Marathon Mom: I had my baby – how soon can I run again?

Dear Marathon Mom,

I just had my baby at the end of November. It was a long 40-weeks – 24 of them in which I could no longer run. I’ve been (im)patiently waiting to start running again until after my 6-week follow-up with my doctor. However, I have three more weeks to go and am going nuts! My legs are literally itching, and I drool with envy when I pass runners on the side of the road while I’m driving by. I feel like I’m healed from the delivery; it went smoothly and I didn’t have any tearing or other issues that might prolong the healing process. Do you think it would be okay to start back running prior to the 6-week postpartum check-up? Even just one week earlier? I don’t know if I can last three more weeks….

Itching to Run

Dear Itching to Run,

Oh, boy did you come to the right place for empathy! I went through the same emotions, anticipation, and impatience after the birth of both of my children.  To a dedicated runner, who has already taken several months off for pregnancy, these final few weeks of rest may feel like salt in a wound. However…I can’t in good faith encourage you to start back early.

Believe me, it’s killing me to answer responsibly here (I want to give you the same answer I would want to hear) but in reality, childbirth is a major stress on your body and requires respect and time for healing. This means steering clear of high impact and body stressing activities for probably at least 6 weeks, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all.

Take these last few weeks before your appointment to build strength and flexibility back up in the muscles most important for injury-free running. You can even incorporate many of these strength-building moves into bonding with your new baby. For instance, do tummy time with him or her, only your ‘tummy time’ is actually a plank to build core strength. You can also do side planks next to your little one while they are checking out the room from their Boppy pillow next to you, or hold them close to your chest while you do as many variations of squats that your legs can handle. While you sit to stretch your hamstrings, lay your baby next to you and give him a light massage. Life as a mom is all about multi-tasking to make more time with your family–might as well start right away!

Believe me, I completely understand your frustration and drive to get back to running, but I promise you, the extra three weeks of rest cannot harm you; it can only help. If you go back too early, you’re risking long-term injury that will require far more time off for healing than three weeks. If you’re this antsy now, how do you think you’ll handle an injury?

Plus (and here’s the ‘mom’ perspective) your baby is only in this precious newborn state once, and it only lasts about a month. Treasure every second of it. The road and trails will be there three days, three weeks, and three years from now. Your baby will change and grow every day–don’t miss a step of the journey’s beginning.

Audra Rundle