2 steps forward, 1 step back. So goes the motto of a comeback. Call it what you will but a comeback usually refers to restoring yourself to a better version of you following an injury, setback, pregnancy, etc. I call mine a journey. I know other pro runners currently on their comeback… Kara Goucher is on one, Neely Spence Gracey, Kim Smith is starting hers, Alysia Montano post baby is on hers. Whether you’re a pro, a weekend warrior or a mom with a fierce passion to get back to running we all share the desire and sometimes struggle with the setbacks. Hence 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Just when you feel like things are clicking and you’ve made strides, boom you get a cold, your IT band flares up, the baby keeps you up all night, whatever. These molehills get in the way of our “ideal plan.” Where on earth am I going with all this? Well I wanted to share what my last 10 weeks(weeks 6-15 post partum) have looked like running wise, strengthening protocol, and the ups and downs along the way.
Week 1: Kegals, kegals, and more kegals. These really get overlooked a ton and for most women years post baby they’ll admit “damn should have done my kegals. It basically requires 5-10 minutes daily of quiet time between you and you know who. TMI whatever!
Week 2-4: Activating the transverse abdominus and rebuilding the core.
Your hips, your hips, your hips! That’s what everybody through my pregnancy warned me about when returning to training post baby. I’d like to respond with my abs, my abs, my abs. Hips are a very important component in your running but even more important is your core. As an athlete my natural tendency is to think “I have a weak core I just need to do hours of planks, side planks, push ups, v-ups and I’ll have a rock solid core in no time.” So far from the truth when we’re dealing with a post partum body. If you strengthen the outer portion of your core too much, you’ll miss working on the instrinsic muscles that actually support your hips, pelvis, and low back. Ab bracing: Laying on your back with feet on the ground, you slightly tighten your TA while pulling your belly button up. Use your hands as a brace on the outside of your tummy. With a rubber band around your knees pull your knees apart and back in. Repeat x 10. Next progression is in the same position without the rubber band around your knees called marching your feet. Place hands on hips. Draw belly button to spine without pushing the low back into the floor. Slowly lift your left leg 6-8 inches off the floor without letting your hips move. Alternate 10-15 each side, rest and reset abdominal brace as needed. Last progression is the feet slide. Again start in same position with feet on ground, knees bent and slowly slide your heal until your leg is straight. Bring back to start and repeat on the other leg, x 10.
Running: Progressed to 6 days of running culminating in 8-12 miles per week, look out! Rib cage and chest on fire during runs leaving me feeling as if I’m running on the top of Mt. Everest. Had my first real “chiro” appt. with my doc in Flagstaff. I was nervous for any sort of adjustment but was in dire need as breastfeeding was turning me into the hunchback of Notre Dame. Had a huge back adjustment and on my exhale let out a serious fart (things no one talks about but this stuff is real). #lowpoint
Week 4-6: Side planks, dead bugs, bird dog. Assessment according to my sports doc at this time was weaknesses in my TFL and QL so I was given clams, side planks, and specific TFL exercises with a band.
Running: Breakthrough weeks! We travelled to San Diego the week before Ben raced Falmouth and sea level had never felt more amazing. Air in my lungs, a pep in my stride and I ran my first sub 7 minute mile in over 5 months. I was putting in more consistent 3 and 4 miles runs but after a week of that my pelvis began to ache, crap! 2 steps forward, 1 step back. I backed off for a few days, upped my strengthening exercises and listened to my body. 3 days off now is far better than 3 weeks down the road.
Week 7-10: side/front/ supine planks, arms weights, lunges, dynamic warm up drills
Running: Feeling the flow and caught some glimpses of my old self these weeks. My coach Ben and I meet each Sunday and recap my last week, assess how I’m feeling and make a plan for the next week. This is a lot more in depth than when I’m normally training but we are both committed to not get greedy and make mistakes. I transitioned to “mini workouts” twice a week to more or less get my brain back in the routine of being an athlete again. My body grew a human for the past 9 months so it was a bit out of sorts as to what it’s function was now post baby. Each week Ben would set paces for my workouts and each time I seemed to surpass them without much effort. This was surprising and encouraging. I still was only getting 3-4 hours as my longest stretch of sleep with Riley waking up to feed. I used to get 9-10 hours a night so how was I recovering let alone functioning? I firmly believe once an athlete, always an athlete. Although these first 3 months have been life changing and will testing I don’t lose sight of the things that aid in my recovery. I keep water and Picky Bars by my bed and was eating 2 a night during each nursing session. I roll out my back after I put Riley down for naps and after breastfeeding. I don’t let 2 hours go by without eating something as the caloric demand for training + breastfeeding is huge! Back to my naive optimism about things progressing so well. I tested my fitness a little on a workout and my body reared his ugly weakness head. Forgot to mention I also pee my pants on most of all my workouts. #awesome I have a long way to go to strengthen my core, back muscles and supporting structures for my pelvis and hips so remaining diligent and patient.
So how will I keep making progress? I have devised a list of things that I firmly believe will keep me healthy, hungry, and able to take 3 steps forward and 0 steps back.
-Cross train appreciation day- keeping a scheduled day off every 10-14 days where I supplement biking for a run. Fortunately we have a Cycleops trainer set up in our garage so while Riley naps, and Ben goes running I’m able to cross train without being too far from the baby. Plus the thing is freaky silent so doesn’t wake Riley.
-Perspective- Keep it long term. I need to be firing on all cylinders in 16 months so all training along the way is to prepare me for that day.
-Do the little things. I love using Meb as an example here. A lot of people counted out Meb out before the 2012 Olympic Trials because of his age, injuries, etc. He never counted himself out because he has always been committed to the little things. Now more than ever post baby, my strengthening exercises, chiro appts., gym work, sleep (as Riley ages of course) will be the contributing factors to my ultimate success. Everyone has 30-45 minutes to head out the door for a fun, sneak in a workout on their lunch break but rarely do they devote those 30 minutes to mind numbing PT exercises that keep you healthy.