Standing shivering on the start line of the Herts 10k on Sunday morning, horizontal rain battering my right ear drum, I did wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. It was five months and six days since I had my baby and I’d only decided to run the day before.
With hindsight, it might have been a good idea to get up a bit earlier (I woke up at 8:36 knowing I needed to leave the house by 9:15 latest to get to the start line for the 10:00 gun – and needed to feed the baby before I left); check the weather forecast (cold, wet, windy, utterly miserable); think about what to wear (trail shoes and a lightweight windproof jacket would have been good additions, possibly some clean running tights rather than the ones I’d whipped out of the washing bin that morning); and glance at the course map (peering through the rain, the course appeared to be largely off-road. That was a surprise).
Yes, I think it’s fair to say I have never been less prepared for a race. Oh, and did I mention I hadn’t run 10 kilometres on the same day for over a year?
I was previously vaguely aware the race was happening and was local to us. My brother and some of his friends had entered. I knew I wanted to run a 10k before Christmas, with a view to a half-marathon in the spring, but had arranged to see my best friends and wouldn’t be able to do it. That meet-up got canned at the last minute, just as my brother discovered he had to work unexpectedly, so I relieved him of his race pack the night before and crossed my fingers for a good night’s sleep.
I didn’t get one.
I was up from 2am-5am with the little one, at which point Phil took over and let me go back to sleep. I hadn’t set the alarm either, hence the 8:36 wake-up, and I found Phil asleep sitting up with Baby slumbering across his lap.
And so it was I found myself on the start line less than an hour and a half later, wondering whether it was too late to call Phil to ask him to pick me up and pretend it was all a bad dream.
As races go, it was – thankfully – beautifully organised. We started on time, the marshals were plentiful and cheerful despite the appalling weather, the km markers were in all the right places and there were two water points. It was slow-going in places, going down to single file a couple of times, though much of the congestion was caused by people poncing around the puddles and drawing to an abrupt halt at the flooded sections. After getting caught up in the domino effect a couple of times, I decided to plough through the puddles, discovering when it was too late that they were ankle-deep in places.
I kept to a steady 6 minutes/km pace – slowing up a bit between 3km and 4km, because of a sharpish hill. We continued upwards for another kilometre before the course flattened out a bit. I can’t honestly remember much of the rest of it, other than repeatedly putting one muddy foot in front of the other until I got to the 9km mark. The last stretch went quickly, even though my legs felt like lead – though this may have been the extra weight caused by the clomps of mud attached to my running shoes. I saw the finish line, I saw Phil waving frantically next to the pushchair, and I saw that I’d run inside an hour.
My chip time was 58:45 – much the same as it would have been pre-baby on a bumpy course in those conditions. To say I was a little bit proud of myself would be an under-statement – and it definitely makes a half-marathon achievable early next year.
I might try to be a bit more organised about that one.
Running after having a baby (like everything else after having a baby) requires a degree of planning. Whereas pre-Baby, the hubby and I would have jogged off for a run whenever suited us during the course of a weekend, we now have to plan two separate runs a day around a little unpredictable person. It takes more than twice as long, because we’re going independently of one another and we have to work around feeds and sleep.
I prefer to run in the morning if possible – always have done – so my running slot is usually after our breakfast and after feeding Baby. Then I come back, leap into the shower and take over Baby duty so Phil can go off for his run. Teamwork is paramount…especially if we also have plans to go out or see other people later on in the day.
The trouble is, our unpredictable darling has been going through a phase of waking up three, four or even five times a night. Morning arrives, and Phil and I seem to have spent the night doing an endless cycle of feeding-burping-settling. To go, or not to go, for a run when my allocated slot arrives?
I am reminded of the McCain ad, “Daddy or Chips”? My dilemma is Run or Sleep? I’m afraid, readers, much as I love my running, sleep has won the battle on more than one occasion lately.
One of the things we are keen to do with Baby* is to get her used to swimming at a very early age. The hubby was never keen on swimming as a youngster; but I loved it, after lessons as a wee baby. So we enrolled our daughter into the nearest swim school as soon as she got her jabs out of the way at four months .
Three minutes into her first lesson, and the mummies have been holding the babies under their arms and gently bopping them up and down in the water so they can wiggle their legs and get used to the sensation. The teacher tells us to shift position, tucking the babies under one arm, so they can look down at the water. Pretty simple, right?
I manage to drop my little swimmer head first into the water, completely submerging her and somehow have to catch her underwater.
I’m clearly a total shoe-in for the “mummy of the year” award.
* Not her actual name; this isn’t Dirty Dancing. I’m not keen on using her given name on the blog, but not sure what nickname to give her yet…
Filed under: pregnancy, running | Tags: baby, post-natal, post-pregnancy, pregnancy, running
- Have lie-in.
- Drink tea and eat breakfast with Husband.
- Go for run together, chatting about this and that.
- Return home, stretch thoroughly and enjoy cup of coffee.
- Indulge in a pleasant-smelling warm bath.
- Enjoy leisurely brunch comprised of carefully chosen protein and carbs with Husband while reading weekend papers in companionable silence.
- Later than day, type up blog post while enjoying a glass of wine.
- Woken up at 5.30am by chuntering Baby (very cute, granted, but still…it’s 5.30am).
- Feed Baby, wind Baby, play with Baby, try to get Baby to sleep so you and Husband can eat breakfast together. Fail.
- Scoff a bit of toast while Husband entertains Baby. Swop over.
- Feed Baby.
- Hand Baby to Husband while you go for your run.
- Arrive home to slightly whingey Baby.
- Feed Baby whilst trying to avoid dripping sweat onto her face.
- Grab quick shower while Husband burps Baby.
- Take Baby so Husband can go for his run.
- Eat post-run snack comprising some out-of-date yoghurt, a handful of raspberries and five McVities Cheddars. Essentially whatever you can find and eat one-handed.
- Type blog post with two fingers while standing up rocking Baby and looking mournfully at yesterday’s as-yet-unread paper.
Filed under: pregnancy, running | Tags: exercise, post-pregnancy, pregnancy, running, running after having a baby
I managed two more little runs at the weekend – a 2.5-miler and a 3-miler, both very local to where we live so I could stagger home if it all got too much. It’s very early days, but I feel better with each run – both psychologically and physically.
So here are my top tips for getting back into running after having a baby. Bear in mind, I’m no elite athlete; I didn’t run marathons while I was pregnant. I ran (slowly) for as long as I could during my pregnancy; walked a lot; and put away a serious amount of cake.
- Walk before you run. This wasn’t too difficult for me, since I could actually barely walk to start with (quite how Kate Middleton managed to bounce down the steps of the Lindo Wing 24 hours after giving birth to Prince George is beyond me, but everyone’s different!) It took me several days just to pigeon-step to the bottom of the garden. My first “walk” was a slow shuffle to the paper shop, but I built that up to walking about five miles in a single day before I even thought about going for a run.
- Build up your core strength. See last blog post. I’m no doctor, physio or trainer, but I would guess that core strength is fundamental to staying injury-free after some time out of your running shoes, whether because of injury or pregnancy.
- Batten down the milking machines. Seriously, get a good bra – in fact, get two and wear both together. Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, your boobs will probably be a different size compared to pre-pregnancy. And if you’re breastfeeding, your boobs will go up and down like a yo-yo on a daily basis…sometimes the left at a completely different rate to the right. Buying a bra that fits correctly all of the time is therefore impossible. The only solution I’ve found to this is to strap them as close to my ribcage as possible. I’m wearing a Shock Absorber RUN bra (which I bought when I was pregnant, a cup size up from my pre-pregnancy one, but still two sizes down from my nursing bras). I’m also wearing a Nike over-the-head crop top for added strappage. This seems to ensure minimal bounce.
- Go shopping. While we’re on the subject of kit, treat yourself to some stuff that fits. You probably won’t fit into your pre-pregnancy kit; and if you do, it might not look as good as it once did. But drowning yourself in a big square cotton race t-shirt isn’t necessarily a recipe for making you feel good either. Sweatshop seems to have a permanent sale on, and for those in Herts, the Nike outlet shop in Hatfield’s Galleria is a good place for bargains.
- Ditch the gadgetry. So far I haven’t been out with a watch, phone or other GPS device. I don’t really want to know how slow I’m running. I know roughly what mileage I’m doing based on previous experience but I’m not a slave to it. While you’re at it, tone down your music. I’ve binned my usual power tracks and settled on something with an easier tempo. My album of choice at the moment is Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories – destined to forever remind me of Baby’s first few weeks.
- Don’t feel guilty. A few of my Mummy buddies have said they’d feel guilty for having time to themselves and leaving their little ones with other people. I have to say, I don’t. I figure exercise helps my state of mind as well as my physical wellbeing, and that can only benefit the little one.
- If it hurts, STOP! You’re not training for a marathon. There’s no need to push through the pain barrier. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Remember you’ve made a little human being! And your body has gone through one of the biggest ordeals it will ever face. Above all, enjoy it.
Filed under: Pilates, pregnancy | Tags: exercise, exercise after having a baby, post-pregnancy, pregnancy, sit-up
My trainer tried to get me to do a sit-up on Monday. I couldn’t do it. Not even a little bit.
I used to do dozens of them when I was doing British Military Fitness regularly.
This upset me a bit.
Then I thought, I went from this:
In nine months.
No wonder I can’t do a sit-up.
Filed under: Pilates, pregnancy, running | Tags: personal training, Pilates, post-natal, pregnancy, running
Twelve weeks ago today, I gave birth to a perfect little girl, a much-wanted first child for Phil and I. I’ll spare you the details of the sleepless nights, epic poos and the bit of sick that has become a permanent feature on my left shoulder. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
From an fitness perspective though, it’s safe to say pregnancy and labour has taken its toll on my body! I was pretty lucky with my pregnancy, in that I didn’t have any major complications until the end. I ran up to 28 weeks and continued to walk 3-4 miles as part of my commute to my office until I finished work at 36 weeks. I did a bit of swimming and a bit of Pilates while on maternity leave, which eased the backache that developed in those final few weeks. But also did a lot of resting and relied mostly on the car to get around towards the end. By the time my due date arrived, I was immensely frustrated at my lack of ability, and even desire, to do anything other than sit on the sofa or in the garden with my feet up.
I have no intention of telling the world my labour story, but without putting too finer point on it, our little girl wasn’t so very little… It was a fortnight before I could even stand up comfortably, let alone go any further than round the block via pigeon steps. It was another week before I could drive, and another still before I could contemplate walking the mile into town.
Running, of course, was absolutely out of the question.
I also knew the sensible thing would be to build up a bit of core strength before trying to run again. Despite having relatively strong abs before I was pregnant, I could now barely find them. But I was reluctant to start doing any work on them before I had established if there was any split between my rectus abdominis muscles (diastasis recti) which I had first read about on the Runner’s World forum some months ago. Even something as simple as getting myself out of the bath would cause a bit of a bulge in the middle of my tummy, so I was keen to ensure I didn’t make it any worse by doing the wrong exercises.
To cut a long story a little bit shorter, I called a lady I’d met at the swimming pool a few weeks ago. She’s a qualified midwife, nurse and personal trainer, who specialises in pre- and post-natal Pilates. By the end of my first call with her, I was pretty sure I would benefit from a few sessions.
I’ve now done six hours with Victoria – leaving Baby with my Mum and Dad for the hour or so that I’m out. It’s really nice to have some “me-time” and the sessions are working wonders for my strength and flexibility, and starting to close the gap in my tummy. A lot of the exercises we are doing are about re-programming my stomach and back muscles which are over-stretched and over-tight respectively; and also opening up and strengthening my shoulder muscles, which are a bit hunched over from hours spent breastfeeding and staring at the cute little bundle of cuddles in my arms.
Victoria gives me a short programme of homework after every session, which I can do in about 10-15 minutes whenever I get the time, and I try to do a longer 45-minute session at the weekend if I can.
After two of the weekly sessions, I could feel the difference in strength – and after three (nine weeks after having Baby), I ambitiously went off for my first “walk-run”. I probably did a mile and a half – and ran only about half of that, before returning to the house in tears. Let’s just say my pelvic floor muscles still need a bit of work, and leave it at that…
But onwards and upwards! I’m ran two whole miles this Sunday – only stopping to walk up the little hill back to our house – so that is fairly major progress. I say “ran”; I mean “a slow shuffle”. I daren’t take a watch with me – I suspect my pre-pregnancy self could have walked faster – but it was really good to wake up a few more hibernating muscles and feel the wind in my hair at last.