Running After Baby: I’m Faster Now!?!

I need to apologize in advance for three things: 1. I’m recycling photos. 2. It’s REALLY hard to write this without sounding like I’m bragging. That’s not my intention at all, and even though I’ve gotten fastER, it’s not like I’m anywhere near elite status. I’ve just set some new PRs that I’m happy with. 3. I wrote this in list form. I know that’s totally the lazy way to write, but I think this kind of post sort of lends itself to this format

Before I got pregnant, a little part of me wondered if having kids would ruin my body and my ability to run. Despite reassurances from many people, I was still very skeptical. I really shouldn’t have doubted, because I’ve been running better in the past 3 months than I ever did before.
Since having Ellie, I dropped about 25 seconds off my 5K time, 39 seconds off my 10K time, and almost 3 minutes off my half marathon time.

Here are some things that have helped me:

1. Increased red blood cells. When you’re pregnant, your blood volume really increases, and apparently you still have more blood cells for about a year after the kid is born. I hope these faster times don’t just stop after Ellie turns one!

2. I want it more.  There have been times in my past when I took running for granted, and I’ve had more than one episode of burn-out.  But when I stopped running at about 5 months pregnant, I missed it dearly. Now I’m extra committed to running because it’s so amazing to be able to do it again!

3. I make workouts count.  If the only thing standing between me and picking Ellie up from daycare is a tempo run, you better believe I’m going to run that thing FAST!

I also think working full time has been really beneficial. I have to schedule in my workouts, and since the days of a leisurely two hour gym session are long gone, I am really efficient at squeezing in exercise.  15 minutes of pilates core work between putting Ellie down and eating dinner, 45 minutes of intervals on the treadmill, 30 Day Shred at 5 AM before work… I don’t waste time on junk miles  or long rests between sets lifting anymore.

4. Breastfeeding has been good to me.  Weight is kind of a tricky issue.  With my eating-disordered past, I try not to fixate on numbers too much, but now that I’m a couple pounds below pre-pregnancy weight, I’m running better than I ever have before.  I don’t necessarily think dropping weight is a magic bullet for making you faster, but carrying a few pounds around may have been slowing me down before.

5.I didn’t put too much pressure on myself. I have completely psyched myself out during races SO MANY TIMES. The absolute worst was during the district cross country meet my senior year of high school. I started out okay, but mentally I completely fell apart within the first mile. The same thing happened at the district track meet. I put way too much pressure on myself and it messed with my head.

Coming back after having Ellie was pretty much the opposite of that. I put absolutely NO pressure on myself because I’d just had a baby. When my times started improving, I was pleasantly surprised, but didn’t set any crazy goals right away because I genuinely had no idea what my body was capable of.

It’s kind of like how running without your Garmin can make you go so much faster, because you don’t see your pace and freak out about being either too fast or too slow. Because I was still getting back into shape, I didn’t worry too much about my times. (Maybe that analogy doesn’t work at all, but it kind of made sense in my brain…)

6. Pushing the stroller is HARD. The first month I was back to running, pretty much every run was completed while pushing a stroller. It wasn’t easy, but I think it made those runs without the stroller seem much faster!

7. Extra muscle? I weight trained a LOT during pregnancy…and I think that and carrying around the extra weight may have made my legs stronger.

8. I’ve been racing a lot. I have raced almost every weekend since my comeback race 5 weeks after Ellie was born. Racing too often can be a bad idea, but as I was getting back into shape it was extremely motivating. Knowing I had a race to do meant I wouldn’t slack on my mid-week runs, and it was also a great family activity! Seeing my times start to come down only motivated me more.

There is one downside to this whole running-while-nursing business. I’m still not completely comfortable nursing in public, and pumping in public just feels weird. Mike was so kind as to document me hiding behind a tent before the North Face Trail Half. It’s not pretty, but I do what I have to do!

I’m now just beginning to start training for marathon #7 – Big Sur on April 29th. I’m not going for a PR, but I’m excited for my first post-baby marathon!


16 Responses to “Running After Baby: I’m Faster Now!?!”

  1. 1 Jena February 20, 2012 at 4:05 am

    Congrats!! I don’t think you sound braggy at all, just factual! Gaining speed is something to be proud of! It’s an awesome feeling to see your race times drop! I know I want to shout out to the world about how the PRs I’ve set this racing season! Shout it out girl!

  2. 2 Ketty February 20, 2012 at 4:33 am

    You are SO inspiring! I too just had a baby and am training for my first race after I gave birth. All you said in this post is just what I need to hear right now. Thanks so much, Kate 🙂

  3. 3 Vanessa February 20, 2012 at 5:52 am

    I read an article in the German Runner’s World a couple of months back about the benefits of running while pregnant and after. They made a lot of the same points that you made in this post, like how the increase in red blood cells can be advantageous for stronger runs. It’s awesome that your post-partum runs have been so great! PRs are definitely something to be proud of.

  4. 4 Kira February 20, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I’ve been meaning to ask my mom about this since she ran through both of her pregnancies and see what her experience was. It’s so great that you’re doing so well with your running so soon after Ellie’s birth. Maybe one day I’ll be as fast as you! (In my dreams…)

  5. 5 Kabri Lehrman-Schmid February 20, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I hear you about #4 and working hard to maintain the psychological balance today (vs. past struggles) regarding the numbers on the scale. Hope I gain this wonderful perspective when I become a mom! Thanks for sharing … oh and I’m eating some Genki leftovers for breakfast here at work … this salty broth is good electrolyte replenishment after this morning’s Bikram, right?? :p

  6. 6 Audrey February 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Great post, Cate! I’m glad you took the time to share your experience with running during and after pregnancy. It’s something that I think about a lot now that I’m also thinking about kids, so thank you! And many congrats on your recent races, you’ll rock Big Sur!

  7. 7 Joanne February 20, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I don’t think you sound braggy AT ALL. Now that I’m finally really running again after TWO YEARS of injuries, this is definitely a post that I needed to see. I definitely find all of your successes so inspirational!

  8. 8 Angela February 20, 2012 at 11:12 am

    That’s so awesome to hear! (BTW, I hope you *never* feel like you have to apologize for talking about your successes on your blog. You’ve planned & worked hard for them, & sharing what you’ve accomplished with the world is totally what blogs are for!)

  9. 9 natalie (the sweets life) February 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    you are so awesome (not braggy). i love reading about this bc it gives me hope for my future (of course, first have to get pregnant, then have that baby, then get back into running, but you catch my drift :))

  10. 10 RJ (Kids and Cast Iron) February 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Good job. I recently found your blog, my little girl is Ellie as well. I hear you on the BF in public. I was ok with it at first but got some rude stares, even though I was in my car, made me anxious of doing it in an open public setting.

  11. 11 Aron February 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    I love this post. You are freaking awesome my friend and I hope that if/when I am a mom someday I can be just like you 🙂 keep it up!

  12. 12 Angie February 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Thats great to hear. I’m only 9 weeks pregnant and have had such horrible morning sickness and nausea that I’ve barely been able to run. I’ve gone from 30 miles a week to walking 4. I’m finally feeling better and can start running again! How hard is running with a stroller? Which stroller do you have?

  13. 13 Kate February 21, 2012 at 2:21 am

    You know I adore lists – it’s not lazy, it’s just organized! And I also love your reasoning behind the running faster – it all makes so much sense. I kind of thought it was just the weight thing – training/running while carrying a baby being like how swimmers train wearing extra suits/stockings so they’re faster come race day.

  14. 14 Michelle February 21, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I didn’t start running seriously until after having kids – but I agree with all of this! Especially about making it count. Yay for you first post-baby marathon!!

    And this isn’t bragging at all — it’s just the truth 🙂

  15. 15 Bree February 21, 2012 at 11:29 am

    This was so fun to read! I am always happy to hear how so many new mom’s are much better runners post pregnancy. I am hoping the same will be true for me. If anything, not putting pressure on myself like you mentioned will probably be the biggest factor.

    I was sad to give up running around 21 weeks, and have been worried about how long it will take me to get back to where I was after 5+ months. Thanks for the encouragement!

  16. 16 scarlett July 17, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Wow, I just discovered your blog thru roserunner and it’s fantastic. What a great post, not braggy at all, on the contrary it’s inspiring.

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