I’m coming up on six weeks postpartum and got the all-clear from my practitioner 3 weeks ago to run, so I’m beginning to think a little more about running and getting back into something of a routine. When I’m in the throes of marathon training, I usually run 6 days a week and hit something in the 60-75 miles per week range. If I’m not training, I typically keep around a 50 mpw base just to stay in shape and still elect to run around 5 or 6 days a week; I scale back the effort but keep the consistency there because, if nothing else, I dig routine. Hard to believe for a runner, I know.
With a newborn and a four year-old in the house these days, I think I’m going to take some denotative license and create some alternative definitions for what ‘routine’ entails. In the past 5.5 weeks, I’ve birthed a newborn (and have subsequently kept her living and thriving solely from the liquid that my body produces … man, said in those terms, breastfeeding is downright mind-boggling); my in-laws have stayed with us for nearly 3 weeks; my parents have been here and stayed with us for a week; and I had surgery that necessitated lying low for a bit and avoiding anything that even remotely implicated my abdomen, including coughing, sneezing, or getting up from furniture like a normal 31 year-old. Somewhere in those past 5.5 weeks, I ran, too — not far, like 3 or 4 miles, twice, and comfortably-paced, if not looking a bit awkward (think: baby giraffe). Needless to say: not a whole lot of routine these days.
I’m not at all wishing away the infancy or newborn stage right now; in fact, I’m far from it. It’s a little crazy to admit, but I enjoy waking up at crazy hours (read: getting woken up) to feed the baby or tend to her. I don’t know if we’ll have any more kids — I don’t think we will — so a lot of times, I think about how this will be my last time having an infant at home and doing all the stuff that having an infant entails, including dealing with the broken sleep.
I know that her feeding needs will change as she gets older, and once that happens, it’ll make running a little more predictable and manageable and will allow me to get back to a normal schedule — whatever the hell the new normal will be. In the interim, I’ll figure out how to fit in running with A’s school and life schedule, G’s feeding times, and getting home before 6am so my husband can leave for work … agh … but right now, I’m not worried. Genuinely. It’ll all work out. Ideally, I just want to get in enough shape to complete the races on my calendar still this year. No doubt my performances will leave something to be desired, but it’ll be nice to be back in the racing scene again. I’m really looking forward to it.
I’m beginning to formulate some goals for my return-to-running. Postpartum running is nice in that it gives you a clean slate to start from, a place that you might not otherwise have unless you’re resuming running following injury (bad) or otherwise taking a lot of time off (potentially also bad, but not necessarily). It’s deeply gratifying to make (significant) gains (quickly), and similar to pregnant running, it’s kinda fun to celebrate each milestone, something that I typically don’t do otherwise. I can totally remember telling my training buddies in Chicago how excited I was to run my first 4, 5, 6, etc. miles at whatever paces for the first time postpartum after having A; I’m excited to get there again, whenever I do and however long it takes. Patience is a virtue with this stuff. Patience can totally blow, but it’s so important to have it and to respect the process (however the latter unfolds).
On the other hand, postpartum running can be something of a bitch because of the aforementioned broken sleep and the not-what-you’re-used-to-life-schedule and because it can be really easy to fall into the comparison game between yourself and other runners (who didn’t just grow and birth and are currently sustaining a child) and, perhaps more toxic, to yourself and your running pre-pregnant. The comparison game is one that you can’t win, so I am currently and plan to continue to abstain from it to the best of my ability. No fitspo necessary; no way, no how. That shit’s poison and completely unnecessary.
After my first pregnancy, I very surprisingly to me PRed in virtually every distance I raced in the first year postpartum — surprisingly, simply because I thought I had maxed out my ability at some distances, particularly 26.2. That’s not to say or even imply that I’m incredibly talented at this stuff; I’m not. I just honestly thought that after many attempts to bring my marathon PR down (and not really succeeding) that I had hit my ceiling. Seeing those ceilings shatter and having those experiences in my pocket now, I’ll admit that going into postpartum running 2.0 that I have some big goals and high hopes that I’ll be able to do what I did the first time around and do some record destroying. I don’t expect it — I didn’t the first time — but I’ll work like hell to accomplish that which I’m after. I’m nothing if not a workhorse.
A sweet thing about postpartum running (or the postpartum period in general) is that many women — myself included — have super high motivation to “get their bodies back.” That’s potentially an entire post in and of itself because it’s problematic and perhaps unhelpful (saving that tangent for another day), but for me, postpartum running this time around is also renewing my interest and motivation (read: desire) to become a stronger runner by doing all that ancillary stuff that’s important to do — stuff that we as runners know we really should be doing but often don’t because of some bullshit reason. I’m talking strength work, flexibility (at-home yoga FTW), and all the goodness that is NOT running but that is super important, like the core work and pre- and post-run warm-ups and cooldowns that I admittedly consistently half-ass. I should have been doing all of this stuff all along, mirroring the same consistency I have with my running, but there’s always been a bullshit reason that quote-unquote precluded me from doing it. If the postpartum period is all about setting new routines, there’s no better time to figure out a way to finally get consistent about all this “extra” stuff that really shouldn’t be that “extra” after all.
At the risk of sounding like a complete ass, big things are afoot, and it is so good — SO good — to be standing at the starting line.