Last Sunday was a milestone for me as I ran my first 10K race since having my baby girl in December.
I didn't have a fixed date in mind for my first run before I gave birth and I wasn't set on a specific race, other than a marathon in 2019.
I wasn't sure how my recovery would be or how my baby would be and I didn't want to put pressure on myself. When I signed up for a marathon I looked for the furthest away date I could in 2019. I wanted to leave myself at least 6 months post baby before I needed to start properly training.
So far I'm really happy (and a little surprised) with how well my body has healed and adapted post c-section. My time last Sunday was better than I could have expected, especially on such a tough, hilly course.
For those of you who may be reading this and didn't follow my pregnancy journey, I had a planned c-section in January but our little girl came 2 weeks early. I went into spontaneous labour just after Christmas and after driving myself to hospital (it's a long story), I experienced 4 hours of intense labour before giving birth to a healthy baby girl via c-section.
After Sundays race I felt I may have some relevant insights to share about running after a c-section.
The aim of this post is to share the things that worked for me. I want to provide positvity (amidst the sea of fear around c-section recovery) for anyone nervous about running after having a baby.
Below are 5 key things I believe helped my recovery.
1. LISTEN to your body & medical advice
It's important not to compare yourself when it comes to recovering from having a baby.
Just because Sally down the street was exercising 2 weeks post partum, it doesn't mean you should or can.
Likewise, just because Susie waited 4 months postpartum to start exercise, it doesn't mean you will need to wait that long. Lots of people will tell you what THEY did but that's okay because it's not relevant to your recovery.
It's important to follow your medical practitioner's guidance first and foremost and listen to what YOUR body is telling you.
The official advice is to wait until after your 6-8 week postpartum check with your GP to commence exercise after a c-section. Your GP may recommend you wait for 12 weeks to start high impact exercises such as running, aerobics and weight training.
I am not here to recommend anyone follow what I did, I'm simply sharing my experience. I sought advice from my medical practictioner before I commenced running and I was told that if I felt fine, I was good to go. I started walking and intermittently jogging about 6 weeks postpartum and gradually built up my endurance from there.
I had an active pregnancy and was running up to 28 weeks pregnant. After that I worked out at home most days and walked whenever I could. I had an uncomplicated, planned c-section delivery with no subsequent problems after that.
2. Invest in a running buggy
I knew with two children it would be a lot harder to get out and exercise and I knew I'd want to exercise during the day when my son was at school. The only way I could achieve this was to walk and run with my baby or run early in the morning.
To start with I ran very early in the morning (on my own) and slowly began to run on flat surfaces at around 14 weeks using the car seat attachment on my running buggy.
Advice varies as to when it's safe to run with your baby but from what I have read, it's recommended you wait until 6 months unless using a car seat adaptor. I still generally run on flat surfaces and where they are bumpy I walk over the bumps.
I wanted a buggy that was suitable for urban settings (with a swivel front wheel that could be fixed) and running. I didn't want to waste money on 2 buggies because we already had a cheap travel buggy we'd kept from our son. I chose the Mountain Buggy Terrain. You can see my unboxing video here.
I 'm so glad I chose this buggy. It has been everything I hoped for. The only down side to having one buggy is the need to regularly clean it, or look like a mud splattered mess when you go anywhere civilised.
3. Join a group with postpartum expertise
I decided whilst pregnant I wanted to join a group of like-minded women and take part in exercise that would build my strength as well as running.
I heard about Rebel PT's, Prams in the Park via my cousin and I knew this would be the group for me. As a new mum first time I joined so many groups hoping to find 'my tribe' but I struggled to meet like minded mums outside of our NCT group.
I couldn't wait until I healed enough to join Rebel. They recommend 12 weeks post c-section to join their classes but I promised to take it easy and because I was already jogging and walking, they let me come along at 8 weeks.
I believe these classes have been key to my recovery because I didn't solely focus on running. I built my strength first, skipping most of the abdominal exercises, and listening to the instructors who know what they're talking about.
4. Fuel your body appropriately
Something that's an important element of caring for yourself after a baby is making sure you eat nutritious food and enough calories. Returning to exercise, and running in particular, requires a lot of energy.
This energy requirement is on top of sleepless nights, the mental energy it takes to care for a new baby and breastfeeding (if you're doing that) burns up to 600 calories per day.
I aim to include a nutritious breakfast before I leave the house. I make an effort to put together a green smoothie packed with protein, good fats, fibre and fruits or a big bowl or porridge with added protein. I make use of the Arbonne supplements, that I know to be so beneficial, and I eat regular meals to fuel my busy/frantic mum lifestyle.
We ordered meal boxes for a few weeks after we took our baby home. This meant we weren't constantly to-ing and fro-ing from the shops and there was always a tasty evening meal that one of us could prepare. I wasn't exercising at this point but wanted to ensure we had good food ready when we needed it.
I prepare healthy snacks most weeks, which I store in the fridge, for when breast feeding cravings set in. Simple things like protein balls or bites, which are full of good fats and protein, make it easy to grab something calorie and nutrient dense on the go.
5. Go Slow
It's easy to build up expectations and feel frustrated that you can't achieve what you used to.
Try not to set your expectations high.
I built up to running by walking first. I was lucky my c-section was straight forward and I felt good afterwards. I was able to walk short distances pretty quickly and gradually build up my strength.
When I did my first jog I aimed for 10 minutes. I walked to warm up and then jogged slowly for ten minutes and then walked again after that. I did this a few times and when I felt up to it I ran for a few more minutes at the end of my route.
Each week I added a minute onto the jogging part until I felt strong enough to run the whole route, which was 2.5 miles in total. It took a good few weeks to build up to running the 2.5 miles. From there I chose a 3 mile route and I would run as much as I could until I was able to complete the whole distance. I never kept going if I was too tired or felt sore.
I focused on going slow when I needed to, listened to my body and mixed up my exercise. I believe this has been my winning recipe to get me to where I am. At this stage I can comfortably run 10K and I'm injury free 6 months postpartum.
I will be running a half marathon in August and from there I will start increasing my distances for the November marathon.
What is your experience of exercise post partum? I'd love to hear how you found returning to exercise?