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Post-Baby Running: Mother Runners Weigh In On Lacing Up Your Running Shoes After Giving Birth

Getting back into running after having a baby may not be easy. Hang in there. And read on for some great Mother Runner advice from those who have gotten into the groove of running after giving birth.
Getting back into running after having a baby may not be easy. But hang in there. And read on for some great Mother Runner advice from those who have gotten into the groove of running again (or for the first time!) after giving birth.

Returning (or starting) running after having a baby is as individual as the birth experience itself, as evidenced by the numerous replies we received on our Facebook page after posting mother runner Erin’s question about post-partum exercise. Of course Erin would be getting the official OK from her OB, but she acknowledged at two weeks post-partum that she was eager to get the go-ahead, and was curious how other mother runners eased back into, or discovered, an active lifestyle.

Sage BTDT advice from the tribe included:

If it’s your first time… Keep in mind just how much running and exercise, if at all, you did pre-baby: “I wasn’t a runner beforehand,” says Katherine B. “I’d say take it slow. Get a nice jogging stroller.” Taking walks, building up to a slow run, and generally taking it easy for a while seems to be a good bet for many mother runners.

It may take a while (a long while), and that’s totally fine. “While some people leave the hospital in their running shoes, for others it takes months for certain things to go back in place,” says Monica F., who admits to not finding a regular running routine until three years after her baby was born. Melisa B. found it took her “about eight months to run and not hurt.” Christy R. says she started running at four weeks, but started “VERY gently.” She waited until six weeks to get “a solid, good three-plus mile run in. Just listen to your body. If you hurt at all, slow down a little.” Angela S. says her return to running was slower the second time around. “It has taken a lot longer—as in seven months—for my hips, knees, and feet to recover from a grueling pregnancy,” she says.

Or it could be much sooner. Angela M. offered this: “If you’ve been running (or exercising) during your pregnancy and had a normal, non-surgical birth, 6 weeks seems to be the magic number.” Jen S. says she was back walking fairly quickly and running again by two weeks post-partum. “I think a lot depends on how much you ran while pregnant,” she says. “I ran throughout and it was super easy to jump back into it.”

If you had a C-section… Katie K. waited about 9 weeks after having her C-section. Karen S., meanwhile, waited 7 weeks. “I was a new runner. But I started super, super slow,” Karen says. “And I always pumped before going out so I didn’t have tenderness.”

Nursing may affect your running … Several mother runners mentioned nursing and breast tenderness as reasons for postponing a full-on return to hitting the pavement. Says Belle K.: “After I quit nursing—seven months—and my boobs felt ‘normal,’ really closer to nine months, I did run-walk with a two minute run/two minute walk and then worked my way up, but only for like 20-25 minutes at first.” If you are breastfeeding, adds Angela R., be gentle with your body. “It is already working SO hard. Women need to be gentle and take it slow after baby.” And when you do run (and if you’re breastfeeding), Jami T. believes hydration—and rest—is incredibly important.

No matter how long it takes your body to feel up for a run, remember that you will eventually be back on the roads and trails, and signing on for races. Angela S., who took seven months to rest and recover after baby #2, started with walking and worked up to running a half-marathon. “It was slower than normal,” she says, “But I’ve ramped it up from there.”

When did you return to running post-baby? What tips would you offer mother runners who are anxious to start exercising again?

28 responses to “Post-Baby Running: Mother Runners Weigh In On Lacing Up Your Running Shoes After Giving Birth

  1. I gave birth to twins 6 weeks ago and started running 2 weeks pp. My doctor gave me the okay to run until 35 weeks, although it was very slow at that point anyway. For the last 3 weeks I walked and had a very easy natural delivery. It just depends how active you were during pregnancy and need to take it slow at first.

  2. I am at this exact stage with my newborn daughter and have been experiencing the EXACT same feelings. Thank you for verbalizing what is floating around in my head (I know it was a while ago for you!) and I am excited to go for my first run soon!

  3. I walked 20 miles a week during my entire pregnancy. I was an avid runner prior to my pregnancy. 6 days post partum I ran 1/2 mile, then a couple days after that, a mile, then the next week a sub 30 min 5k. I kept building and nothing hurt…I am actually still breastfeeding too…and I ran and ran and trained up to a 20 miler. Now imam set for a full marathon I am doing next weekend! I didn’t think I could do this…I still hardly sleep…but my speeds are back to where I was before pregnancy! 8 and 9 min miles!!!

  4. I loved your post. I gave birth 10 weeks ago and am a little nervous about getting back into running after the marathon effort of pregnancy and child birth. Your post reminded me of the wonderful perspective that running (and that bit of time out) brings. Can’t wait to get my sneakers back on ASAP!

  5. Thank you for this post. My baby is nine weeks old, and I finally was able to Run a mile — a slow run — This morning. To be honest, I had not even try for attempted to do this, in fear that My body would feel strange. The biggest take away for me was that I need a maximum support sports bra, as I am breast-feeding. Holding my boobs is not the best way to run!!

  6. Journey may not be my very first choice when queing up a playlist on my Ipod, but three days ago when I set out on my very first long run since being side-lined by SPD during the last 13 weeks of my pregnancy, that was exactly how I felt. I wanted to run on pavement for the first long run, (we live on gravel roads), so I drove the 7 minutes to the gym, parked my car and brought up MapMyRun on my phone. Along with a little Journey for the journey.

    Setting out to just “run for fun” was a little hard to wrap my brain around, especially since I have been looking at some fall races starting in the next 6 weeks or so. But running for fun was what I knew my post-partum body needed, so I plugged into a fun, boppy playlist and hit the roads in the beautiful sunshine.

    It felt so great to be outside after spending the last 3 weeks pretty much shut up in my house, learning my daughter, learning to breast-feed, crying at times, trying to “sleep when the baby sleeps”, feed myself while feeding her, and wait, didn’t I JUST change/feed/console/repeat the process?

    In other words, it felt great just to be ME for a while.

    I didn’t pay attention to speed, (well, TRIED not to), but just listened to my body. And the bilateral side stitches. I listened to them, too, as they reminded me what it means to be a “beginner” again. I ran slowly, thinking about nothing and everything, setting a long run goal of 3 miles, and at one point even stopping to tie my shoe. I thought about being a mother at 29, chastising myself for constantly trying to put her back to bed, (but what else do babies do, other than eat/sleep/poop/cry, repeat?), I hounded myself to take more pictures, and I even cried a little at the thought of going back to work in 7 weeks. I mourned the loss of her delicate little newborn body as she is packing on the pounds, and in the blink of eye cheered at the thought that my dedication to breast-feeding obviously was paying off since she’s chunking out. I experienced fear as I realized that every day that goes by, I will never get back, and every minute that passes she’s changing and growing. I panicked at the idea that in 16 (or hopefully more!) years she will be dating, facing “grown-up” issues like sex, peer pressure, alcohol and drugs, and then, (ever the solutionist), promptly decided that the purchase of some sort of firearm would be in order. I happily recalled how in love with her my husband is, and then became jealous at how easily he can console her without the aid of breasts when she’s sobbing, and all I can do is give her a boob.

    I thought about how easily this 3 miles USED to be, and secretly was a little glad to find my shoe untied so I could stop for 30 seconds. I experienced self-deprecating thoughts of how slow my speed was, (even though I was TRYING not to pay attention to it), but quickly cheered myself up with “Don’t worry–when I first started running, I couldn’t even leave my driveway!”. I studied the map on MapMyRun, trying to calculate “how much freaking longer??” and worried about my daughter. Is she hungry, is she refusing a bottle for her grandma, is she looking for me, is she wondering why her mommy left her?

    As I rounded back down the cul-de-sac where my Edge was parked, I slowed to a walk to cool down, grateful that 3.5 miles was DONE! I then encountered this almost immediate feeling of “I can’t wait until I can run again!”

    Realizing that my excitement coupled with relief paralleled the constant ups and downs of motherhood and hormones, I became impatient to get back home my baby, when just 32 minutes prior I was so relieved to get AWAY for a while. My renewed sense of well-being helped me feel more confident in myself and my skills as a mom, when just 32 minutes before I was scared shitless to the point of almost having a panic attack when I had just finished feeding the baby for what seemed like the 100th time in 4 hours.

    After pulling into my driveway and throwing my shoes off after coming through the door, I was saddened to see my baby sleeping peacefully, when 32 minutes ago I was desperate to get her to sleep. Missing her terribly, I crept into our bedroom and stared into her bassinet, secretly wishing she would wake up so I could just hold her. But alas, quietly she rested, growing softly, and I walked to the shower, sweaty, sore and guilt-free for the first time in 3 weeks.

  7. I was not a runner before. Ever. During the pregnancy of my 3rd child (who will be one on Sunday) I decided I wanted to start running. My original goal was to start Couch to 5k October 15, and I got out there and passed a small clot (after I hadn’t bled for 3 weeks and hadn’t had anything heavier that a mild spotting since day 2). To slow, don’t start when you think your body is ready, start a few weeks after that.

    As for running while breastfeeding, when she was younger, I ran at night, right after I nursed her and was not comfortable running in the morning until I had nursed her at least twice. Now that she’s older and eats more solids, even though she still nurses a ton (and through the night), I can get up early in the morning and go with no problems or tenderness. I also never experienced a drop in my supply due to running, and I know that a swig of power ade after running does not properly rehydrate after a run.

  8. I, personally, wouldn’t commit to a half marathon 6 weeks pp. For myself, as a runner prior to giving birth to my first soon, was in too much pain to even walk after I had him. Granted, he was a large baby with a big ol’ noggin and I had to push for 2.5 hours. I was still hard on myself and didn’t end up doing my first 5k until 4 months pp because it was just weeks prior that I stopped hurting after a long walk. Point is, you never know what is going to happen and I’d hate to see you lose money. Wait and see how you feel, and if you feel good, then great! Go ahead and register! Best of luck!

  9. I returned to running at three weeks post-partum. I took it slow/easy for the first few weeks. I did exercise throughout my pregnancy and had a fairly easy labor/delivery, so I think both of those helped. Pumping or breastfeeding right before is probably my greatest piece of advice for new moms.

  10. Thank you for this post. I have been lamenting a lot during the last few months about my former running glory days. I started running a couple years before giving birth to my first child, and was able to complete an 11.5 mile race the year after she was born. Then I got pregnant with twins – I was too paranoid to run during the pregnancy and didn’t do much other consistent exercising. I am now just over 1 year postpartum and struggling to get back in shape. I started doing some light run/walking 6 weeks post-csection, but once I went back to work when the babies were 3 months old, my fitness routine went out the window. For me, it is mainly an issue of finding time to run (and do other exercise) more than waiting for my body to be ready. My current running routine consists of 30 minutes, 2 times/week, plus an hour of other exercise (swimming or yoga) during the week. I’ve been reluctant to sign up for any races because I feel like I can’t commit to a training routine and I haven’t been able to go any significant distances in 30 minutes/session. I just keep trying to figure out a better way to configure our family’s schedule so I can fit in more and longer workouts. I would love to be able to complete my first marathon or triathlon before I turn 40 (in 3 years).

  11. This is a very timely post for me today. I had a very frustrating run this morning, just not feeling like myself. My baby is 5 months old. With my last baby, I was able to run 2 weeks post-c-section and I ran a marathon 4 1/2 months later, even getting a PR. It was a magical time and I was hoping this return to running would be the same. Unfortunately, it has not. As I was talking with my other mother runner buddies, they helped me realize that it’s been 6 years since my last baby (ahem..I am getting older!) and this baby does not sleep through the night like my other one did. So, I am not giving up, but I am going to be more realistic. Any other advice would be appreciated!

  12. With number 1, I started walking around two weeks or so and started running as soon as I had the all-clear at 6 weeks. (I’d heard that most OBs said 8 weeks for a c-sec, but she didn’t and that was fine with me.) That first run I figured I’d be doing a combo of running and walking when the running got hard. It turned out I ran a mile straight–though about half of that was downhill so that helped. I covered 3 miles that day in a run-walk pattern, but then I held myself to that distance for about a month before going longer.

    With number 2–another c-section unfortunately–my initial recovery was way better (I could stand and walk around hours after the surgery without feeling like I was going to faint), but the incision didn’t heal quite properly and we ended up wet-packing it for a bit (don’t ask…it hurts). Once it was all properly closed, I waited another week or two because I didn’t want to do anything that might cause more torturous wound care procedures, and I think I was probably 8 weeks out when I started running again. Once I did, it was very similar to child #1: I covered the same mile no problem and then felt like going further so I did. I was probably back to running the full 3 a little more quickly and I felt comfortable slowing upping my mileage without waiting a month like I did the first time around.

    Advice: listen to your body. There are the women who run half-marathons like a month after giving birth. There are women–including Skirt Sports very own Nicole DeBoom, who waited months to start running again. My feeling is that if she can win Ironmans and wait months after her child’s birth to start running again, then clearly, it’s fine for the rest of us. Go when you’re ready and don’t feel pressured to start too soon or not start when you feel ready.

  13. I’m with Leslie…my little guy is 5 months old and we are still not sleeping. (up every 2 hours) As much as I’ve tried to get out there and get back to running, I’d rather take a nap and sleep at this point! I have big dreams of getting back into regularly running, but man am I exhausted at this point!!!

  14. I wasn’t a runner before my daughter was born but I did exercise before and through pregnancy. After she was born any form of exercise was touch and go until my daughter started sleeping. That wasn’t until she was over 15 months old and then I started a walk to run program. Lost all that darn baby weight and then some. My body just couldn’t get up to work out after being awake half/most of the night. I chose sleep. I just didn’t have the energy. I say take it slow and honor what your body is saying. If it’s saying more, do more! If it’s saying sleep, sleep!

  15. I’m 39 weeks and 6 days today! I just got home from the gym where I ran 4 miles on the treadmill. I’ve been averaging 20 miles a week for the past 6 weeks and more miles before that point. Due date is, of course, tomorrow! I’ve worked so hard to maintain running throughout this pregnancy and I’m so scared I will lose everything during the postpartum recovery period. I’d really like to run a half marathon 6 weeks after baby is born…after reading this article and comments I feel like that is maybe a little too far fetched?! Thoughts…

  16. I am 6 days pp today and went for 2 1.25 mile walks! I also ran though the first 7 months, including 3 half marathons. I had a goal to run/walk 500 miles between January 1 and the baby’s due date. She came 10 says early so now I have to finish with her in the stroller instead of the womb. I am eager to get back at it.

  17. Take it easy! I ran all the way through my pregnancy, and started back up at 4 weeks pp and felt great- but then I tried to push myself to hard with distance and ended up with an injury 10 months later. Since I was still nursing I was more prone to injury- and I wasn’t taking the time to stretch and do the necessary strength training as well 🙁 Hoping to be back out there soon!

  18. I started slogging Three weeks after my c-section. When that felt fine, I upgraded to jogging at 5 weeks, and ran a surprising 22 minute 5k at 7 weeks pp. It was probably easy for me to bounce back because I ran all through the pregnancy

  19. I had 2 c-sections, so I waited a long time- like my youngest was 3. After trying a few plans unsuccessfully, I decided that to get back in shape, I needed to do something, anything active, every stinking day until I created a habit of doing something. I went for 10 minute walks, I went for short walk-runs, I rode my bike around the block for 5 minutes, you name it, but I carved out that 10 minutes (almost)every day and wrote it down in a little freebie calendar so I could look back and see how much I had accomplished (I just counted the number of times I walked out the door). After about a month I had created a habit and could go a little longer on some days than others. After a few months I was able to switch to 4-5 longer workouts a week and really start to see some changes. My first year I counted over 250 active days- that was a BIG deal! I did not know it then, but I was completely changing my way of living. Now I run 3-4 times a week and am taking on my first 12k mountain trail run in 2 weeks. I still write down something about what I do so I can look back and see what I have done. The biggest bonus is that my daughter is trying her hand (feet?)at running cross country this fall, and I am getting to gently help someone else through the tough “getting started” phase of making running part of your life. She is having a few ups and downs like all of us, and I hope I can say the right things to keep her eye on the good stuff.

  20. I am brand new to running and have a 2 year old son and I just gave birth via C-section to my second son. I spent most of the pregnancy reading Run Like a Mother and Train Like a Mother instead of pregnancy books lol! My hubby even bought me the Garmin I wanted as a push present! Some may not find this romantic, but I do. I had a difficult pregnancy and didn’t exercise much. But I plan on starting slowly once I get the OK from my OB at the 6 week appointment. So far we take walks every day. After six weeks, my plan is to start the C25K plan on my treadmill. Then I will move on to running outside. My hubby and I both want to sign up for a 5K together and we are planning for spring of 2014 to get ourselves both into shape for it! This sight has really helped to motivate me. Thanks!

  21. I had an emergency C-section and thought my running would be a pipe dream for months. Best advice is to get moving as soon as you can. This means laps around the maternity ward!

    It’s the old baby adage of you have to crawl before you walk and in this case, lots of walking before you run. Easy cross-training especially movement classes worked well also. They handled the boredom aspect since doing nothing but walking got old quickly. I began run/walking when my daughter was around three-four months old. And yes, nurse/pump before you head out!

  22. I went out of my comfort zone and joined Team in Training. They have coaches and mentors and teach you how to run. I ran 11 miles last sat and was stoked. I am a very slow runner putting one foot in front of the other. I still have flab and my baby is 8 months old. but the weight is coming off. Im training for my first full marathon. Ive never run more than 13.1 miles.

  23. I ran through 32 weeks of my third pregnancy (Until I was using the restroom more than I was running). My OB told me at the hospital that if I felt up to it, I could run at 1 month postpartum. Exactly one month after my daughter was born, I went for my first postpartum run. Things definitely felt different and first, but it was a huge confidence booster that I could still run and such a since of freedom. I took it slow from there, just going a few miles at first until I felt comfortable.

  24. Perfect post. C-section scheduled for Friday for baby #3! I have been dreaming of getting back on the road and am dreading the surgical recovery, even though I snapped back super quickly with my first 2 c-sections. I have been exercising daily with elliptical and lots of weights and hope that gets me back soon. Thanks ladies for the reminder to take it slow and it may take longer than i think. With #2 I ran a full 8 months pp and PR’d.

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