Let’s chat about running, Mama. Besides the physical and mental benefits, one of the biggest perks of running is its versatility: you can do it anywhere, at any age, during any stage of life, whether alone or with a group. It’s like the jack-of-all-trades of the fitness world!
The hardest part? Getting started!
A great way to motivate yourself is to set a goal, like an upcoming race. Whether you’ve been a mother runner for years or just starting, training for and completing a race is a significant accomplishment. Add in raising a family, self-care, social obligations, and more unprecedented events than we can count, and this sense of accomplishment grows tenfold!
Whether you’re pregnant, newly postpartum, or a seasoned mama, we’ve got all the tips and tricks to ensure you can be a successful runner at any stage of motherhood.
RUNNING WHILE PREGNANT
Despite popular misconceptions, running is typically okay if you were a runner before pregnancy and your pregnancy is without complications (of course, you should check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns). It’s important to remember: the amount of exercise recommended for pregnancy is the same as the general public (150 minutes a week), so if running was part of the plan, keep on keepin’ on!
If you did not run before pregnancy, although now is not the time to start, being pregnant doesn’t preclude you from being active and participating in a race! We recommend walking comfortably, listening to your body, staying hydrated, and stopping to rest as needed.
Whether running or walking, the most important advice we can give (besides consulting your doc, of course) is to trust your body. As you progress through your pregnancy, a hormone called relaxin relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis and softens and widens the cervix in preparation for labor. This can make movements that used to be comfortable and stable uncertain or uncomfortable. Take it slow, be mindful, and consider the following items to help you stay comfortable:
- A quality, supportive sports bra
- New shoes (remember that your feet may grow during pregnancy, and your pre-pregnancy tennis shoes or running shoes may become snug or not fit anymore!)
- Running belts (supporting your growing midsection will help with comfort! As you get along, you may want to invest in a maternity support belt/belly band. Many mamas find that they provide greater comfort for the belly, bladder, and low back while running. However, some women find them awkward or uncomfortable, so you may want to try a few different brands or designs to see what works!
NEWLY POSTPARTUM (APPROXIMATELY 0-6 MONTHS)
While you may be anxious to start or get back to running after your sweet baby’s birth, taking your time is essential. By being smart and taking it slower than you might wish, you are far less likely to have complications later on, and you’ll return stronger than ever! While there are no specific rules for running postpartum, the following guidelines can help you plan.
While returning to exercise is usually cleared by an OBGYN at, or around, six weeks postpartum, assuming there are no complications, it may be beneficial to wait a few more weeks for various reasons, such as pelvic floor healing. No matter how in shape you were before birth or how long you ran into your pregnancy, your pelvic floor and core are often not strong enough to support running earlier than about 8-12 weeks postpartum.
After you’ve been cleared to exercise by your OBGYN, start walking with a stroller. Whether a walk around the neighborhood or participating in a 5k—you’re moving your body and that is what counts!
6 MONTHS POSTPARTUM+
Ready to take that babe and hit the road (or trail or neighborhood sidewalk)? Once your doctors have determined that you and your babe are prepared to run, it’s go-time, Mama.
Proper form is vital to avoid injury and for the safety of your little one(s). For example, it can be easy to want to hang on to that stroller for dear life; after all, you ARE pushing your most precious cargo! However, by using a light grip on the handlebar and switching arms every few minutes, you can avoid over-clenching and straining unnecessary muscles. Little changes can make your experience much more enjoyable.
Whether new to running or you’ve completed several races, choosing the right training plan is crucial for crossing the finish line. Training can lead to injury if you begin with the wrong distance, duration, or frequency. It’s important to build a solid structural foundation during the first few weeks as you build to the ultimate distance, if you’re hoping for a pain-free experience.
Even with proper form, running can overwork parts of your body and lead to injury if not balanced with appropriate rest, active recovery, and cross-training. Make sure you are taking time to strength train, stretch, and rest.
Yes, before you dive into any workout – including running – you will need a good warm-up. This movement forms the physical foundation of the workout, as well as prepares you for the physiological work ahead. Select movements focusing on the muscles and movement patterns you will encounter during the training.
A good warm-up is dynamic and will gradually increase intensity while increasing the range of motion. Dynamic means the exercises move, and you are not holding a stretched or extended position for longer than a few seconds. In other words, start slowly and with small movements that continually move.
Throughout your warm-up exercises, assess how your body and mind are doing. We call this a ‘body scan’. It is a powerful way to connect to yourself physically and mentally. The body scan serves as a quick reminder to honor how you are feeling and thinking each day. This body scan is vital for all ages and stages of motherhood. As we combat external stresses such as sleep schedules, hormonal changes, and ever-changing emotional depths, take just a few moments to notice your joints as you move. Listen to your inner dialogue to see how your mind is mentally preparing for your run.
It’s essential to incorporate a cool down after each running session. During exercise, your heart rate is much higher than while at rest & your body is under constant stress. It’s important to gradually bring the rate back down – instead of abruptly stopping all motion while releasing the
tension you created throughout your joints and muscles. Cooling down will help regulate your blood flow, reduce your risk of injury, and keep your joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments healthy.
A good cool down consists of movements that decrease the heart rate while releasing the muscles. Walking is an excellent start to your post-run cool down. Slow your pace, allow yourself to catch your breath, and let your heart rate slow down gradually. This is much safer than immediately stretching after stopping your running pace. Once you feel your heart rate slowing, then you can move into your flexibility training.
If you need some help getting started, we offer a free running warm-up, cool down, and cross-training workout for all mamas here.
Happy training, Mama! Let’s run this world.