October 13 has been circled on my calendar for a few months now and yesterday I finally had my six-week follow-up appointment with my OBGYN and was given the green light by Dr. Murphy to start exercising again. Although I have physically felt fine (relatively speaking) these past couple of weeks, I did not want to start running until given permission by a professional. I had heard horror stories from friends and other athletes about how running too soon after childbirth can lead to setbacks. Plus, my doctor said it would be best if I let my body fully recover from the trauma of childbirth, and that six weeks would be the timeframe for it to do so. I know every female body and postpartum experience is different, but I did what was best for me given that I did have an episiotomy and some tearing.
Once I was given the OK, it was go time! There was no way I was going to let the fatigue from sleep deprivation hold me back, as anyone who has ever been deprived of anything for an extended period of time (alcohol, sex, chocolate, and exercise come to mind) understands. I was completely giddy as I slipped on my shoes, started a new playlist on my iPod, and headed out the door in pursuit of the trails. Thank you nana for looking after Axel!
I admit I was scared as I pushed the start button on my Garmin. How would my body feel? Would it hurt? What pace would I run? Would I feel winded? Would I even enjoy it? So many uncertainties flood the mind when you have been separated from the sport you love for several months. It’s been 96 days since I did my last real run (not that I’m counting ☺), and in that time my body went from carrying and giving birth to a 7lb 5oz baby to taking 6-weeks off of any exercise aside from walking. This is the longest I have ever gone without exercising.
So what was it like to run for the first time postpartum? It was a lot of things, including emotional, exciting, challenging, and gratifying. But mostly it was humbling. The first thing I noticed was the huge disconnect between my mind and body. While my mind was excited and in beast mode, my body was instantly in shock. I felt like an old run down car that hadn’t been serviced in years, trying to race in a Formula One event – like Tow Mater trying to keep up with Lightning McQueen. My legs felt stiff and and unsteady, my core felt soft and weak, and my lungs burned almost instantly. This was completely unexpected. I’m not sure what I had anticipated or expected from my first run back, but I thought it would be a little easier and come back naturally. Nope.
I huffed and puffed my way through 3.77 miles and by the time I finished my heart was pounding, I had chaffed in places normally unaffected, and my body was exhausted. Although I ran the entire time, my pace averaged a measly 11:23min/mile, which is incredibly slow for me. As someone who ran a 7:14min/mile 10K less than a year ago, this pace seems like a distant memory.
Everyone says I will get it back, and likely come back stronger, but for now I just need to erase in my mind what once was and start working toward a new “me” as an athlete. I am, for all intents and purposes, starting over in a new body. Not starting completely from scratch, but pretty close. My body will never be the same body it was before having a baby. I will need to get to know it, learn how to work with it, and build from the ground up.
It may sound ridiculous, but for me this simple little run marked the end of one chapter and the beginning of a whole new journey that lies ahead now that “mom” has been officially added to my title. Ironically, a new song popped up on my iPod that seemed to perfectly capture the state I am in at this point in my life. Thank you Christina Perri for reminding me that no matter what obstacles or challenges you face, there is always an opportunity to redefine yourself and start fresh.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear or two during my run. I actually shed many. It felt good to be back out there and return to that piece of myself I had missed for the last 96 days specifically, but really for much longer than that dating back to my pre-pregnancy fitness levels.
Running has always been my happy place, and I simply enjoy the feeling of my feet hitting the pavement, my arms cutting through the air, and my lungs filling up with the fresh air. There’s nothing else like it.
Needless to say, it’s good to be back!