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Returning to running after children

My journey back to running has been challenging to say the least! And each time (I’ve had 3 boys) I’ve had to overcome different barriers but I got there and now I can share my story and what I’ve learned with you.

I was very determined to get back to running after each child. This determination was probably a help and a hindrance! For me, running isn’t just about being fit, or losing weight, it’s about “me time”, my mental health and those lovely endorphins that exercising gives you.

To give you a better understanding, I need to tell you about the births…

With my first, my waters broke before any contractions started and there was meconium in the waters (baby’s first poo). This meant that I had to be monitored and was given 12 hours to get things going naturally but then, as nothing happened, I was given syntocinon via a drip to induce my contractions. Things ramped up very quickly and the contractions were pretty much back to back so I opted for an epidural to help with the pain. Unfortunately, after a while the baby got distressed and we had to get him out quickly! Luckily, I was able to do this with a few big pushes and the doctors using the ventouse. I had a second degree tear during this. We had to stay in hospital for a couple of days to monitor my son for infection and to make sure feeding was established.

As soon as I got home, I was so desperate to get out that we went for a walk straight away. I was so determined (and naive) to return to “normal” as soon as possible, that I made sure I walked every day, started doing HIIT after a few weeks and went for my first run at about 6 weeks. All of this was far too much too soon for me and things did not feel right in my pelvic floor or hips!

At this point, there wasn’t a lot of information out there about exercising after pregnancy, apart from the “wait until you’ve seen your GP for the 6 week check”! I had to think of myself as my own client and listen to my own advice and dial things back initially and then when I was ready, build back my strength and tolerance to running again. By the time my son was 9 months old I was back to running half marathon distance, without any complications.

Second time round, I went into labour just a few weeks after we all went into lockdown for the first time due to COVID-19. This ruined my plan for a homebirth and made things quite challenging mentally for me. This time, my contractions started before my waters broke. After a few hours labouring at home, I went into the hospital to be checked (without my partner as he was not allowed) and was told I was 0cm dilated! I was gutted and hated the experience of being there alone. I then went home and was determined not to go back to the hospital until my baby was ready to come. However, I left it a little too late and he was nearly born on the way to hospital. Luckily, we made it just in time and soon as I got onto the bed, he was born with one involuntary push! Again, I had a second degree tear which needed to be stitched (more painful than the actual birth!).

As well as the tear, this time I also got haemorrhoids and a posterior wall prolapse. For a while, even walking was unbearable. Due to COVID-19 I was unable to see anyone for a Mummy MOT but having done the course the year before, I felt better equipped to treat myself. I focussed on my breathing, my pelvic floor, did Pilates at home, then weight training, more walking and eventually running (following the “Return to running postnatal - guidelines”). It took me a little longer to get back to the half marathon distance (I was about 16 months postpartum), in part due to the piles and prolapse but also I now had 2 little ones to look after, less sleep and less time to train.

My youngest son is now 12 months old and I am just about back to 10km. His birth was a lot more straightforward and I finally got the home water birth I wanted! And I only had a slight graze that didn’t need any stitches. My prolapse did make a slight return but not for long and I do still have issues with my piles on and off but I know how to manage these. The main barriers to exercise this time for me have been lack of sleep and time. Sleep deprivation is no joke! If you are going through a tough time with your child’s sleep, be kind to yourself. Unfortunately, my eldest and my youngest both wake up multiple times a night and I can’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep has meant that silly little injuries have lingered for months and months, training has been hit and miss and nutrition hasn’t been the best.

This has meant I have had to readjust my goals. I am now happy just to be able to get out and run, whatever distance that is.

My top tips for you:

  1. Book yourself in for a Mummy MOT.

  2. Listen to your body.

  3. Start with the basics early on - breathing correctly and doing your pelvic floor exercises (if you aren’t sure how to, see a pelvic health physio).

  4. You need to get strong to run - Pilates and weight training are great.

  5. Wait until at least 12 weeks after giving birth before starting to run.

  6. Remember there are other factors that will influence your ability to train - sleep, time and nutrition!


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