Community Contributor: Whitney Heins, Founder of Mother Runners, Knoxville, TN
**article originally published at SHEKnows.com
You know what every new mom has in common? A desire to lose the baby weight fast!
There are few quicker ways to shed those extra pounds than running. But because of the changes in our bodies, we have to be careful when we start running after having a baby. Jump in too quickly and we could get seriously hurt—not ideal when you’re trying to care for a tiny human.
Here’s your how-to guide to start running after having a baby:
Pace yourself. Running coach and founder of Knoxville Endurance Bobby Holcombe says every recovery is different but generally advises to start slow—walking the first 3-4 weeks, increasing your distance each week. After 4-6 weeks, if you feel comfortable with walking, you can jog a couple days a week, gradually increasing mileage, pace, and the number of days you run. Holcombe notes women who remain active during their pregnancies, jogging and/or walking 3-5 days a week, generally have a faster recovery.
Listen to your body. If something feels really uncomfortable, don’t force it. Back off for a couple days and try to ease back in again. If something’s really hurting, talk to your doctor. Running could be shedding light on an injury.
Listen to your heart. Don’t pay attention to paces. Instead, pay attention to your heart rate zones. In the beginning, aim to keep your heart rate at 60-71% percent of your max, or a pace where you can comfortably hold a conversation. (To calculate your heart rate zones, check out this calculator.) Once you’re gaining in fitness, you can begin having a couple up-tempo runs a week where your heart rate reaches 78-81% of your max.
Up your iron. What’s the biggest mistake new moms make? They cut back calories while simultaneously upping mileage—that’s a recipe for injury, says local nutritionist Betsy Johnson. In order to be healthy and energized, new moms need to focus on eating the right foods, like those containing iron. In fact, one in five women is iron deficient. Focus on eating iron-rich foods like meats, fish, leafy greens, and chocolate.
Drink that milk. Be sure to get enough calcium—especially those of you who’re breastfeeding which requires extra calcium intake. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that women who breastfeeding consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Ask your doctor if it’s a good idea to take a calcium supplement.
Shake up that protein. Breastfeeding moms also need to make sure they’re getting enough protein. After growing a baby for 9 months and then supplying it with protein-rich breast milk, it’s necessary to replenish your own. Aim for five to seven servings of quality protein every day.
Stay hydrated. Also, if you’re nursing, make sure you drink plenty of fluids—at least ten glasses of water a day.
Strengthen that midsection. Having a strong core can ward off injuries. It’s tough to find time to exercise but you can do planks, side planks, bridges, and bicycles when playing with the baby on the floor. Dr. Cole Hosenfeld, a chiropractic sports physician at Apple Health and Wellness, recommends aiming for one to two minutes of each exercise three to four times a week.
Don’t forget your pelvic floor. One of the biggest risks to new moms starting to run after having a baby is pelvic organ prolapse. Guard against this by doing Kegels exercises. Jen Le Coguic, pelvic floor specialist, recommends aiming to do between 30-50 Kegels per day, doing a combination of short contractions (2 seconds) and long (10 seconds). This can also keep you from those unpleasant moments of wetting yourself while running or jumping.
Get the right gear.
Make sure the shoe fits. Ensure your running shoes fit your post-partum feet which may have enlarged post-pregnancy. If your shoes still fit, ensure your shoes don’t have too many miles on them and provide plenty of support. If the soles are worn around the sides and on the treads, it’s time to get new ones.
Get the right bra. Chances are your prepartum sports bra isn’t going to fit your postpartum chest. You need more support and room. Popular running bras with “mother runners” are the Motherhood Maternity racerback nursing bra and the Lululemon’s Enlite bra for their support and comfort.
If you’re nursing, be sure to nurse or pump before you head out the door to be more comfortable and bide more time being away from your baby. Also, make sure you get as much sleep as you can. You’re working overtime and your baby can’t drink from an empty cup. Take care of yourself!
Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners, a place where moms who run or want to run can find information and inspiration to chase their dreams. Whitney is a former journalist who works from home with her two small children. She is currently training to qualify for the Olympic trials in the marathon this fall. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @themotherrunners