Start slow, one stride at a time.
RUNNING lesson #537—Pregnancy and childbirth sap almost everything from your fitness bank.
Nothing, I mean nothing, could have prepared me for the degree of fitness I would lose with pregnancy and childbirth. I had run until my third trimester, when my baby was diagnosed with Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction, caused mainly by my uterine fibroids. But still, I took 5km walks weekly that became 2km a few days before I gave birth.
I thought it’d be easy to get back into the running groove. After all, I once stopped running for four years and eventually ran a half marathon with ease.
Seven weeks postpartum, with an extra 10 kilos that has refused to budge and the lack of sleep that comes with a newborn, I could barely jog 1.5km. I wanted to cry. I had no speed, no stamina, extra weight and no chance of getting seven hours of uninterrupted sleep.
In four months, I had lost everything I had built for my fitness
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
But when you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere else to go but up. I started reading up on running post-pregnancy and realised that the battle is universal — pregnancy and childbirth take a lot from a woman and rebuilding one’s running prowess takes time.
Just take tennis star Serena Williams, for example. After winning the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant, Williams vowed to return and defend her title this year. She didn’t — she wasn’t fit enough in January. Now, if an elite athlete has to rebuild everything, casual exercisers like myself need to be even more patient.
So far, I have started my personal training sessions, run on weekends and keep myself active. My short-term aim was to complete the 10km course of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2018 in under 90 minutes.
RUNNING MUM’S CHALLENGE
When you are a mum, running is no longer just “get up, get dressed and go”. Nowadays I need to prepare my son, make sure he has enough expressed breast milk at his babysitter where I send him before I head to the starting line.
I don’t have domestic help so I find ways to manage. The saving grace is that my babysitter is okay with me sending him on weekend mornings and my son, like clockwork, falls asleep at 7pm and is up around 6am, with two feedings in-between. That’s perfect for a running mum like myself.
ON RACE DAY
Last Sunday, mother and son woke up early for the race. I sent him to his babysitter at 7am, took the LRT, dropped my breast pump at the media tent and headed to the starting line. I had underestimated the distance between the media tent and the 10km starting point so I was 10 minutes late for flag off.
It has been awhile since I last ran a race but the euphoria is the same. The crowd, the high spirit, the excitement at the starting line were all deeply familiar. I have missed running events so much and it felt so good to be back.
The route was easy, the crowd cheerful and while I wasn’t in my best shape, I could manage a slow jog throughout the race. I finished my route in 85 minutes and while that’s my worst 10km time to date, I could not help but feel proud of myself.
Something within said I have accomplished something. Something small, yet significant. It was a sign that I was ready to run again, to pound the roads.
After the race, I went to the media tent, picked up my pump and expressed at the Medical Station. I breastfeed exclusively, so pumping is a must when my baby’s not with me. Even at the marathon site, there is no excuse not to adhere to my pumping schedule.
I have come to realise the intricacies of running post-delivery isn’t so much about re-training your mind and muscles. It’s trying to function in a completely different environment than what you were used to. No seven-hour sleep, having to now pack for your baby before the race, juggling feeding or pumping on race day— and no, it will never be easy because it’s no longer just about running.
The game has changed. I just need to step up, think and respond differently. Running, to me, is a physically and emotionally fulfilling activity. That’s my version of me-time and with a baby around, I just need to find new ways to enjoy it.
And if the 10th anniversary of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon holds any memory for me, it would be that unforgettable 10km race just three months after I gave birth.
TIPS FOR POST-DELIVERY RUNNING
1. Go slow. You body has been through a lot. Start by brisk walking and then alternate slow jog and walking.
2. Listen to your body. Don’t go too fast, too soon. The last thing you need is an injury.
3. Remember why you love running in the first place. That will give you the motivation to lace up and pound the roads, even for a short spin .