Why Having a Baby is Like Blood Doping

Did you know that running postpartum can give you a competitive edge?

In 2007, Paula Radcliffe won the New York City Marathon—NINE months after having a baby. In 2011, Kara Goucher ran a personal best in the Boston Marathon, placing fifth, less than SEVEN months after having her baby.

That’s crazy, right? Well, it is, and it isn’t.

It isn’t because running postpartum is kind of like blood doping.

It’s like immediately amping up your VO2 max without even running.

Running coach, Bobby Holcombe, founder of Knoxville Endurance, explains why running postpartum gives women a competitive edge: “Your blood volume rises because you’re carrying blood for you and somebody else in your system. The increase in red blood cells increases the intake of oxygen by your muscles, giving them the energy needed to sustain exercise.”

Related: Running postpartum training plan

How having a baby can you make you a faster runner
Having a baby can make you a faster runner but increasing your blood oxygen supply.

According to a 2014 study in the journal Cardiovascular Research, after having a baby, your blood volume is up by as much as 50 percent. Your heart is enlarged and your rib cage expanded. This all increases oxygen flow throughout your body. The effect can last for up to two years.

But your increased V02 max, or maximum oxygen intake, is working against other factors that can slow you down—such as baby weight, whacked-out hips, and sleepless nights—to mention a few.

Related: 8 clever tips for running while breastfeeding

The key takeaway? Listen to your body and go slow.

Bobby recommends giving yourself about one month to recover. Ease back into walking the first couple weeks. By week four, Mother Runners may begin working towards a 3 to 5-mile run. Also, don’t forget your Kegel exercises. Those pelvic floor muscles take about a year to return to their pre-birth shape. Read more tips here.

Related: Pelvic floor exercises for mother runners

Once your baby weight is down and running is feeling more normal, don’t be surprised if you start running faster times.

Related: Pro Runner Neely Gracey’s advice to new moms

Having that baby is like your own performance-enhancing drug.




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