Marathon training is a commitment. It is hard work, requires lots of miles and time, and takes a lot out of your body. While not everyone would recommend training for a marathon a few months after having a baby, I am finding that not only is it very much possible, but the goal of completing my first marathon and getting a Boston Qualifier is such a positive outlet for me as I adjust to my new role as mother. For 8 years prior to baby, I ran competitively on the high school and college level. By the time I graduated college and ran my last race at the NCAA Regional 5k race, I thought I was for sure done with running. I was burnt out and over it. The part I didn’t realize was how important running was for me. Not only just for my lungs. It was important for my heart. And not just the health of my heart. Running fueled much more than just health for me. Yes, it has given me a low heart rate and toned calves, but more than that it has given me a heart that is disciplined, hard working, dedicated, and passionate. As much as I wanted to walk away from running, I couldn’t. Those 8 years of running, changed something within me. It built up an endurance and love for a sport that sometimes causes a lot of pain. I now know how I feel not running, not competing, not dreaming about PRs, and I much prefer who I am when I am running. It is good for me. I need the steady rhythm running gives my life. I need the structure, the mileage, the discipline. Running looks different for me now then when I was a collegiate runner. I have a baby. I sleep less. Things revolve around baby, not training. While my training is much less intense and timely, I still believe there are still some good times left in these legs of mine.
Since life is now much different compared to college, I need to adjust the way I train. I have definitely been faced with a desire and pressure to train like I used to, but then I’m faced with the reality of broken sleep and less energy and time. I also am still nursing Hudson so this is another factor that needs to be considered with my training. Marathon training is one thing, but specifically postpartum marathon training is something that needs to be handled differently. Here are five things to consider if you are training for a marathon postpartum:
1. Take Days Off
This is a good idea for any athlete, but especially if you recently had a baby, it is important to give your body ample rest and recovery. I started running about 4-months postpartum. When I started, I was only running a couple times a week. I slowly, very slowly, built in mileage and frequency. Now at almost a year postpartum, I am not that far off from college mileage. I have been still taking two days off a week. This will be my first week running 6 days. The main point to note here is that I didn’t go from having a baby to running 6 days a week. As you can see, it was almost a year process to build back into fitness and the type of mileage my body was used to pre-baby.
2. Fuel & Hydrate
Again, this is another one that is important for all humans, especially active ones, but proper hydration and fueling is even more important when you are breastfeeding. You burn on average, 200-500 extra calories a day breastfeeding. It is super important that you consider these extra calories plus the calories burnt running. Marathoning, milk producing mamas also should be sure to get in enough calcium. On average women lose 3-5 percent of bone mass while breastfeeding. It is a good idea to continue taking prenatal vitamins to help with this loss of nutrients. Along with fueling, it is also necessary to keep up on water intake. It takes water to make milk. Sweating also causes you to lose water. In combination this is a lot of extra fluid that is needed. Your body needs this extra hydration. A couple weeks ago, after running 15 miles and then nursing my baby 30 minutes after, I experienced severe dehydration. I lost way too much water and was not properly hydrating before and after. This is just another reason why hydration is so important, especially with high mileage and milk production.
3. Adjust Expectations and Goals
This is a big one. I find myself training or wishing I was training the way I used to in college. My body is simply not the same. Not only that, but my life conditions are extremely different. I cannot expect the same results when I am still getting very broken and minimal sleep. Life revolves around Hudson, not a PR (personal record). That is just the fact of the matter and I wouldn’t want it any other way, but this means that I need to adjust pace expectations and overall running goals. I think you can still have high expectations and goals. Postpartum running does not need to hold you back too much, but I do think it is mentally important to accept that your body and life is different now; therefore, training will need to be adjusted.
4. Schedule Baby Care for Long Runs
I just wrote a post all about running with the baby jogger. You can read it here.While I am still running 2-3 runs weekly with baby jogger, you definitely will want to have someone watch your baby for the long runs. My baby’s max is 70 minutes in the jogger. This takes more planning, but it is important that you can schedule out when you will get good, quality long runs in without baby. Lance and I have been doing our long runs in Palos Verdes. On our drive over, we drop Hudson and Nala off at their grandparents’ house. This is super helpful and even allows Lance and I to spend some time just the two of us. It is necessary to get runs in without jogger so you can run a bit more honest of a pace. The jogger definitely slows me down, but it still is good training. It just needs to be paired with training runs without the jogger as well.
5. Don’t Compare
It is so easy to look at your training and compare it to others. I do this all the time with my husband. I get jealous and feel behind when I see how many more miles he is logging compared to myself. He is doing more intense workouts, while I am just trying to build in mileage. The big difference here is that he didn’t have a baby 11 months ago. I can’t compare his training with mine. It is and should be relatively different.
Training for a marathon postpartum is totally possible. Like with most baby-related things, it does require a tad more planning and intentionality. While this marathon training postpartum thing is not for everyone, I have found it to be a really key element in helping me get back to feeling normal. It has given me an outlet. It has shown me I still very much have a body that is capable of handling mileage and intensity. It has given me a goal. Especially as a stay-at-home mom, marathon training has given me a purpose to focus on. So when it comes to postpartum marathon training be sure to make adjustments when necessary, drink lots of water, and allow room for lots of grace.