You know what every new mom has in common? A desire to lose the baby weight fast! There are few quicker ways to shed those extra pounds than running. But because of the changes in our bodies, we have to be careful when we start running after having a baby. Jump in too quickly and we could get seriously hurt — not ideal when you’re trying to care for a tiny human. Here’s your how-to guide to start running after having a baby:
How Soon to Start Running After Having a Baby
Running coach Bobby Holcombe says every recovery is different but generally advises to start slow — walking the first three to four weeks, increasing your distance each week. After four to six weeks, if you feel comfortable with walking, you can jog a couple days a week, gradually increasing mileage, pace, and the number of days you run. Holcombe notes women who remain active during their pregnancies — jogging and/or walking three to five days a week — generally have a faster recovery. As you return to running after having a baby, it is incredibly wise simultaneously strengthen your pelvic floor and core. For more on that, check out this interview about how pros start running after having a baby.
Listen to your body
If something feels really uncomfortable, don’t force it. Back off for a couple of days and try to ease back in again. If something’s really hurting, talk to your doctor. Running could be shedding light on an injury.
(Related: Your Ultimate Guide to Running While Pregnant).
Listen to your heart
Don’t pay attention to paces. Instead, pay attention to your heart rate zones. In the beginning, aim to keep your heart rate at 60 to 71% percent of your max, or a pace where you can comfortably hold a conversation. (To calculate your heart rate zones, check out this calculator.) Once you’re gaining in fitness, you can begin having a couple up-tempo runs a week where your heart rate reaches 78 to 81% of your max.
(Related: Read more tips in my article at SHEKnows.com).
How to Eat When Running Postpartum.
Up your iron. What’s the biggest mistake new moms make? They cut back calories while simultaneously upping mileage—that’s a recipe for injury, says local nutritionist Betsy Johnson. In order to be healthy and energized, new moms need to focus on eating the right foods, like those containing iron. In fact, one in five women is iron deficient. Focus on eating iron-rich foods like meats, fish, leafy greens, and chocolate.
Drink that milk. Be sure to get enough calcium—especially those of you who’re breastfeeding which requires extra calcium intake. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that women who breastfeeding consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Ask your doctor if it’s a good idea to take a calcium supplement.
Shake up that protein. Breastfeeding moms also need to make sure they’re getting enough protein. After growing a baby for 9 months and then supplying it with protein-rich breast milk, it’s necessary to replenish your own. Aim for five to seven servings of quality protein every day.
Stay hydrated. Also, if you’re nursing, make sure you drink plenty of fluids—at least ten glasses of water a day.
(Check out my Running After Baby Pregnancy Plan.)
Do Pelvic Floor Exercises
Strengthen that midsection. Having a strong core can ward off injuries. It’s tough to find time to exercise but you can do planks, side planks, bridges, and bicycles when playing with the baby on the floor. Dr. Cole Hosenfeld, a chiropractic sports physician at Apple Health and Wellness, recommends aiming for one to two minutes of each exercise three to four times a week.
Don’t forget your pelvic floor. One of the biggest risks to new moms starting to run after having a baby is pelvic organ prolapse. Guard against this by doing Kegels exercises. Jen Le Coguic, a pelvic floor specialist, recommends aiming to do between 30-50 Kegels per day, doing a combination of short contractions (2 seconds) and long (10 seconds). This can also keep you from those unpleasant moments of wetting yourself while running or jumping. In addition, Celeste Goodson, founder of ReCORE Fitness and trainer to most profesional mother runners advises new moms to see a pelvic floor specialist postpartum and start training with hillwalking repeats, then hill running repeats. Going uphill is easier on the pelvic floor than downhill. This gives a chance for the pelvic floor and leg and core muscles to get stronger and prep for impact.
Then do walk/running intervals, then running. This can be several weeks to a few months of gradual progression depending on the issues women are dealing with. Again, check out the Youtube channel for exercise ideas to work into your routine.
Get the Right Gear for Postpartum Running.
Support your middle. ReCORE’s Post-Natal FITSplint supports your abdominal muscles without restricting movement or breathing. It keeps you from getting injured and allows you to safely work on strengthening stretched out muscles.
Make sure the shoe fits. Ensure your running shoes fit your post-partum feet which may have enlarged post-pregnancy. If your shoes still fit, ensure your shoes don’t have too many miles on them and provide plenty of support. If the soles are worn around the sides and on the treads, it’s time to get new ones.
Get the right bra. Chances are your prepartum sports bra isn’t going to fit your postpartum chest. You need more support and room. Popular running bras with “mother runners” are the Motherhood Maternity racerback nursing bra and the Lululemon’s Enlite bra for their support and comfort.
If you’re nursing, be sure to nurse or pump before you head out the door to be more comfortable and bide more time being away from your baby. Also, make sure you get as much sleep as you can. You’re working overtime and your baby can’t drink from an empty cup. Take care of yourself!