Friday, September 15, 2017

Running Update: 20 Weeks Postpartum

So it's probably time to update my running blog about my running...novel idea! I actually really enjoy analyzing my running so this kind of stuff is fun for me #nerdalert.

I gave an update recently on life currently, and briefly talked about maternity leave. I was off for 7 weeks, and the timing worked out that I didn't run until the weekend before I went back to work- so back to work and running at the same time (this was probably really good for me in hindsight). As for working out over maternity leave I was very much on the no-pressure-wagon and did what I could when I wanted to. We walked a lot with the stroller which was just as much for mental sanity and getting out of the house as it was for the physical aspect.

It's worth noting that I really didn't continue to run during pregnancy, so my progression might be slightly different than others. All women are different, all pregnancies and deliveries are different- and all runners are different. My backing off was mostly my choice, I didn't have the desire to run and workout a ton during pregnancy and I embraced the time off. I love racing and have spent the last few years running and training pretty hard and this break came at a great time.

Some might say that the extended time off would make me want to start postpartum running sooner but it was in fact the opposite- I wanted to make sure that I was ready. I published a log of what I did the first 7 weeks postpartum-->here. It's mainly walking, some stretching and strength work and focusing on making sure I didn't do too much too soon. I DID get the itch to start running after a few weeks but fought it off, and stuck to my guns about waiting until my 7 week checkup (had I not had an emergency cesarean delivery I may have considered running  2-3 weeks earlier...maybe).

During the first 7 weeks I also made a point to regularly check in with my abs and assess for any signs of Diastasis Recti or other issues. My doctor also checked me out at my 7 week appointment. While I had a small space it was nothing concerning, and she told me to continue the exercises and things that I had been doing. While the exercises are nothing taxing I do feel like they helped me regain some core control (after my muscles being cut into during surgery) which made life in general easier let alone working out. {Some links to the exercises I have been doing: 5 exercises for D.R., more here, Pelvic Floor exercises, 4 more pelvic floor}

I also have been doing a lot of work with loop resistance bands. I have done these for years and it's something that truly has helped me get stronger, stay healthier and is a great way to build a good foundation while building up miles again. I've got a simple routine and few exercises (literally some of the exercises are just walking forward and back, side to side...simple!) I do that only takes a few minutes- so not a ton of excuses not to make it happen. It's low impact which is helpful too! What's 10 minutes, right?! {Some Links to loop band workouts: James Dunne, Pilates loop band, a few more}

So back to running.... I went for my first run around 7 weeks which was June 17th. From that point on I made a LOOSE plan for each week but it really took a few weeks to even come close to plan. That was much less about how I was physically feeling and more about adjusting to being working mom and also dealing with a few growth spurts with Hannah during that time.

I didn't follow a set rule such as the 10% rule for mileage. But I also didn't add a ton at a time, and I never increased unless I felt ready. My general rule of thumb was that I wanted to finish each week feeling like I COULD have run more miles, even now 20 weeks PP I am still using that rule of thumb for myself. I haven't finished a week where I felt like I couldn't have done more, but I also know that it's a fine line so I am being cautious. There is no award for rushing back to ALL the miles or races after a baby or injury....and it's especially not rewarding if you come back too soon and get injured or burned out.

So that is what my weeks have looked like since my first full week of running again. As you can see, gradual build with a few kind of larger jumps but then letting things level out again. The jump from 20 to 27 miles was bigger than planned but I felt good, and even so I proceeded to hold that mileage for a few weeks and even back off a tiny bit just to make sure I was ready.

A breakdown of the days since running again also shows where I started to throw in some smaller workouts, and gradually build my longer runs. Note: my long runs increased probably a bit more than they should have but I tolerate that well physically and mentally. Long runs are my favorite, and something that is important to me even if not training for a distance race. I have years under my belt of LSD's and it's something I KNOW that I can tolerate, but again I assessed regularly to make sure I didn't overdo it. {not shown on this chart is also that I continued walking a few times most weeks which helps speed recovery but also really helped build my foundation again which I think made my comeback a little bit of easier transition}

Much like mileage, paces are such a relative thing. But it's worth talking about. Pre-pregnancy most of my easy runs were between 7:30-8:30 paces even when training and running a sub-3 hour marathon. Postpartum now, most of my early runs were between 9:15-10:15 pace and now are more closer to 8:45-9:15 pace. The thing that is also different though is that pace doesn't bother me. While I still slowed down on easy stuff before, it was usually a struggle to do so and these days I could go out and plod miles at a slow pace forever and not bat an eyelash.

I have been using my Garmin with optical HR monitor to help me as I get back in shape and make sure I am actually abiding by EASY. Though most of the time I don't even need to or want to look at watch on easy days- I'm just happy to get outside and run. I have a huge appreciation for running for the sake of running and not running for the sake of training that I didn't have before. Though don't get me wrong, I look forward to being in training again and having another goal to work towards but that will come in time.

I ran my first postpartum race at 15 weeks postpartum, as there was Bergen 5k which I have not missed in years and wasn't going to let this year go by without running. I knew I wouldn't be in peak shape but I also knew the timing would be really good to use as a fitness test. I ran a solo 5k time trial on July 4th in 23:17 (7:30 pace) which was a good test but Bergen in August was a good race situation test to see how I had improved. Between July 4th solo TT and Bergen on August 12th I ran a few fartlek runs for workouts as well as some 400 repeats but nothing crazy.

Bergen is a competitive race but I was just excited to go out there and be back in the environment and see what I could do. I was excited to have Hannah there and knew that it would help me push to see her sooner. I went out too fast (6:16 hahhahahaha) but stayed consistent around 6:47-6:48 for the rest and finished in 20:47. I was really happy with that time and it was great to rip off the bandaid and race again. It was also nice to have a true race I could use to calculate my Vdot and training times moving forward.

Also, having my baby girl at the finish was the best thing ever.

Speaking of Hannah, I love stroller running a lot more than I thought I would. Does that make me sound bad that I wasn't sure if I would like it? Who cares, it's the truth. I am a solo runner, have been for a long time and it's something that works well for me. The first few stroller runs were done with our City mini GT (not a running stroller despite the brand being named baby jogger) but our car seat had an adapter that worked with it so it was better than nothing. It's actually not horrible for running, at least shorter and slower stuff.

Once I realized that I liked stroller running with Hannah, I found a car seat on a mom swap for cheap (with tags on and all!) that would work with my running stroller. Buying a second car seat just for running seemed silly but it was a smart move. I LOVE using my actual running stroller and it is definitely easier. We have a Baby Trend expedition jogger, it's considered a "low end" stroller by most runners but honestly I have some friends who have thousands of miles on theirs BT and no issues. I'm not saying BOB's and Thules aren't worth the money, but I think it was the right call for us getting the BT one to start. I don't feel limited with it at all. (The city mini is a great stroller and we love it for everything else...don't want to make it sound like we don't use/love that thing still- it was a great hand me down that gets used super frequently for family walks, shopping and public market trips).
Mini loves stroller runs!

Hannah does GREAT in the stroller and it will be bittersweet when I don't need the car seat for her in it and I won't be able to stare at her cute face while I run. Though, my little nosy-nellie will love being able to look forward and see so much more when she is turned around! I usually put amazon music on my phone on speaker and put it in the pocket on the stroller while I run. We both like the tunes and I'm still very aware of what's around us. I don't run with the stroller all the time, and there are days where I really need my chill solo runs and I get them- but the stroller is a great option for me to get my runs in but also spend time with Hannah. Planning for postpartum running was helpful and I'm finding what works and doesn't for us.

So where am I now and where am I headed with running this fall? Honestly, I don't really know and I'm okay with that! 

For starters I am running Rochester Half marathon this weekend, and I am actually really excited about it. It's going to be fun and exciting to be in the racing scene again and I know I'm in better shape than I was a few weeks ago so it'll be cool to see what I can do. It's a hilly course, but I'm not looking to break any records and really just want to soak in the energy.

Beyond that? I really think I'm just going to maintain miles, workouts, and throw in some races here and there the rest of the year. I have a list of some races that are potentially going to happen but most will be game time decisions based on how things are going in running and life with a baby! This weekend may be the only half I do this fall or I may find one other to do later on as a progression but I'm not super fixed on it. I like the thought of jumping in some 5k, 5 miles, and 10ks between now and December.

IF (BIG IF) I can maintain mileage and base throughout the rest of the year I will most likely pick a late spring race to train for. BUT (A BIG BUT), that will be made at year end and also be made with a lot of factors that need to be considered (where I am at with Hannah, my job, how running is going, and what things look like for selling our house and moving in the spring). Most days I feel like I'm TRYING to be superwoman as a working mom but I don't want to run myself into the ground and put too much on my plate. With that said, a marathon will most likely happen next year- the itch has started to come back and I miss distance. I have some long term goals I still want to work towards and having a kid has not changed that for just changes how and when I may go about those goals. Next year is going to involve selling/buying houses, Hannah turning ONE, and a wedding....sooooooo running I love you but you're going to be the fifth wheel most of the time.

I have been keeping weekly training logs going as Barley over at Salty Running so you can follow along over there, I'm also on Strava if you want to giggle at me running endless neighborhood circles with the stroller.

This post got long so I pulled some things out to put in another post that has answers to some questions I have gotten. Running and breastfeeding/pumping questions. Sports bras for mama's (because man is it different), certain products and clothes that help (postpartum bodies are so different and man things chafe when you haven't run in a while!), maintaining a milk supply with running, and also how my nutrition and diet have changed with if you have any questions let me know and I'll put them in there!

***Edited to add a disclaimer----I'm not a professional, nor an expert. This is MY personal experience and obviously my first time through postpartum stuff. So take what I say with a grain of salt and remember that everyone is different***


  1. I'm really glad running is going well for you! Your race times were really great and it sounds like you're doing a good job of pre-hab and taking care of yourself, and balancing everything with being a working new mom. Glad to see you blogging again too because I really miss your posts!

    1. Thank you Amy! I'm happy with how things are going but I definitely know that I HAVE to take care of those little things...even more than I have been to be honest.

  2. Nice job in Bergen and at the Rochester Half! And congratulations on little Hannah! She is beautiful. I'm a local runner/ fan of you and have to thank you for writing about your pregnancy and postpartum running experience so candidly. So many new mom runners feel like they have to run up until the moment they give birth, and then snap back quickly. Not only is it often unrealistic, but it puts unhealthy pressure on us all. I'm 33 weeks along now and though I'm still plodding away some miles most days of the week, I have zero concern about pace or overall mileage. I do it because I love it and it still feels good. If I have to stop in 7 weeks, or tomorrow, I'll be ok with it. Running/racing will always be there and you remind me of that... thank you!
    Question -- How many weeks was Hannah when did you start stroller running with her? I got a cheap used Bob and am also skeptical about how much I'll like stroller running, but am eager to give it a try :)

    1. Hi Stacey! Thank you so much for your comment and kind words! I try and be open and honest because I know that I appreciate that too. Sugar coating doesn't help anyone, and we all go through things differently but at the same time we can still learn from and appreciate others experiences. I hope your pregnancy is going well and kudos on still getting miles in!!! Is this your first?

      Re: Stroller running with Hannah, I personally chose to wait until I had pediatrician approval. I never asked him during her first few checkups (we went weekly for a while because she was preemie) because I wasn't running. I asked him for approval WITH the car seat and he said okay and that was at her 2 month checkup. Even now at 4.5 months I am still using the car seat in the stroller for runs- she's broaching the stage we could probably try without but I will air on side of caution and probably keep her in it for a while longer. The added weight of the stroller and car seat just make me stronger, right?!

    2. Also if you ever see me out running or at a race please don't hesitate to say something, would love to meet you in person!

    3. Thank you for replying, Laura! This is our first baby, and I'm thankful to say that my pregnancy has been going really well so far. Thank you for the guidance on the stroller running. Like you said, running with the car seat must be fun anyway -- you can watch your little girl as you go! I'll definitely say hi the next time I see you at a race. We're lucky to have a nice little group of extremely fast women here in Rochester to keep the competition fierce. I call you ladies the "local elites." I have yet to be one of you, but truly admire you all! Happy running (and momming!)

  3. You are so great and motivating! So happy your are enjoying running and motherhood! Excellent job!

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