Mike is out of town, I had the catnip baby all to myself. It was not a good nap day, Pancake just had two massive piles of throw up, so after getting Jasper to bed I put my pajamas on at 645 and got a glass of wine. Yes, one of those days….
I’ve had a couple requests for some tips on getting back into running after having a baby. My disclaimer is I am not a certified coach and I’ve had one child, so I can’t fairly address the challenges of having more than one child to schedule around. And, this is what worked for me. So here goes:
1. I still work on this tip for myself: Don’t feel guilty about taking some time out for you to go run. It really isn’t unreasonable to ask for an hour or less. Once I convinced myself that doing this for me helps me be a better mom, I felt less guilt. After my run I feel I can take on anything, because I just blew every bit of frustration out of my body. Also, whoever helps you with your baby (husband, family etc), make sure they understand that you need that release.
2. At first, just work back up to what was your easy, standard run, and don’t worry about pace. For me this is about 6 miles. I worked back up to this and stayed here for a while. Once it got doable with my schedule, I expanded what I was doing.
3. Pick the time least likely to interfere with family time and stick with that time for your run. For me, it’s predawn. I would suspect for most moms it’s either predawn or after bedtime. This means running in the dark. No, it’s not ideal, but this way your time is not likely to rob your family needing you. Now, I do my very best to finish every run before Jasper wakes up, but sometimes he just wakes up early. This is where tip #1 comes into play. Mike generously agreed that predawn is my time and if Jasper wakes early, he handles it until I get home. When I get home I try to relieve Mike. This sometimes means no stretching, no post run food for a while and sitting around in sweaty clothes, which brings me to the next tip.
4. Accept your runs will not be like the used to. This is probably true for a lot of things. You can do, but it may not be the same. I can’t come home and shower right away, or go walk a couple of cool down miles, or go grab a smoothie. Sometimes I can, and then I just revel in the process. But most the time I finish and it’s game on….catnip baby strikes.
5. My number one tip: get a plan. Even if you have no aspirations to race get an online plan. Runner’s world has tons, Hal higdon.com has tons. Print out the plan and know ahead of time what you have to do for the week. Shuffle around what you have to, and then stick to it. When you are sleep deprived and you really don’t want to run, it is so helpful to know “Today I just have to tough out an interval session, but then tomorrow is a recovery day..”, or something like that. For me, I was less likely to skip a run when I was tired, and I didn’t do too much too soon. I always wake up knowing what I am going to do that day and where. Sure there are times when you have to get flexible, but for the most part that plan will start to become like a job, and you’ll soon feel the need to check off what you are supposed to do each day. It’s so hard to have structure to anything you do when you have an infant and having your printed out plan, at your nightstand will help you stay accountable.
6. Map out routes. It’s so much easier to just run out your front door when time is limited, instead of driving somewhere to run. Map out as many routes as you can from your house. I have loops of all lengths. When I first started back run/ walking, I just did a million little 1/3 mile loops so I could get home quickly if Mike needed me. Was it boring? Yeah, sorta, but I had some time to myself, so it was worth it.
7. Find ways to entertain yourself since you will run alone…a lot. I’m very good a daydreaming and making lists in my head. But, if you prefer a little more noise, consider downloading podcasts. I have some links to some great running podcasts. NPR also has some fantastic podcasts.
Ok, so to sum it up, what worked for me was picking a run time that did not affect my family and sticking with it. I didn’t worry about pace at first (I’ll write more later about trying to get back to a certain level), I just went out and ran. I learned to savor my alone time, and kept my routes simple, by finding ways I could run right out my front door and save time. I accepted that I just couldn’t do all the things I used to do for my runs, so I didn’t get too frustrated with having to forego stretching until my lunch break at work, or eating puff with Jasper since I was starving post run but wouldn’t be able to get something made for a while. And, I loved, loved, loved my Runner’s World plan. It kept me on track when I really wanted just to sleep!