Talk about running before I walk... here's my first postpartum post and it is on RUNNING! Given that I have not yet caught you up on the birth or my immediate recovery the fact that I'm running again may be a bit shocking.
After birthing Rumi at home totally asymptomatically and needing no stitches, I was back in the climbing gym three days after birth and running again four days after the birth. Though, as an athlete, I generally hold unattainably high expectations for my performance, my body has blown even those expectations out of the water.
Given all the gloom and doom out there about running postpartum (or frankly doing ANYTHING postpartum) I thought I'd continue to dispel athlete-limiting, woman-negative beliefs instilled by our culture of fear. I feel like a bit of a fraud writing 'postpartum' posts on this ol' blog because I at nineteen days after Rumi's birth I don't feel postpartum at all.
At any rate here are my tidbits about postpartum running. Be bold, go big, listen closely, and most of all enjoy.
The core: Some well-intentioned folks cautioned me against running and climbing later in my pregnancy for fear of diastasis recti - the separation of the abdominal muscles experienced by some pregnant women. Truth is most of this recent hubub about 'abdominal safety' is yet another patriarchal idea masquerading as solid advice when really it is rooted in fear not science. At one hour postpartum I took stock of my abs: there was no separation. Before you start running postpartum, be sure to check your own - or if in doubt ask your midwife to do if for you. But for goshsakes don't wait until your six week check in.
Sahrmann exercises: Though my abs weren't separated nor weakened, the neuromuscular connections felt a bit confused in the first few days postpartum. In order to reconnect those scrambled wires I hopped through the helpful Sahrmann transverse abdominus rehabilitation exercises. Five days later I graduated. Huzzah!
Pelvic floor strength: I can't tell you how many relative strangers have, upon learning about my not skipping a training beat postpartum, asked 'But don't you pee yourself?' Uh excuse me? No, you won't necessarily pee yourself by running postpartum. Moooving on.
Gravity like the Moon: After experiencing twenty-two hours of active labor (three and a half pushing - hard) I felt light as a damn feather on my first runs. Why? I'd just taken off a nineteen pound progressive weight vest I'd been wearing for the last ten months. Just as I'd dreamed for months preceding the birth, I can barely control the power I'm finding in my postpartum legs and lungs. Enjoy reaping the benefits of your diligent training on some big hills, lady!
How to begin again: Despite maintaining big mountain running mileage until two days before Rumi's birth, I took my first postpartum run on the treadmill. Why? To mitigate risk of a long walk home should things not pan out as planned. After that run went swimmingly I graduated to a single mile from home the next day. Now, I'm comfortable running longer distances again on trail. Begin small, just as one might after any sizeable event, and progress quickly.
Get thee a massage - or three: For the last number of years I've visited a skilled massage therapist - when I train hard I see her for ninety minutes a week. Just before birth and now as my body hastily reconfigures its abdominal structure, I've found her work incredibly soothing. Additionally, mindful massage work allows me to process emotions from the physical experiences of pregnancy and birth. Find a massage therapist with training in work on the psoas and visit that person weekly.
How to manage the boobs: The intense discomfort of new milk in oversized, overworked, sore boobs might deter some from running. Not to fear, there are a few things that can help: 1. A tourniquet-tight bra 2. Cushy breast pads 3. Empty breasts. Try the Moving Comfort Fiona bra in one cup size too small, the Bamboobies overnight pads, and the NUK manual breastpump (I did serious research to find the highest-rated and lightest one on the market). Additionally, be sure to feed or pump before leaving your house for the run.
Guilt: Despite a willing partner at home with Rumi, months of mental preparation for the time necessary away from home to train, and a general mindset of making no compromises in my training I've experienced an unexpected degree of guilt during my runs. "Is Rumi getting enough to eat? Is she crying the whole time I'm away? Does Ryan think I'm a bad mother?" Though I have yet to puzzle out how to banish all guilt from my conscience, it does help to remind myself that I have to take care of me in order to be a good parent. Try to leave the guilt at the trailhead.
Boy, I can't wait until I'm done with this sport climbing project and on to ultra training!