Son #1 made it easy to lose the baby weight, ten days post-partum easy. I would not wish this upon anyone, but the “secret” to my quick tone down was not sleeping. He never slept. Ever. And on the rare occasions when he did sleep, you better believe I slept, too. I couldn’t have cared if I missed sixteen meals in a row.
Son #2, thankfully, is blissfully the opposite.
With both boys, though, the sure-fire method for getting back to my pre-maternity shape has three letters: R-U-N.
If you don’t like running, or worse, yet, if you hate it, don’t give up here. Any endurance sport (cycling, spinning, swimming, rowing, etc.) could also be used to achieve the same result. The keys to successfully letting go of some of those extra pregnancy pounds are this:
Participate in an activity you enjoy doing, something that gives you a personal sense of achievement or happiness. This is important, making it a part of your day that you’ll look forward to.
Find a sport that is flexible and can be done at any hour of the day. Exercise classes scheduled only a few times per week can be limiting. You need something that will work on your (er… baby’s) schedule
Endurance sports are all about endurance. Sports like running work wonders because they require a steady supply of energy, sustained over a long period of time, fundamentally changing your metabolic rate. This means you’ll need to have an hour or so to dedicate, minimally 3-4 x per week. If you can spare more time than this, even better.
If possible, schedule an event to “test” your endurance a few months after you begin. Having a goal to work towards is incredibly motivating.
I love running. I always have. After the birth of my sons, it’s become an even more valuable activity for me because not only is it my physical activity, it’s my social outlet, my daily meditation, my sense of focus. When I need to solve a problem, blow off steam, think deeply about something or someone, or find a calm space to “reset” my mind, I really enjoy a solo run – especially one before dawn. As my heart rate rises, my stress level falls. Pieces of my life that felt chaotic before, now seem to fall into place.
I have wonderful friends who are not runners, and we bond over commonalities like the challenges of raising children, or a shared love for great wine (or both!), but the bond you form when you run hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles with someone is truly unique. When I’m connecting with friends, when we provide support for each other and get in a few good laughs (or sometimes cries), eight or ten or even twenty miles feels easy. I come home energized, not tired, happy, and fulfilled. As a busy mom, these runs with friends are even more important to me, now that I have far fewer hours to myself each week.
When people ask me “Gosh, didn’t you have a baby a couple months ago? How did you get back into such great shape?” I realize I’m lucky to love a sport that delivers such impressive results, both emotionally and physically.
So… you’re sold? Great. Here’s what to do next:
Get clearance from your doctor. Everyone’s different and it’s important to know that, medically speaking, your body is up for the challenge.
Find either a good running stroller (I love this one), or childcare so you have time to run baby-free. I joined the Presidio YMCA more for the childcare option than the facility itself, and it’s paid off in no time as they let you run outdoors in the Presidio, while they watch your baby for you. Heaven!
Take the first step. This is what I love about running. No matter where you are, what shape you’re in, what your athletic background is, all you have to do is take the first running step… there you go! Now you’re a runner, too!
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Nothing special here, good ol’ H2O works great. Just drink gallons of it, especially if you’re also nursing.
Consider signing up for an event a couple months out. Even if it feels a bit daunting at the time, this gives you a focal point, a motivational force to keep on running. My first races post-partum were the Kaiser Half Marathon (Feb 2015) and SF Half Marathon (July 2017), each about four months after my sons’ births. I knew I’d never hit the times I did in my pre-baby life, but that wasn’t the point. Simply registering for the races was motivation enough to keep me focused on my training.
Let’s face it, it can be really challenging to find time to get away for a run, either with baby or solo. My motto is to take every opportunity. Husband gets home from work early? Go for a run. Baby wakes up at 5:00 AM to nurse, but you know your toddler won’t wake until 7:00? Go for a run. Both kids are finally in bed, asleep by 8:30? Go for a run. Doctor’s appointment in the morning? Run there and home. You get the idea. There’s no bad time of day to squeeze in your “me” time, just be sure to protect both yourself and baby with the appropriate gear, lights, hydration, etc.
And on those days when I need an extra nudge to get myself out the door, I think to myself how lucky I am to have an opportunity to do something for myself. I realize these opportunities are limited and I’m never 100% certain when my next chance to go for a run will be. So I just put on my shoes and quickly get myself out the door – quickly! – before someone wakes up hungry or falls and bumps his knee or melts down because he’s lost his favorite Thomas the Train.
Next up are posts on week-by-week running plans for new moms, and the top stroller-friendly runs in SF.
Until then, happy running…