For the past eight weeks, I have been dreaming about how good it will feel to finally run again. My daydreams featured me mid-run, the endorphins pumping in that old familiar amazing feeling, while the motion itself flowed naturally. It was to be like riding a bike. I knew I would be slow at first and need some time to build back up to where I once was, but that first run would be fine.
And then I finally ran and it was way different then I imagined.
Harder Than Remembered
Even though I couldn’t wait to run again doesn’t mean that it felt good or even natural that first-time after baby. This first run barely was even a run. There was a lot more walking going on that actual running.
It felt like a was on old machine being used for the first time in a long time. I needed a proper warm-up and to retrain my body and mind the movements and inner motivation needed to keep going.
I felt slow, out of shape and out of breath at times.
Still, it served as an ice breaker. It got me moving and put my journey ahead into perspective. And I didn’t feel bad about myself or disappointed. I knew it would be hard and that it would be a slow comeback–even if it was harder than I remembered.
My First Run Back
My first run was on the treadmill because of the cold winter here and the fact that now I have two kids to look after and can’t put in the newborn in the jogging stroller just yet.
So I started with a nice warm-up that consisted of a relaxed to a then brisk walk for 5 minutes. I found this brisk walk to feel like a workout, already planting the seed in my mind that this workout would not grow to become easier.
But I pushed on for the run portion, which was at best a slow jog. My body felt forced and not stiff but almost like my muscles were relearning the movements. My legs were like lead and I was so SLOW.
After 2-3 minutes, I already needed to scale back. But instead of feeling defeated I threw my expectations out the window. This would be a run/walk (or basically jog/walk)/
When my recovery minute was over, my goal with each run portion was to pick up the speed a little more or hold that pace a little longer and then increase the speed. Knowing recovery was coming allowed me to step it up.
This made the workout go by faster and boosted my confidence because I was able to challenge myself and reach the end of the run portion feeling like I actually was running. By the later minutes of the workout, I felt like things were clicking back into place.
Tips To First Run Back
I remember my first run back after my first baby to be a challenge—as well as many runs after the first. Be patient and allow your body the time it needs to get used to working out again.
Set Time Goals, Not Distance
So my biggest piece of advice is to go slow and don’t set major goals. I only set a 20-minute run goal that included a warm-up and cooldown as my first run.
Setting time goals set you up for better success because even running 1 mile might seem challenging. Just start moving again and getting in some daily exercise based on allowed time to get back into the swing of things.
Then Switch To Distance
I plan to stick to 20- to 30-minute runs and not worry about mileage for the first few times, then switch over to running 3 miles consistently for 2 to 3 weeks before starting half marathon training.
The idea is that my time goals serve as a warm-up for being able to consistently run mileage needed to then start focusing on my mileage goals. From here I can add on a mile every week safely.
Intervals Are A Must
Those who are on the treadmill need to play with speed. This is the only way to beat boredom and get your mind off the overall time by focusing on a shorter time like a 2-minute sprint and 30 seconds of recovery.
But Try To Go Outside
If I could run outside I absolutely would do so instead. If you can leave the baby behind for 30-minutes, do so. And again, just run for time and don’t worry about speed.
Being outside will give you fresh air and freedom to go and not be focused on a clock. Plus, running outside is just so much better than treadmill running
Walk When You Need To
Run to landmarks and take walking breaks when needed. This might be to a mailbox or tree or the length of a block, then walk to recover. Don’t be ashamed to need to walk. Remember you just had a baby and this is the first run.
It’s better to walk a little bit and not feel like dying than giving up mid-run.
Mommy Care To Follow
Absolutely wear a supportive sports bra. The bounce is real and very distracting.
Also, make sure to use the bathroom before the run. A little leaking can be expected, but since I had a c-section this wasn’t an issue for me.
I also have no shame in wearing my maternity workout leggings still because it doesn’t irritate my scar.
After The First Run
It does get easier, but make sure to stretch, hydrated and start eating a healthy diet to fuel your body.
In between days of running, I have HIIT workouts scheduled, and you should find some form of cross-training to do. This helps running my building that endurance back up, working out muscle groups, and increasing overall fitness—which all help make running easier.