Your Postpartum Journey: A Postpartum Running Progression
NB: Always get approval from your doctor before beginning exercise after you’ve had a baby!
So you just had a baby! Congratulations! Most likely, you are now navigating through the physical and emotional whirlwind that is so commonly referred to as your postpartum journey. The postpartum journey is very specific to you and your new little baby. Some of this post may not relate to you and your situation. Therefore, do not be afraid to consult a doctor, to take things slow, and most of all to listen to your body. I know from experience that jumping back into exercise too quickly will do more damage than good and can set you back much further than you were in the first place.
A wonderful way to begin your postpartum fitness journey is to walk. It sounds simple and even too easy but go ahead and give it a try before you shoot it down. Walking at a brisk pace may even be harder than you remembered and that is totally fine! Walking has so many benefits for the postpartum woman including helping to restore cardiovascular fitness, conditioning abdominal muscles, promoting blood flow and preventing blood clotting, and is low impact. It can also help just to get outside, simulating those outdoor runs you soon will be conquering.
Once you feel as though walking no longer causes you to be out of breath, you can move on to jogging. Because I am asthmatic, I am often out of breath when I walk, so that doesn’t really measure my cardio fitness. Personally, I know I can measure my fitness by how easy it is for me to carry on a conversation while doing an activity. If it is difficult and I am often stopping to gather my words, then I need to train on that same level a bit longer. If I can easily carry a conversation while walking then it is time to step things up a notch.
If you feel ready for the next step you can begin working in some intervals into your walking routine. Begin your walk at a nice brisk pace for about 10 minutes to allow your body to warm up. Then, switch into a light jog for about 3 minutes. Once you have completed that interval you can ease into a walk for 2 minutes and, as you do, assess your body and see how you are feeling. Are there any aches or pains? Does anything feel off, or is it more of the typical out of shape feeling that you are getting?
It is so important to continuously monitor our own health, for you are your biggest advocate. We need to be able to properly care for ourselves especially because now there is another tiny baby who is depending on us to care for them too.
If you are feeling good then do another interval, beginning with jogging for 3 minutes and then switching into a walk for 2 minutes. You can repeat this two more times and end with a cool down walk of about 5-10 minutes. In total, you should be moving for approximately 40 minutes. What a work out! This is a good staple run to ease you back into the physical and mental demandings that running can ask of us.
As you complete more of these types of runs you can tailor the intervals depending on your fitness level. If you are feeling good, you can run for a longer period and walk for a shorter period. For example, after your warm up you can run for 8 minutes and walk for 2, therefore increasing the intensity of the workout. You can also play around with speeds, including strides in the last minute of your run interval.
While your muscles grow stronger and your cardiovascular fitness improves, it will become easier to complete these types of workouts. Be sure to incorporate a variety of workouts including slow and easy runs, rest days, strength training, stretching and pelvic floor exercises to restore muscle strength. Remember, your body has changed since the last time you weren’t pregnant. Things may have shifted and there are small but essential muscles that should be targeted to avoid injury. It is absolutely necessary to be patient with yourself.
Your life has completely changed and there is a whole new person that God chose you to raise. There is a reason for that. So give yourself grace and give yourself mercy.
Your body is more fragile and less familiar than you remember it being. Try to be gentle with yourself and know that God adores you and is proud of you the way you are. Comparison is the thief of joy, and no one should take the joy of your tiny human away from you. Things may never be the same again and that is okay! It is okay because before, you weren’t a mother, and it takes only the strongest of women to be a mother.
Kristin LaBruzzo (or better known as Kritter) is a cradle Catholic, wife, mom, runner, sweet potato and ranch advocate, sports lover, ocean swimmer and secretly introverted lady who is obsessed with all things athleisure. She graduated from Franciscan University and taught special education high school students for a year before being promoted to stay at home mom. Now with a second child on the way, she oftentimes finds herself escaping into the pages of a good book, pounding the pavements for some alone time, or standing in the sweet grace of the Eucharist in adoration. Oh and of course binge watching some Netflix or busting out a board game with her husband. She is eagerly awaiting the birth of this next child so her running shoes can once again be set free to roam the streets and shoreline of Ventura, CA with just a small babe in tow. What a beautiful life this is, making our way back Home. You can connect with Kritter on Instagram here or read her blog here.