Returning to Running After Baby: Slow Down and Recover Well

Returning to running after baby can be tricky. In an earlier post, I wrote about my experience with an injury while marathon training a few months after I gave birth to my second child. That injury taught me a lot of things, and was quite frankly the slap in the face that I needed if I was going to take my running more seriously. One of the most important lessons I learned from the injury was that recovery is just as important as running. Your body needs a break and time to repair itself. If you want your body to work with you, you need to treat it right.

Here is a bit more more about the lessons I learned and the practices I apply to my recovery and running strategies today!

Recovery is Key

Give your body a break. Everyone’s experience during pregnancy and delivery are different and require a different approach to postpartum running. In order to reap the benefits of your runs, you also need to focus on recovery. This part can be incredibly challenging when trying to take care of yourself, your children, the house, but it is worth it.

Some of my favorite recovery methods are:

Legs on the wall: lay down on the floor, scoot your bum to the wall and put your legs on the wall vertically toward the ceiling.

Yoga: I know, some of you hate yoga, but regularly going to a postpartum or runners yoga class can really help with maintaining proper alignment and strengthening those weak postpartum muscles like the pelvic floor and core. I particularly find online classes helpful; it’s really convenient to be able to do yoga at home.

Massage: Sure, we can’t all afford regularly massages, but we can foam roll and self massage with tools like lacrosse balls, specialty products, or even work out tight spots with our own hands.

Eat well: Have easy to grab, nutrient-dense foods around so your body is getting what it needs to recover better, and, while it’s so hard to do with babies or kids who need your attention as soon as you walk in the door, try really hard to properly refuel soon after running.

I tend to prepare certain meals and snacks on the weekend or a rainy weeknight so that I have a range of options that are already prepared when I need them, or when I have five seconds to finally eat something!

Slow Down

It’s so tempting to want to get your speed back ASAP! It’s also tempting to cram in as many miles as you can when you can. I made that mistake, trying to fit in all my miles during nap time, running much faster than I should have been and I was doing this during every single run. After having a baby, we need to give ourselves time to gradually ramp mileage and intensity back up.

Once you feel comfortable running easy, it’s a good idea to then gradually incorporate different speeds and types of runs into your training too, as long as you’re careful and recovering. Not every training run should be done at blazing fast paces, save that effort for speed work days. This is something I still struggle with, but am working to get better at it.

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Although the postpartum period can be frustrating and you might find yourself impatient to get back to the running level you were before pregnancy, incorporating recovery and a gradual approach will yield many more years of happy, healthy running! Congratulations!

What are some of the things that are in your recovery toolbox? How did you handle the return to running after having a baby?

A mother runner chasing big dreams.

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3 comments

  1. Great post! I think the other thing I found was the need for hydration as a nursing mother – breastfeeding is really demanding from a hydration point of view and running (especially in the heat – I have two spring babies, so I was building back in the summer!) adds to that. I found re-hydrating with something like nuun really helped.

    1. I second the hydration bit of it!! Both hydration and eating enough. Nuun and Gatorade and other things with electrolytes (or simple carbs as well as electrolytes) were a great help. And great point about not trying to cram the miles in. The entire summer and fall after I started running again, I ran only for time – 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes.