Running as Postpartum Therapy
Hey there runners! Kristin Ferrell here. I’m a blessed mama of two boys – who I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. They are ages two and brand-spankin’ new and they are everything good about my husband and I. I cherish all of our time together as a stay-at-home mom, but my thoughts race about their safety sometimes. I experienced postpartum anxiety after both of them were born via c-section. And with my youngest only 8 weeks old – I’m still working through these feelings of anxiousness.
Postpartum Anxiety and Running
I’ve had anxiety for some time now, but being a mama has really brought it out of me. I feel this pressure as a new mama – to be everything to these little boys. After all, they depend on me for everything – for food, for comfort, for baths and for love – what would happen if something happened to me? Is the bath water too hot? Is the swaddle too tight? Are the chemicals in these diapers going to give them cancer? Are they breathing? Am I breathing? Can we leave the house? The worry can be really overwhelming at times. I let these anxious questions come and go and I try to hush them away. It’s hard though! The feelings never truly leave and I spend some of the best moments with my babies worrying that something bad is going to happen. The anxiety steals my joy so quickly, and it can be debilitating at times. It keeps me from leaving the house and even wakes me up in the middle of the night, panicking. When I get this way, I know that I need to get back into my safe space: my running space; where nobody, no thoughts, no feelings can touch me. For more than 15 years, running has been my outlet. It is my coping mechanism to overcome anything and everything. When I was stressed in college, I ran. When I went through a bad breakup, I ran. When I suffered grief from loss, I ran. When I was laid off from work, I ran. And now, fighting postpartum anxiety a second time, the only thing I know to do is run.
Running After Major Surgery
Getting back into running after a C-Section though – can be a little rough. I was cleared by my doctor to start working out again after six weeks of recovery. So of course on week six, day one I found myself on the treadmill eager to get back at it. My first run wasn’t pretty, and the ones that have come after that haven’t been either. It was discouraging at first and even added to my anxiety a bit. Because that is what anxiety does right? It seeps in and tries to control every part of our lives, even the parts we try to use to fight it. It’s a deep dark hole that I’m still learning to climb out of. But for now, I’m trying to listen to my body and just do what feels good – both mentally and physically. Which admittedly includes taking a step back sometimes. Here are my tips for getting back into running after a C-Section, or any other major surgery/setback from your running routine. (I am writing these as reminders for myself just as much as I’m writing them for other runners. Us runners – we are SO stubborn!):
Get cleared by your doctor. Everyone’s body heals differently and the last thing you want to do is prolong your recovery or create post surgery complications. A C-Section takes 6-8 weeks to fully recover. Sometimes doctors recommend a full three months of recovery before running.
Start Slow. It’s easy to want to pick up where you left off pre-surgery, but you have to remember your body has been through some major surgery. In the case of a C-Section – your abdominal muscles have been cut, pulled and stretched! Don’t push it.
Cross Train. Cross Train, Cross Train, and Cross Train! Cross training can still produce those feel good endorphins that we all love! And it can help strengthen those weak muscles. Try riding a stationary bike, swimming or core strengthening.
Listen to Your Body. If it hurts – STOP.
Don’t get discouraged about distance or time. Your body is still healing, so you might not be able to run as far or as fast as you did pre-surgery. Just know that will come in time, and in the meantime, don’t let yourself be discouraged.
Running has been the best postpartum therapy to help clear my mind and reduce my anxiety. I get caught up in that rhythmic beat of putting one foot in front of the other, and my thoughts can’t get to me there. It’s my safe haven; my shield against anxious thoughts; my shelter from every storm life has thrown my way. The distances aren’t as far as I’d like them to be (yet), and the times aren’t as fast (yet), but I’m learning to use running as part of my active recovery therapy. I’m just taking it one day and one baby at a time.
Goals for 2019
My main goal this year is to run my first full marathon!! I actually just registered last week for the Columbus Marathon this fall and I’m panicking a little bit. My body is nowhere near race shape, but I’m committed and trying to stay positive. Since this is my first year without a full-time office job, I’m really looking forward to training and giving it all I’ve got. 2019 is my year!