddling to the start line” (the last one may be a bit of a stretch). What I quickly discovered was that most of the books were geared toward the more casual runner or books where the information was significantly outdated.
But for as few resources as there are about pregnancy running, there are even fewer about postpartum running (or postpartum recovery for runners). Even worse is the fact that the message that society inundates new moms with is generally revolting. I can easily learn “how to get my pre-pregnancy body back” or “drop that baby weight.” I can search Facebook or Instagram and see stories of superwomen who somehow just weeks postpartum are racing marathons and throwing down PRs – all while looking amazing with six-pack abs untouched by diastasis recti or C-Section scars. While that may be the story of some women (and if it is AWESOME – you go mama) it is a far cry from what most women experience and pushes new moms into a line of faulty thinking and unrealistic expectations.
Admittedly, the first weeks after the baby I was a hot mess of emotion. I didn’t recognize my body. I (literally) hadn’t slept in weeks. I went many days without showering (which is easy to do when days and nights all run together). Overnight, my otherwise very regimented life became completely foreign. Not to mention, the added responsibility and cluelessness that surrounded the tiny human that had quickly become my whole world. Even aside from the wear and tear on my body, I was so sleep deprived that the thought running those early weeks was quite unfathomable. I was fortunate enough to have been able to run up until the day before I gave birth (6 miles on the treadmill) so I had it in my head that I would be one of those super women who was running 4 weeks after baby and would be able to bounce right back into my training. The only difference would be coordinating childcare with my husband — totally doable, right?
I quickly realized how wrong I was. At exactly four weeks I headed out for a run. I got about halfway down the block before I realized things felt completely “off”. I decided to wait another week to try again. Then another two weeks. Then I realized that I wasn’t going to be returning to running anytime soon and I was going to have to let go of this preconceived notion that I was going to jump right back into things (and look good while doing it).
Sometimes it’s giving up on what you thought something should be that’s harder than the thing itself. I had to let go of the expectations I had set for myself and I had to learn to be patient with the process. I had to learn to be my own advocate. From my own experiences running through pregnancy (and trying to recover after), if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is no single truth in the postpartum experience. The truth is what’s true for you. It used to drive me crazy when I asked for other women’s experiences and I’d be told to give myself grace and to be patient with myself. I figured that was fine advice for other people but not for me. Now I know…
Even if you ran your entire pregnancy and felt great, there is no guarantee your recovery will be easy.
Even if you weren’t able to run during your pregnancy as much as you expected (or at all) it doesn’t mean your recovery will be hard.
The impact having a baby has on your body is not over once you give birth. Even 15 months later, I am still hyperaware and hypersensitive to certain things (especially those which can strain my pelvic floor).
The non-physical impact of being a new mom (hormones, sleep deprivation, stress) are all very real things that will also play into your recovery.
So ladies, I challenge you all to tell your postpartum story. There is strength in solidarity. Allow yourselves to embrace the process for what it is — because running will still be there when you’re ready to get back to it.
In the next few weeks, I will be featuring a series of interviews with women sharing their postpartum journeys. This will be a really fun interview series committed to telling the truth about the postpartum athlete.