Tuesday Training Tip: Finding Joy in Running

Jolena is a roommate from way back when and one of my original running inspirations. When we lived together, she would wake up in the cold, dark winter mornings, bundle up and put in several miles before heading off to school for a full day of classes and homework. She is the first person I actually knew who qualified for (and ran) the Boston Marathon. And she was there when I crossed the finish line at the Utah Valley Marathon a couple of weeks ago. She is also a new mom and struggling to get back into running.

She’s asked for some help in overcoming her struggles, because, like so many of us, she wants to run. But she only has so much energy and her little person is taking the lions share of it. Here are her specific questions: “What are some things I can do to enjoy running again?  I’m not getting nearly enough sleep, though it’s getting better. [ . . . ] What are good ways to have enough energy? Food tips? Training tips?”

I’ve been thinking about this for the past week and I feel like I’m coming up short. Here are some of my initial thoughts. Please add your ideas and experiences in the comments section.

  • try to get out during the time when you have the most energy, whether it be after the first morning feeding or last thing at night.
  • think of it as a special treat. Running is a time when you get to listen to your music as loud as you want, to “dress up” in clothes that don’t smell like milk or have spit up on them, to be wild and free and forget, if only for 30 minutes, that you are supposed to be really tired.
  • find a friend who needs you to support her in her running goals. Or allow yourself to be the friend that needs support. I always underestimate the amount of energy I get from talking to other adults without having to worry about kids.
  • make a challenging but doable goal, set a date, and mark it on the calendar. As a runner, a 5K may seem too short of a distance to have to really work toward, and a half-marathon might seem overwhelming right at first, but maybe there’s a 10K you can test your mettle with to see if you really are ready to get back into running.
  • make it a game to regain some of your old strength and stamina. Go out for an easy run to get a baseline of what you are capable of and then try to improve it over the next few months. Treat yourself to something when you reach your goal.

Does anybody else have any ideas for Jolena? I’m sure there are some of you who have experienced the post-baby energy-suck. How did you overcome it? Do you have any ideas about fueling for the run? How do you find joy in running when you have hardly any energy to give to it?

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4 Comments

  1. for me, it was to take it a LOT slower than i thought i’d have to. and that 5k felt like a huge accomplishment after two months–much harder than the ragnar race i just ran. once i stopped being disappointed in my shortcomings as a runner, i liked it more 15 minutes without stopping was a big deal, then three miles, etc. but i had a really really hard time feeling like a runner again, so that may not be helpful for a more hardcore mom. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Jolena Ashman Reply:

    oops, didn’t mean to post that twice. Melissa, I don’t feel like a hardcore mom these days, so your advice is great. Just getting out the door is a huge feat right now since it hasn’t happened yet. 🙂

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    Oh, and now I’m realizing that I didn’t get a chance to go running with you while I was there. I hope you’ve been able to go out, at least for a little bit!

    [Reply]

    Jolena Ashman Reply:

    I have gone twice this week. Feels great! Can’t wait to get past the beginning soreness and tired lungs, but I’m excited to be getting back in shape.

    lizzie Reply:

    I hope things are still going well!

    lizzie Reply:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m totally impressed with your determination.

    [Reply]

  2. Lizzie, this makes me feel so warm and fuzzy! Thanks for the shout out! Just you posting this will get me off my bum and out the door hopefully. Oh, and my husband wants to start running with me again. That ought to help.

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    Hooray for husbands. It does help to have a running buddy so close . . . most of the time. 🙂

    [Reply]

  3. I second the suggestion to sign up for a race. I did my first (and only) race about six months after my daughter was born. It wasn’t long, only an 8K, but the course was fun, challenging, and beautiful. I only did the bare minimum for training. Seriously, I only ran about three times a week at the height of my training, and the only reason I did that was because my husband was constantly reminding me that I really did want to go running, and that I really would feel better even if I just ran around the block a couple times.

    And now for my own request for post partum running advice. This is a little embarrassing to admit, but my bladder control has never been the same since having a baby (a year ago). It’s usually not a problem until I start running downhill, and then I’m in trouble. Anyone else have this problem? Did it just go away with time, or did you have to double your kegel exercises?

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    I hear you on the bladder issues. I think a lot of things change after baby. I still don’t feel like I’m 100% back to where I was before motherhood, but I am trying to adapt to a new “normal,” basically by convincing myself that there’s nothing to get rid of before I go for a run.

    It’s a good topic to discuss . . . I’ll do some research and see if I can’t find out more about it.

    [Reply]

  4. No real help or advice here since I’m 5 months post partum and find it extremely tricky. For me it’s the unreliable schedule that thwarts my efforts and best intentions. With a nursing baby who still wakes throughout the night and a husband on rotating pharmacy rotations, it’s hard to know when or if I’ll be able to fit a run in.

    My greatest motivator is to log the runs I am able to do and how I felt during and after them– which is almost always a good feeling. Reviewing that makes me want to feel awesome again and that helps me get out the door. Plus it helps me celebrate the successes I do accomplish instead of focusing on how I wish I was back to my old form and doing better.

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    I think that you have some great advice. It’s really helpful to hear what other moms are struggling with and how they make it through. I’m sure I’ll come back to this at some point in my life.

    [Reply]

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