Running after giving birth is different for everyone. Here's what surprised these women when they returned to the roads.
I was surprised by how long it took to feel comfortable again.
"I didn't feel like myself until I was around eight months postpartum," says Ashley Fizzarotti, a mom of two from New Providence, NJ.
I was surprised by how hard it was to find time to run.
"Prior to having a child, running would often be the number-one priority of my day," says Kristan Dietz, a mom of one from Jersey City, NJ. "Now, it often gets pushed further and further down the to-do list, and exhaustion usually wins over getting a few miles in."
I was surprised that my priorities shifted pretty immediately.
"I knew my priorities would change, and that raising a baby would upend my life in the best way possible, so I expected a drop in my motivation to run and train," says Lauren Conkey, a mom from Worcester, MA (with a second baby on the way!). "But for as long as I can remember, I've had that competitive fire burning deep inside. So I honestly kind of expected that I'd pick up almost right where I left off. Then my daughter was born, and suddenly all that time agonizing over training schedules and paces and PRs just didn't seem as important anymore. It's a vital part of who I am, yes, and running will always be in my life. But it doesn't define me the same way it used to."
I was surprised by how much I grew to love running with a stroller.
"Even if I'm only getting out a few times a week—which is less than I ran before having a baby—I enjoy my runs so much more now, whether I'm running by myself or with the stroller" says Dietz. "Before I started running with a stroller, I maintained that I would never use it. Running was always my time—my time to decompress from being at home with a child all day. But I've been so surprised by how much I love putting my son in the stroller and running with him. Sure, it's harder and we don't cover nearly the same mileage I would if I were running alone, but being able to share one of my favorite activities with him has been so rewarding." (Read these 12 tips to make running with a stroller more fun—for you and your little one.)
I was surprised by how little my pace mattered.
"Before pregnancy, I was always aiming for a faster split or a new PR," says Erica Sara Reese, a mom of one from Lehigh Valley, PA. "After my son was born, none of that mattered. I'd been through a pretty traumatic birth experience, and all that mattered was that I was recovering and my son was healthy. Even now that he's 18 months old, I have such a different perspective on my running. It's not about my pace or PRs—it's about getting out for some fresh air, getting some 'me' time, and getting strong for myself and my family."
I was surprised that I basically had to start at square one.
"Despite running through most of my pregnancy—and staying active even after I had to give it up—I lost a lot of fitness during that time and the subsequent recovery," says Conkey. "I basically had to retrain my body to run again. Those first steps were awkward and clumsy. I felt like an imposter in my own body. It can be frustrating and incredibly humbling, but if you stick with it, things do eventually fall into place. Once you get over the hump, you may find yourself running with a fluidity and speed greater than you had before." (Here are eight things you may not expect while you're expecting—and running.)
I was surprised to realize my goals just didn't matter.
"In spite of having a c-section, I assumed I'd run a marathon within a year of giving birth," says Abby Bales, a mom of one from New York, NY. "But I didn't end up putting a race on the calendar for much longer than I expected. That kind of pressure didn't belong in my recovery. I knew my body needed rest more than anything—I'm a physical therapist, and I know full well the ramifications of pregnancy on a woman's body. I wasn't about to risk long-term injury for short-term gain. I also wanted to be around to enjoy my son and our time as a family. I didn't want running or anything else to be a priority for me, so I abandoned any running-related goals for a while." (Embrace the rest day! Here's how one runner learned to love it.)