I am super happy that I managed to meet the goals I set for the 10k race I ran this past weekend. I ran the whole thing, and I was faster than I had anticipated, despite missing two runs the past two weeks because of a nasty cold.
While pregnant, I read a lot of posts about postpartum running, and wanted to share my own reflections on the process. None of this is intended to replace medical advice, it’s simply what I learned and observed over the past four months.
My big secret: honesty. With yourself, your doctor, and your spouse/partner.
Honesty with your doctor: it means not lying about how you feel just so he’ll sign off on the race (in France you need a doctor’s note to participate in competitions). It means telling him every single problem and concern about breastfeeding, exercise, and sleep and listening to his answers, even if you don’t like them. I thought he would ok exercise at my 4 week appointment, but he said only walking and yoga until 8 weeks. This was frustrating, but in the end, a very good thing. Postnatal yoga focuses a lot on hips and lower back. Guess what runners need to work on too?
Honesty with yourself: it means asking yourself lots of questions and thinking very seriously about the answers. I think these could apply to any hobby, be it quilting, running, writing, dancing, stargazing . . . whatever makes you feel connected to your pre-baby self.
- Am I willing to give up x y z to make time for it? (For me, TV mainly, and couple time, but my husband just got a new video game so it meant more time for him to play!)
- Will I really be able to stick with it through the craziness and exhaustion that is life with a newborn? (Even having just 20 minutes to myself a few times a week really helped me stay sane, so I looked forward to my runs as fun, rather than having them feel like an obligation to avoid.)
- Will I be disappointed if it doesn’t turn out how it did before? (I was okay with a slower time but I knew I’d be a little upset if I had to walk)
- Do I want to share my goal publicly to help motivate me? (My family and colleagues knew, and they asked about my progress, which I found very motivating. I mentioned it on the blog, but not on Facebook until it was over.)
Honesty with your spouse: it means asking similar questions, to make sure they understand how much support you’re going to need from them.
Some questions for spouses/partners:
- Can you put the baby to bed/cook dinner/do laundry X times a week? (My training schedule had me running less than 30 minutes two weeknights, which was very manageable for us. More than that would have been hard.)
- Is it ok if you see me a little less while I do it? (see video game comment above)
- How will we set up a schedule so we both can do the things we want to do? (It’s only fair to give if you get, so I made sure to make time for his hobbies as well.)
Ok, so honesty is great and everything, but non-runners may still be wondering how running a 10k at 4 months postpartum is actually possible. (Or maybe there are runners like me going through their first pregnancy wondering that as well.) A few things to keep in mind:
– This is not my first race. Or my fifth. I actually don’t know the exact number, but I’ve been running at least one or two a year for 9 years. This means I know my body, I know what my limits are, how fast I can go, when to run through a cold, when to stay home (and do yoga!), what a real injury feels like, etc. If I’d only ever run one or two races, I probably would have set a much easier goal with less distance, and more months of training.
– I trained with a walk/run plan. This kind of felt like going backwards, but again, knowing my body meant knowing that after almost a year off, it wouldn’t be ready to only run at 2 months. Or 3. But by 4, I got to a place that felt like running the whole 10k would maybe be possible. Maybe not. But at least with a walk/run plan, I knew I’d be able to finish it either way.
– I worked out during my pregnancy. Swimming, yoga (so much yoga!), light weights, walking. While “knowing” my body didn’t really apply during pregnancy, since it was doing all sorts of crazy things I couldn’t control, I did listen to it. And I often felt really great after an easy workout, so I kept at it as long as it felt good. But if I was too tired or achy, I didn’t do it.
– My husband is working part-time right now. Since he can do laundry/shopping during the day, evenings are free to pursue our different hobbies. He is also really really great about dealing with the bébé at night, which means I can sleep, since I have the more demanding work schedule, and so that I can be rested for my runs.
It’s definitely the support of my husband that has helped the most these past four months, and obviously not just for running, but for everything. Even when working full-time, he didn’t hesitate for a second to take a crying baby so I could get out of the house for 20 minutes, or to get up three times a night to change diapers. I told a friend that running this race didn’t make me superwoman, but it definitely made me realize I’m married to superman!