Running After Pregnancy

Do you know what it’s like to get an injury that prevents you from running, sidelines you for months, and once you finally heal, you have to start from level one of your fitness journey?  It’s one of the most frustrating experiences for all athletes. 

Now imagine doing that again, and again, and again.

 (and again)

That’s what pregnancy can feel like to the life of a runner.  Although pregnancy is a natural and healthy occurrence, and not an injury, the whole process is very much the same.  I always feel like I get into great running shape, get pregnant, have to start from scratch, rinse and repeat. 

I’m not one of those amazing moms who can run throughout my pregnancies.  I get big.  Huge, is the medical term, I believe.  My ligaments hurt just supporting my belly, never mind trying to support my baby while I’m bouncing up and down.  So I run until I can’t take it anymore (around 4 months) and then I walk and workout at the gym while my running shoes collect dust.

Once that precious babe is born, I definitely give my body the chance to recover even though I count down the days until I can start running again.  That first run back is a real ego-killer.  I always feel like my body is falling apart, bone by bone.  So I’m forced to ease into it.  That baby took nine months to grow inside my body, and I can not expect my body to (ever) be the same after.   That’s ok!!  The changes in our bodies are beautiful, feminine reminders of the new life we have created.  And those changes don’t equal weakness.  I’ve actually become a much better runner after having kids than I was before.  I’m not sure how that happens - maybe it’s the added benefits of being healthy for your kids, modeling good behaviors, getting in some alone time, or just realizing how incredibly strong and capable our bodies are!  The mental game seems easier with running after having birthed a baby.  After going through pregnancy and labor, running a few miles seems like a cake walk :)

Just because pregnancy might disrupt our temporary running plans, it doesn’t have to get in the way of our health journey.  A lot of times it can be the catalyst to start getting healthier for both mom and baby, and often it can put fitness back into its proper order if its been skewed.

Don’t I know it.

After my fourth pregnancy in five years, I was more than ready to finally get into shape.  I was tired of feeling not like myself, physically and emotionally, and knew a good fitness routine would help.  I started slowly, but soon worked up to a high level (muscle memory is awesome!)  I was running a lot and taking group exercise classes at my gym.  I joined Weight Watchers, trained for my first half-marathon and was able to get down to my pre-baby weight. 

But, you know, somewhere along the line, my focus turned from “being healthy” to being a certain weight and looking a certain way.  My husband started to notice first, suggesting that maybe a run before an hour kickboxing class, followed by a cool down run, was a little too much.  I would just point out other fit women I followed on social media to “prove” I wasn’t out of the ordinary.  But, unlike me, those women didn’t have four very young children at home.  Yet, it was still hard for me to see how crazy I was getting about diet and exercise until voila! I got pregnant with baby number five and put exercise and healthy eating back into the right perspective.  We still talk about how that baby saved me from myself, and thankfully I have been able to keep it in control ever since.  So you see, in this case, a pregnancy didn’t “ruin” a fitness routine, it actually made it healthy!

The female body is amazing.  Strong, life-giving, comforting.  We need to embrace it, instead of fight our God given gifts.  Sure, becoming a mother will change us physically.  It makes us softer in our hearts and our bellies, and why would we ever want to go back to life before?  There will be running after pregnancy, just give it time, and God willing, there will be pregnancy after running.

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Colleen Martin runs and writes from New England where she also works full-time as a Business Manager at a Catholic high school and raises 7 children on the side ;) Both running and writing have offered Colleen a way to stay sane amidst all the chaos, a beautiful chaos that she thanks God for daily. You can connect with Colleen at her blog here, and her Instagram here.