Monday, March 19, 2012

Week 1 in Postpartum Running

March 9 - gave birth
March 10 - off
March 11 - off
March 12 - 5 km - 24:30. very, very difficult. felt like 1/2 marathon pace.
March 13 - 7 km - 35:00. equally difficult.
March 14 - off
March 15 - 9.6 km including 4 km "tempo" (4:35/km) and 2 km "tempo" (4:34/km)
March 16 - 10 km, 50 minutes. difficult.
March 17 - track "work-out". 3.2 km warm-up. 16 minutes. 4 X 800 m all in 3:25 with long recovery.

Wow. Postpartum running is hard. Last time with the c-section I waited a few weeks before starting to run and by then whatever postpartum physiological effects there were had worn off. This time I feel there is something working very strongly against me. Don't get me wrong. I am absolutely not whining about how hard running is. I am super grateful to be running injury-free (minus the continuous bleeding of course) and just grateful that running IS logistically possible (thanks to long newborn naps - are they really naps when baby sleeps 20+ hours per day???) and the treadmill in our basement - absent these two factors, running would simply not be possible right now. But who wants to read a post where someone waxes poetic about how great everything is? So... let's take the gratitude & happiness as a given and talk about why postpartum running is so effort-full...

The sheer effort of giving birth:  don't think this is it. My uterus contracted once every 2-3 minutes for 17 hours. Sounds tiring but honestly with the epidural (insert song of praise for epidural) I slept through most of it. Also this is surely less effort than running a marathon and I feel way more exhausted than 1 week post marathon. I only pushed for 15 minutes and it was a major effort while doing it but surely not enough to leave me spent a week later.

Blood loss: this has to be a big part of it. The blood loss associated with birth is surely far in excess of that associated with a menstrual cycle. In fact the way I feel now reminds me of the time I naively donated blood 3 weeks before Cdn National XC Championships, just... well... drained, poorly oxygenated. Probably exacerbated by the anemia with which I was diagnosed during pregnancy.

Out of shape? Could I just be out of shape? I would have thought that doing cardio 4-6 times a week for > 70 minutes with heart rate between 150-160 would have been sufficient for maintenance such that 5 minutes per km would have been easily do-able postpartum but maybe not??

Hormones: Well, they seem to take credit or blame for everything else...hormonal changes associated with birthing & breastfeeding could affect VO2 max? Why not...

Sleep deprivation: definitely. huge effect.

Swollen uterus? The uterus is, after all, a large muscle. And mine is still swollen. big time. (My vanity will not let me accept that my tummy bulge is anything other than swollen uterus). Could my ginormous sized uterus be hogging all that good oxygenated blood, depriving the quads, calves and hamstrings resulting in this constant red-lining, lacticy acidy feeling?

Weight: Extra weight and poorly distributed. I am 6.5 pounds up from pre-pregnancy (and again, NOT complaining about this, given what I have been eating this past week I am amazed that I made it to only 6.5 pounds up). But let's face it, I am used to running with clementines not melons (and I am sure there is a good 3 pounds right there!), to use good pilot speak, I think my weight & balance is a bit thrown off.

Dehydration: Wow have I ever been bad about drinking enough. When I did get outside for one run this week while both children were napping (oh and hubby was home lest there be any doubt on that front!). It was hot ~ 23 degrees (high seventies) and as I started running on the track I realized all I had had to drink that day was one cup of coffee. hours ago. I sweat up a storm in the summer-like weather. Got home. Felt very unwell. Tried to remember WHAT Sea Legs Girl had done to almost pass out (though I had run 50 minutes NOT 50 miles) so that I could do the opposite because even absent the ambulance bill, I figured me passing out was the last thing we needed. Anyway as of today I am signed up to donate breast milk to a local milk bank so... time to start drinking and something OTHER than coffee!!


  1. Yup, I felt the same way when I started running 2 days after giving birth. I was also dizzy and lightheaded for an entire week thereafter. But after a couple of weeks there was a shift and I felt much much better. I think giving birth is a huge shock to the body and it just needs a lot of time..I had a similar birth experience - epidural, pushed for 15 min, no pain really; the birth experience did not seem "hard" or exhausting at the time. But, I would think all that milk production, uterus contracting to get back to its normal size, hormones, etc, might have a lot to do with the fatigue. I would not be worried about speed. Typically post baby women end up being faster than before, usually around the 8-9 months post partum mark.

  2. I remember those first few runs and how tough they felt, but great at the same time I was just happy to be back running! So great that you are able to donate the breastmilk.

  3. I was feeling really good about my 7 1km repeats that I did today between 4:15 and 4:20 until I read this post. :-P Thanks a lot! Glad you are back to running and feeling so good so quickly.

  4. The pushing not only pushes a baby out but pushes other things down as well that I believe need time to 'spring' back into place. My first few runs post VBAC felt like the bottom had dropped out. My whole pelvic area just felt really heavy.

  5. You are right - running is hard at first, but the sooner you get going, the quicker running gets easier. I think you are being smart about it with the off days. Just don't run through anything that hurts - like as in injury hurts. Your body does need time to adjust to this huge change - so don't get frustrated! Suddenly you'll be like Wow! I feel awesome. I promise.

  6. According to your description of your runs, I too gave birth last week.