My Postpartum Running Journey – So Far

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JB gets his own workouts doing tummytime.

Baby JB is almost 12 weeks old!

And I’m nearly 8 weeks into my new phase of running. I had a pleasant, “medically boring” pregnancy, running through 35 weeks, but initial recovery from birth was not quite a cakewalk. After a marathon 53-hour labor, I had some significant wounds that made just about everything other than eating quite painful, even requiring my re-admission to the hospital. But as they say, time heals and two weeks later I was itching to get moving again.

I’m not always known for smart training decisions, but once that urge hit, I made myself wait another three days. If I felt good enough to walk for each of those three days, I rationalized, then the feeling was true. Finally I climbed on the treadmill and set the pace to 3.0 mph (20:00/mi pace) expecting to jack up the pace quickly. I was ready, right?NOPE – I almost fell off the back of the treadmill and desperately reached for the button to slow the heck down! Willpower got me through a full mile and I called it a postpartum PR.

22:10 – the hardest mile I’ve ever completed.

I spent a full week just walking at a comfortable pace. To hold myself back from overdoing it (anyone else have that problem?), I wore fleece pajama pants and long sleeves and tried not to sweat.

Finally, I got the urge to run. Again, I told myself I’d wait a full three days with the desire present before taking that first stride… and that lasted exactly one minute. Apparently a 9-week break from running is enough to make one forget the importance of a sports bra.

From there, I ran every other day, advancing from 8 minutes (with a walking break) to a solid 30 minutes at almost 5 weeks postpartum. On non-running days I walked, aiming for an average of 60 minutes run/walk daily. Although it felt good to get moving, I felt so awkward!  My hips felt wobbly, my quads were sore, and I had somehow forgotten what to do with my hands.

Gradually my 60 minutes of walk/run grew to include more running and the walking faded. I felt like this was a very natural way to increase mileage while keeping the overall stress the same – after all, walking was initially so hard!

I entered my first race at 8 weeks postpartum, a 5k benefiting my workplace. Remember that initial 22:10 mile? Well, I covered a full 3.1 a minute faster! Two weeks later I ran 19:55, and then 19:07 with my 11-week old baby watching. I’ve always enjoyed racing when I’m not in peak shape because it’s so fun to see the seconds drop off, but this is a whole new level of fun! Best of all, now my body feels smooth and natural at any given pace.

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JB is not impressed with my 19:55 5k.

I go back to work this week, adding a huge responsibility to balancing “only” baby + running (+ some husband time too, of course. And, uh, my usual minimal housekeeping.). I’m sure I have a lot of challenges coming my way so I’m not planning any specific training goals and am even letting go of the 60 min/day objective for the time being.


Fellow mommas: How long did it take you to feel normal after giving birth? How did you deal with going back to work? Anyone setting all-time PRs postpartum? Do tell!

I'm a 20-year veteran of competitive running, USATF certified coach, mom of a toddler -- and still trying to set PRs. I write about training from 5k to marathon, motherhood and competitive running, and the elite side of the sport. The 5k is my favorite race (16:56 PR) but I've got a score to settle with the marathon.

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  1. Thanks, Jojo. I was surprised how quickly the speed came back as well. Even if I’d just taken 8 weeks off running just to sit around and eat nachos (as opposed to giving birth!) I thought it would have been a slower comeback. I’m still over 2 minutes slower than my PR, but pretty confident I can come pretty close to it in the next year!

  2. It took me about 6 months to match my pre-preg 5k pr after my first pregnancy and I’d chalk a couple of those months up to losing the gobs of weight I gained. It took a few more months he second time and as everyone whose heard me whine about it here knows I’m just getting back into shape now after #3. I still feel loose in hips and such now! Some of that can be chalked up to nursing though which keeps some relaxin around. I like the idea of postpartum prs. It’s really easy to expect to be where you left off and it can come as quite a shock how “out of shape” you are after delivery. Patience and open mindedness and kindness to yourself are all really important for a successful pp comeback. Sounds like yours is going great!

    Ps I think we had the same labor and delivery with our firsts. Fun times! 🙂

  3. Pps I’ve run most of my prs about 12-15 months after my second and I’m sure I have a lot more in these legs. But that preg blood-doping thing is just not something I’ve ever experienced, unfortunately.

  4. I tried running a few weeks after baby number 5 and thought my uterus was going to fall out. I went .87 miles and didn’t try again for six more weeks. It been a little over a full year since I had Luke and my times are finally dropping, but I did run a marathon this year and focused on endurance and not times. So that’s something.

    My other babies didn’t take as long to recover from, though.

    Congrats on your beautiful baby!

  5. Go mama go!! Love the postpartum pr idea!! My runs have been all over the map thus far. I think I was faster on my due date than I am now… That’s what 9 weeks with no running and 7 of trying to run 4 times/week but sometimes getting in zero. My bub is 16 weeks old and doesn’t take a bottle so I’m always on call – but today we broke out the jogging stroller for the first time. Pushing more than 50 lbs (bob, car seat, baby) adds a whole new set of muscles! I think I’m going to record bob prs too! I love following other postpartum running mamas, so keep us updated and inspired!!

    1. BOB PRs are definitely legit! We’ll have to do a comparison of the difference between stroller-free and BOB speed sometime.

  6. Wow -6 months is awesome! I’m aiming for a year because I’m still set on the idea that I need big miles to run fast, but I’m trying to be open to a more moderate mileage approach until I wean JB. We’ll have to compare labor stories sometime…

    1. Well, my pr was almost 2 minutes slower than yours 🙂 I think the speed came back faster than endurance for me personally. I still haven’t run very significant longer race prs since I became a mom.

      1. I feel the same about speed vs. endurance. Even on relatively short runs I feel the need to take breaks. But on the other hand I’ve been able to race 5ks at paces I haven’t touched in training for many months – so weird.