I ran my first marathon at 26 years old. The feeling I felt after I crossed the finish line instantly alleviated my pain and fatigue. I loved the feeling so much that the next day I signed up for two more marathons. When I decided I wanted to have children I made a deal with myself. After each baby I would run another marathon. With each marathon I have learned new things. I wanted to share some experiences and some suggestions for post baby training.
1. Be careful not to rush back into training after the baby is born. Listen to your body and your doctor to know when you are ready. The generic timeframe is 6 weeks, but this is just a guide. After my first baby I started jogging at exactly 6 weeks after the baby was born. Unfortunately I wasn’t completely healed, and a few weeks later I went back to the doctor because of persistent pain where my stitches had been. I hadn’t completely healed, and had started back a little too soon. On the other hand after my second child I started running about 4 weeks after baby was born. I felt great and could tell that I had healed. I have never had a c-section, but make sure you doctor is on board with your plans to workout.
2. Running while nursing. Initially the biggest challenge will be the amount of time between feedings. Infants usually nurse every 3 hours. If your baby nurses slowly you may only have a couple hours between feedings to get in a jog. The good thing is as your baby gets older the time between feedings increases. This will allow a little more time for long runs as your baby gets older.
3. Warm Up and Cool Down. Your body has been through a lot and you probably weigh a little more than you did before your baby was born. It is more important now than ever to warm up and cool down properly. The point of a warm up and cool down is twofold: first you don’t want to pull a cold muscle by going too hard too fast, second you want to ease your heart into your workout. A nice stretch at the end of your workout will help you stay nice and flexible and may increase your stride. It is best to do this at the end while your muscles are warm.
4. Running with your baby. One of the most rewarding aspects of training for a marathon after you have a baby is including your baby in your workouts. I bought a jogging stroller before my son was born and as soon as I was ready I started bringing him with me. Occasionally I snuck in a few runs without the stroller, but most my long runs were with my little guy. The longest run I did with my son was an 18 mile run. I brought a bottle with breast milk in a little cooler with an ice pack. My young son liked the motion of the stroller and slept very well. When he woke up I let him drink the milk from the bottle and I pumped as soon as my run was done. All the other runs went very well, but the last couple miles my son was upset and couldn’t be consoled. After a diaper change and cuddling he still wouldn’t calm down. The last couple miles I ended up holding him in one arm and pushing the stroller in the other. Looking back this run probably took more out of me than the marathon, which is what made it a perfect training run.
5. Be prepared for bad weather. One day I went on a run with my jeep jogging stroller. I strapped my son into his car seat and set the car seat into the stroller. I took off on a 4 mile run. About a mile and a half away from home it started to pour. Huge drops of rain gushing down. I put the car seat cover and stroller cover up and hoped my little son wouldn’t get too wet. I raced home as fast as I possibly could but I was drenched from head to foot within in couple minutes. I felt like I was having buckets of water poured onto my head. I got home and rushed my son inside the house. I finally opened the car seat cover and my son was completely dry. There were a couple drops on his blanket, but they hadn’t gotten through to his skin. He was cozy in his little seat and happy as could be. It was one of my fastest runs and once I knew my son was safe and dry the rainy run was pretty awesome!
6. Stretch time with baby. My favorite time was the end of my runs talking to my little guy and tickling him while I stretched on the floor next to him. It helped me make sure to take the time I needed to get a nice deep stretch while my muscles were still warm. This is sort of my reward in my habit loop of running.
My 6 month old son cheered me on at the Chicago marathon in 2011 and was waiting for me at the end of the race. He had a teddy bear and flowers for me when I saw him. It felt so good to hold him in my arms at the end of such a big event. I hope that my marathon promise will help me to always stay healthy for my little ones. And some day I hope I will run along with them when they run their first big race.