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Seven Lessons Learned in Postpartum Running...During a Pandemic

While I’m grateful that I was able to run through the majority of my pregnancy, I couldn’t wait to build back up and run again. I’m now six months postpartum and while I feel stronger every day and see progress, it hasn’t been easy - especially with COVID-19 in the mix. I was lucky enough to have my son before the words “coronavirus pandemic” really meant much. I was signed up for a half-marathon at the three-month postpartum mark and had already started researching marathons that could be a good BQ attempt. In March all that changed. And to be honest, this extra time has probably been exactly what my postpartum body needed. 

Now that I’m six months in, I’ve had some time to reflect on my comeback to running and rebuilding. Here are a few lessons that I’ve learned in the process:

Take Your Time
I was itching to start running as soon as possible, but I had a surgery scheduled for seven weeks postpartum with a three-week recovery period afterward. While I snuck in a few runs before my surgery, I really wasn’t able to start training until 10 weeks postpartum. In retrospect, that was definitely what my body needed, but at the moment I felt like I was getting behind. By three months postpartum, I’d logged a 10-miler and immediately started to feel symptoms of a weak pelvic floor. By that point, every race on my radar had been canceled, so I decided to do what I probably should have done all along. Take my time.

Don’t Give Up The Snuggles
Babies grow up fast. I swear I’ll pick my son up from a nap and he’s grown three inches! With that said, savor every moment you get to snuggle with your little one. I’ve always been a morning runner, 5 a.m. long runs to beat the heat were the norm. But these days, I get up and snuggle with my little guy and my run happens when it happens. Sure, it might be hotter or I might have to stick with the treadmill, but when I look back to the early days of his life, I’ll remember the time we spent together, not the runs I woke up early to do. 

Listen to Your Body
Everyone’s labor and recovery process is different, and there’s literally no guidebook on how you should feel. If there’s ever a time to truly listen to your body, it’s during the postpartum period. Pregnancy changes your body, and I know in my case, there are many things that are different. Give yourself the chance to adapt. Maybe that means a bigger sports bra or adding walk intervals into your run, whatever it is for you, listen. Don’t ignore what your body is saying because trust me, it’ll lead to some serious chafing, or even injury.

Focus on Strength
As I mentioned above, your body goes through some serious changes. For me, a lot of those changes involved weakening my muscles and creating imbalances. I’ve found the best way to combat that is to add strength to my routine. I now do barre regularly, incorporating PT exercises to strengthen my core, hips, and glutes. I have also added more hill training into my runs which has been especially helpful for the days I run with the stroller (on flat surfaces) - it makes it feel easier!

Ditch Social Media When You Need To
Oh, social media. I love to hate it. It’s the perfect place to gain inspiration and to fall into the comparison trap. In my early postpartum days, I’d see women with babies the same age as mine running fast times that I’m still not able to hit. Sometimes I just need to give myself time away from Instagram and Strava, and recalibrate my thinking. My journey is my journey. 

Fit It In When You Can
As a new mom who works from home, fitting in “me” time is pretty challenging these days. So, I fit it in when I can. Sometimes that means my run is shorter than I’d planned, I hit the treadmill, or end up running shorter loops around my house to stay closer to home. Sometimes I skip my speed work and do a stroller run with the baby instead. Without group runs right now, I’m definitely missing the social interaction, but I don’t have a ton of motivation to get up early and miss snuggles with my little guy! Being a mom has definitely taught me to make the most of my time!

Embrace Your Community
As I mentioned above, I miss social interaction like crazy. I love running with people and not being able to do so has certainly made coming back harder. However, it has made me even more grateful for the communities that I have. I’ve found ways to connect with running friends by running with them on the phone or meeting up for virtual happy hours. I’m also really grateful for the virtual communities I’m part of, like the Balega Impi Ambassador program! Knowing I’m not alone during this strange time has definitely been more helpful than I would have ever imagined.

Everyone’s postpartum journey is different, especially during this strange time of isolation. Just like pregnancy, I found that I needed to readjust my expectations for running. Whenever races resume, I’ll be excited to embark on a new challenge with my favorite little cheerleader at the end!