Prior to having a baby, I thought my days of continuing to improve and better myself as a runner were over. I still wanted to run competitively, but I really didn’t think I would be able to set new PRs. And definitely not in the first year postpartum.
As you may recall, I had a C-section, and due to that I had some difficulties bouncing back as quickly as I had hoped. At 4 weeks postpartum, I did start running/walking but most of it was walking with very little running. My c-section scar gave me a lot of discomfort when I ran, and I thought it would be something I would have to deal with for quite some time. (I was going based off other people’s experiences I had read online.) It was a dull ache that lasted during the duration of the run, and it would usually linger throughout the remainder of the day. I was pretty bummed and giving up hope. But I am that person if I want it bad enough, I will continue to work until I find a solution to the problem. So I started talking to a few people, and it sounded like the discomfort was due to scar tissue build-up. I started massaging the incision, and within a few weeks, I was running pain free and starting to increase my mileage again.
At this time it was about mid-February, and I was running about 35 – 40 miles per week, 5 times a week with a treadmill tempo workout on Mondays and a indoor track speed workout on Wednesdays. I had a pretty good schedule going with only having to wake up early a couple times a week because this guy was still up multiple times each night.
I could tell my fitness was coming back pretty quickly, and I knew I was onto something when I ran the Heart Run 5K in April (6 months postpartum) only 10 seconds slower than my current PR. At this point, I decided to hire my coach, Nichole, back to see what I could accomplish during the summer months. My favorite time to train!
Nichole was excited about my progress, which motivated me to continue to work hard each day and see what I could do. There were many sleepless nights, but when the alarm went off at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m., I didn’t give myself a choice. Out the door I went for my workout. I had already made the choice to go after it, so I wasn’t going to give up now.
Thankfully I was able to following Nichole’s plan to the ‘T’–only missing a couple of workouts (one due to being at altitude). Craig was so supportive, watching Cullen during all of my morning runs and on the weekend during my long runs. Luckily I was able to push Cullen in the stroller during some of the shorter runs (and on double days), which allowed me to sleep in occasionally.
During the craziness of taking care of a baby all day, I continued to do my best to eat healthy. I think a combination of being too busy to eat, breastfeeding, and not being on “the pill” helped me to drop about 10 pounds. Any (healthy) weight loss definitely helps in running faster.
My training included a lot of tempo workouts at 6:30 pace and medium-long runs with some speed sessions thrown in there. I peaked at about 75 miles, which is quite a bit less than the 100 miles I had done the previous two summers. (I was definitely okay with this since I was only getting about 6 or 7 hours of sleep each night.)
The ultimate cap to my training was winning the Moose’s Tooth Marathon 9.5 months postpartum. I still don’t know how I averaged a 7:05 pace for 26.2 miles. (Okay, only 25.2 miles for this race.) I feel so thankful and blessed to be running as well as I am. Let’s hope training continues to go well this winter, and I can set even faster PRs this next summer!
There were a lot of contributing factors that helped me become faster after having a baby, but here’s a quick overview:
- Hiring a coach to motivate me to push just that little bit extra.
- Having my coach write different types of workouts to challenge my muscles in a different way.
- A lot of hard work.
- Dropping 10 pounds.
- Possibly some physiological changes in the postpartum body that gave me an advantage to run faster?? (this article)
And to be honest, most days I’m not even sure how I got faster. I feel blessed to be where I’m at, and my return to running definitely motivates me to keep pushing and see how fast I can get. I’m still gunning for that sub-3 hour marathon!