I think the hardest run I’ve ever had to do was the 15 minute jog round the block that I did 3 months after the birth of my second son. I had found my second pregnancy more challenging. I had a toddler to care for, severe back pain and sciatica, I was still working, we moved house and I was carrying a lot more weight than I did during my first pregnancy. His delivery by caesarean had ended up being a complicated affair and it took me a long time to heal.
Almost three months later I was fed up of not exercising but I wasn’t sure what to do. I can swim but I wasn’t keen. The gym wasn’t a big favourite of mine either. The only other option I felt I had was to go back to my big love, running. Not because I wanted to be thin or lose weight but because I craved the chemical buzz that running gave me. I wanted the red cheeks and the glowing eyes. I needed an energy boost and I wanted to be fitter for my family. Also running has always made me feel awesome and with 2 pregnancies close together, self confidence was low. I needed to feel a little bit awesome again. So I dug out the sports bra, found some running kit I could fit into and went out for my first run 3 months after having my second son.
That first run was atrocious. I could hardly breath. My entire body burned and I hated every minute of it. I had DOMS for almost a week but when it eased enough and I could walk down stairs again, back out I went. A month later I had done my first 5k Parkrun and before I knew it the regularity of my running increased and it started to get easier.
I didn’t use a trainer or a coach. I didn’t use treadmills. I stuck loyally to the roads, mainly because I enjoyed being out in the open and I didn’t have to be around other people. For a busy mum of two boys running became a great outlet for me and a way for me to just be me and be alone with my own thoughts for 45 minutes. I used the Women’s Running site to map my favourite routes and to keep an eye on my progression. Before I knew it running was a part of me again. I would think about when I could fit in my runs and set targets for the week ahead to try and gain some mileage and to try and smash PBs. And then last year, in Olympic year I ran my first marathon, something I never would have believed after the first post baby run.
Over the last couple of years my times have massively improved and I feel quite proud of myself. Even my children understand that I go running. My eldest son will ask to go with me and my youngest will go and fetch my running trainers if he sees me in my running gear. I think for children it is really important to see one or both parents exercising because it normalises it and hopefully they will be encouraged to take up running alongside other activities when they are older. However I don’t think my eldest misses me going marathon training. He didn’t like me being out for 3 hours on a Saturday!
Almost three years after that initial run my love for running is as strong as it was when I was a teenager. Running has given me my confidence back and for mums who sometimes feel a bit invisible in the workplace or at home I think that’s really important. I’m not just a mother, a cook, a cleaner or a story teller. I am a runner.
I’m not going to regurgitate the postnatal medical advice that they give you regarding exercise and running. If you’re not sure if you should be trying to run then I would suggest you speak to your GP or postnatal care team. I can only say that if you want to go and run you should go and do it. If you did have pelvic dysfunction or back pain during pregnancy then it might be worth chatting with a women’s health or musculoskeletal physiotherapist before you start. I had back pain so I tried to do some core stability exercises to complement the running.
If you do feel ready medically and you’re still not sure all I can say is just go. Once you’ve been given the all clear to do it then there is no better time. There will be a little voice inside that tells you you shouldn’t or that you can’t. I almost listened to that voice and I’m so glad I didn’t or I would be regretting it now. It will be tough at first but remember you’ve been through labour and birth so in comparison running really is nothing. During my marathon I had a wobbly patch and I told myself that a few hours of pain was nothing to what I’d been through with my first labour.
At the start you will curse every muscle in your body but stick with it and I promise it will get easier. It will make you feel awesome, you will have more energy, sleep better and you will be surprised at how much stronger and fitter you feel. This much I promise and before you know it the kids will be trying to catch up with you.