Today we’re addressing a question from reader CW that she left as a comment on a post about how to run a sub-3 marathon. CW asks a very common question: how to get back to her pre-baby race times.
Can it be done? Absolutely. Two of our resident fast-as-F moms, Hops and Parsley, have been there and done that. Below, they share their top 3 tips for CW and anyone else in her situation. While the question is sub-3-specific, the advice can apply to any woman at any level looking to train seriously again after having babies.
I am 32 years old now with two kids (seven months old and a three year old) and I really want to get back to racing. My last marathon was Boston Marathon 2013 and I ran it in 2:51. I ran that by running pretty much every day — maybe one day off every two weeks. I consistently did one long run a week of 18-22 miles with some at goal marathon pace and did at least one tempo run a week. I raced a 10k and half marathon in the training period to gauge fitness. I PR’d in the 10k with a 37:37 and half marathon with a 1:23. After having my first baby, I started running three days per week 6-ish miles at a slow pace for me. Then I got pregnant with my second kid (now 7 months old). Currently I am running three days a week about six miles per run. I really want to start training for another marathon but have no idea where to begin. Any ideas or training plans? I’d love to be fast again.
Hops (2:53 marathoner, teacher, coach, and mom of 2 little girls) says:
- Running is important, but you have to take care of your whole body. Find something that you can do to address your core and flexibility that works for your life and your schedule. This may mean you trade some running time for some #extrasalt time, but it is absolutely worth it. I really enjoyed Jasyoga videos and I still use them regularly. There is a collection of 5 minute reset videos, so you can pick one area to work on (like your hips or hamstrings) each day for just 5 minutes. There are also some longer videos you could do during nap times. There are other video services you can try too, plenty of YouTubers have great videos aimed at runners. I got really into Pilates at our local YMCA, and they have two hours of free child care per day, so you can take a class or do your workouts while someone watches your kids for you. That is golden.
- Find a plan or a coach, but be flexible with your training. It can be difficult to adjust our training philosophy and let go of our tried-and-true pre-baby training which often simply isn’t doable anymore. Training doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and with little ones you have to find a middle ground. I made sure to give myself the leeway to train on just 5 days/week of running at first averaging 40 miles/week. My most recent marathon training where I ran PRs of 1:18 and 2:53, I did on 5-6 days/week of training averaging 55 miles per week. I followed a loose plan, but always rearranged my schedule based on sleep, kids getting sick, family get togethers etc. You don’t have to run 100 miles per week to be successful.
- A solid support system is key. I found a good local club to train with after my second baby, and that’s when things really clicked. I think it helps to have like-minded friends to train with, especially when you’re training for a marathon. You may find a good local club or team, or even an online community. Or maybe you can create your own stroller running group, or meet some moms at the gym with little ones. Whatever it is, it helps to share your experiences, frustrations and good times with other moms, or other runner moms.
Parsley (retired U.S. Army Major and U.S. Army World Class Athlete, 3-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier/runner, and mom of 3 little girls) says:
- In my experience, the biggest piece of trying to train with young kids is remaining flexible. You really have to work around their schedules and fit in what you can. For me, this involves a lot of stroller running. The majority of my miles each week are pushing some assortment of children in a running stroller, often broken up into smaller segments that are tolerable for them, but that also add up to enough miles for me. When I do have the opportunity to run solo, I try to make the most of it and get in a long run or workout.
- Coming back from a baby, you may find at first that you’ve lost a lot of speed. If you ran while pregnant, you probably ran increasingly slowly. And when you returned to running, you probably ran slowly to accommodate your jiggly, awkward, post-childbirth body! As you begin to run more, start with adding strides a few times a week. Then start with longer strides but not necessarily a full on track workout: for instance, sprinting the length of a football field. Hills are also a good way to get back into speedwork, and drills can wake up muscles you haven’t used in a long time!
- After you’ve become comfortable doing a little more than just easy running (strides, hills, drills, etc.), you may feel ready to start more intensive training and racing. Find a low-key local race to start with that you can bring your kids to, and enjoy the experience of having them at the finish line!
Barley wrote a race report about winning the Buffalo Marathon about a year after giving birth to her daughter. She shares some of her training philosophy and process for getting back into sub-3 marathon racing shape after having a baby.
Readers, do you have any tips or experiences to share? Or are you in CW’s shoes and looking to get back in shape?