Postpartum Training

By Michele Yates – 2013 USATF Ultra Trail Runner of the Year and brand new mom

There is no doubt that giving birth and postpartum mommy duties are beyond challenging. As a matter of fact, I cannot even put into words for those who don’t know (everyone who is/was NOT a breastfeeding, working, training mom) how down right hard it can be! So where does a new mom begin in between all the nursing demands, diaper changes, and pure exhaustion from short sleep cycles? How can one possibly fit in any training?

My take- you can do it slowly but surely. Your baby is an absolute blessing, she/he was worth the pain and now the demanding endurance… after all it will only make you stronger! Don’t rush, but don’t milk it either 😉 My postpartum journey began with a week off and complete attention and focus on Maya (my daughter). I was told the first two weeks would be hell, so I prepared the best I could mentally and physically, and felt I tackled it beautifully. I trained up until the day I gave birth so the rest/time off was welcomed. That second week consisted of some cardio cross training with a recumbent bike (this was the overall cardio tool doctors told me would be best even instead of walking), walking and towards the end of the week, one light strength lifting session. As life started to “move” again and my world wasn’t standing still gazing into Maya’s eyes…I felt the strain. I’ve always considered myself a great multi-tasker, but these tasks, with lack of sleep were overwhelming. I quickly learned that everything wouldn’t be squeaky clean, that priorities have changed, and it’s okay if I have lists upon lists on the kitchen counter to TRY to keep things organized.

Luckily, before I gave birth I had decided to “have a plan.” Not only one plan, but an A.B.C plan… KNOWING that things would not go exactly as planned. In calendar form, I wrote my daily training plan down as well as the times I thought I could get it all in. Plan B would come about if my body didn’t respond to the workouts I had written down, and C would rear its head if I had to do a complete revise because nothing was going right.

Week 3 consisted of more structured workouts with easier intervals and tempos on the elliptical or bike. By 3.5 weeks I was running VERY SLOWLY. My master plan was not to run until 4 weeks given I had a “good” birth ( I did not tear nor did I have a c-section…ALL OF THIS WILL VARY WITH EACH INDIVIDUAL WOMAN). For the next two months I kept cardio cross training into my program with a little bit of running. Now, Maya being 3.5 months, I have been able to tackle road, mountains, and trails for all of my training. This certainly didn’t happen without the help of Dr. Matt and Kelly Barnes of Barnes Chiropractic (holistic doctors who specialize in pre labor and postpartum athletes). I will however, still go for walks and hikes with Maya for some extra miles. Getting back to the trails was not as easy as expected. I’ve definitely taken some falls due to pelvis instability. As some of you may know, I love bombing those technical downhills but again, I will warn you–this will take you time no matter how fit and strong you feel!!! Don’t be discouraged, keep up the hard work, kegels, and core exercises.

Also, I’d highly recommend keeping some Icespikes in your shoes for better traction too! They will help with control when hiking with your bundle of joy attached to you! Icespikes have been a must for me with the weather changing. The quick snow melt has caused a crazy amount of mud. I’ve quickly realized that trail shoes with lugs close together just cause one big mud pie on the shoe sole and give you lead feet! This isn’t ideal for us trying to gain back pelvic stability without strain.

The solution- a smoother road shoe sole which won’t collect the packed in mud BUT with Icespikes to provide traction to keep you flying along. Depending on the conditions, I use a different amount of Icespikes. Examples: really muddy- I will use 6 up top and 4 on the bottom, really snowy or icy equals the same thing, and for drier trails I will use just 4 up top. Postpartum ladies may just want to stay on the safe side and keep them loaded 😉 Even if there is some pavement in your run, you won’t ruin anything… it will dull out the Icespikes quicker, but nothing a quick change out at the end of your run for next time won’t fix.

Another side note to those postpartum ladies who are trying to fit back into their favorite running shoes. It may not happen!!! 1. Your arches typically collapse more with pregnancy causing your foot to flatten and you to over pronate 2. With that your feet will again flatten, lengthening them 3. You may want to consider a more cushioned shoe for the extra weight put on and to counter the new aches and pains! Your ligaments, tendons, and joints are weaker…it will take a little bit of time to bring them all back up to speed, be smart about appropriate shoes and accessories!

Summing it up- Ladies, listen to YOUR body! What worked for me, may not work for you! Avoid any sharp pains, take your time (which could end up being months!), but have a plan so you don’t completely fall off the wagon!

Editors note: Icespike is an American Trail Running Association Single-track Corporate Member.