The baby is almost three months old, and I have to admit something. I’m nowhere near where I would like to be, fitness level wise.
I knew that returning to running after a baby would be hard – I’ve done it before, and it’s always hard. You’re carrying extra weight, your core is weak, and your mechanics may be off. Meanwhile, sleep deprivation and new mom fatigue make getting a simple run done a very exhausting task.
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Running after a baby is something that we moms can get back to, but there are some realities that I’m experiencing that MANY other moms experience. When we ignore these things, it only make coming back after having a baby that much harder.
Taking the proper steps and taking care of your body (NOT simple focusing on weight loss!) can help you return to running and get your strength back after a baby.
The first week after having my baby, I did nothing: literally laid on the couch or the bed and just focused on nursing the baby, taking it easy and eating food. I tried to nap every day and get plenty of rest. By the second week, I incorporated some more activity like walking, but the first week was pure rest.
After having a baby, your body demands rest and recovery. Depending on the type of delivery you had and whether or not there were complications or perhaps a surgery will determine just how much rest and recovery you need. A longer and more physically demanding labor will need a longer recovery. Most doctor’s advise waiting 4-6 weeks after delivery to do any major activity. I had an amazing labor and delivery, so my recovery time was less.
Replenish Your Nutrient Stores
Pregnancy and postpartum are incredibly demanding on your body: physically, emotionally, and nutritionally. Many women, after delivery and into the fourth trimester, are nutritionally depleted. Your body has been working overtime to support a human life and continues to do so if you are breastfeeding.
Regardless of your diet, your body will produce everything the baby needs, but often at the cost of the mother. So if you are not eating well, the one who suffers is you. (This is a wonderful protection for our babies but something we moms need to be aware of.)
Focus on eating a very nutrient-dense diet with healing foods like bone broths, vegetables, and good fats and proteins. (You can check my Monster Meatball recipe for a nutritious powerhouse.) Get a superior prenatal that is easy for your body to absorb. (This is my favorite.)
Start with Walking
Walking is a great way to transition back into activity after baby. And often, it’s the easiest to squeeze in: plop baby in the stroller or the carrier and just go.
The temptation to start running too soon is something I struggle with, because running helps me burn stress and gives me energy. But walking helps too, and it’s a great way to transition to running, while letting your body fully recover. I walked for about a week and a half before I started running.
Work on Core Strength
Let’s face it, pregnancy destroys your core. Some moms may come away with less core dysfunction than others, but it will take time and work to fully gain core strength back. Many moms struggle with diastasis recti which is the abdominal seperation that occurs after your abs have been stretched, and need to heal that before beginning a strenuous exercise routine.
Have your doctor check you for DR and recommend some core strengthening moves. One thing that I used to help heal my core was this Ab Rehab (I have no affiliation with Nancy Anderson, so this is just a friendly recommendation.)
Core and pelvic floor strength are so important to running, so make sure you strength those areas.
You will be slower after baby. Simply carrying extra weight will slow you down, but add in sleep deprivation, core dysfunction, possibly months of not running, and you will be slower.
THIS. IS. OKAY.
I mean it. Take your time and build your base back up again. Go slowly, take walking breaks, and take time building your speed and mileage back up again. You will get there, but there’s no need to rush.
After weeks, you’ll slowly build your base back up, and then can start adding things like speedwork into your runs. After my third baby, it probably took a good six to eight months to get back to my previous fitness level, so it does take time, but by one year after my third baby, I set a huge PR in the half marathon!
The good news is there is a lot of evidence out there that moms are often stronger and faster after having their babies, so don’t think that having a baby will make you slow or weak forever! We will get there!