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- 21 Apr 17

Now the rollercoaster-ride of having a newborn is becoming a distant memory (sob and sigh of relief simultaneously), I’ve had time to reflect on what I’ve learned from my slow but steady return to running since having a baby.

  1. I have a new found respect for my body after pregnancy and birth. In the words of the amazing spoken word poet Hollie McNish mothers are ‘real life transformers’!
  2. That said, having a baby left me feeling at once powerful and slightly broken. Between separated abdominal muscles and the fear that every time I sneezed my reproductive organs were going to fall out, I didn’t run for six months. At first I just shuffled slowly around the house and held onto my crotch in a bizarre kind of reflex reaction to the pressure. I could imagine David Attenborough narrating “the female here protects her genitalia after the intensity of birthing her young leaves her feeling vulnerable”. As an active person, the lack of mobility was disconcerting.
  3. There’s no rush! The pavements, park, hills, treadmill (delete as appropriate) are not going anywhere. In the months after having my son the last thing I wanted to do was run. And getting back to it too soon can do more damage than good. I found a mix of walking and yoga was the ideal exercise for the first six months. In particular Yin yoga – the perfect mix of relaxation and gentle stretching – a ‘nap on steroids’ if you will!
  4. I think I’ve always known on some level but for me, childbirth has provided me with lived experience that the mind and body are so strongly connected. These days when I’m running and trying to compete with myself I’m acutely aware my mind can help or hinder. After giving birth I’ll still reeling off the feeling of, “look what your body is capable of!” so I’m trying to harness this feeling while it lasts and kick some PB ass.
  5. When I’m really pushing myself it’s all about distraction. Think Hypnobirthing but for running. If I can find a way to distract myself from every fibre of my being crying out in pain then I’m winning. So when I’m at Parkrun each week I play mind games. I see the two bridges that will lead me to the home straight and in my head I start singing “Two Ladies” from the Liza Minnelli musical “Cabaret” substituting in the lyrics “two bridges”! This keeps me amused for a while until I come-to from my surreal day-dreaming and realise my body hurts like hell and beg for the finish line to be in sight.
  6. There are challenges – the discomfort and indignity of having to squeeze my pelvic floor to stop pee coming out every time I attempt a sprint finish. And I am yet to get round to finding appropriate support for what I call my ‘working’ boobs. Two low impact sports bras – one of top of the other and a few cup sizes too small – is not good breast health people!
  7. There are rewards – ahhhh… time to myself baby free! A chance to clear my head, blow off some steam and those sweet sweet post-run endorphins.
  8. There is humour. I meet up with a group of friends pre-run (mainly other mums) and we are able to laugh as we compare night-wakings, sick kids and general level of sleep deprivation. But each week we put one foot in front of the other and there’s always one of them in front of me for inspiration.
  9. And it’s not just a birth hormone… if Oxytocin is produced through social bonding then there’s nothing like the camaraderie of sitting in a warm café after freezing your ass off while running on a cold winter morning, waiting for the results to come in. There is a spirit of friendly competition and we have the type of post-run analysis that we find strangely fascinating but for most would be a cure for insomnia.
  10. It’s about community. You don’t need to run alone (unless you want to!). There are groups, clubs and organised weekly runs no matter where you live or what your fitness level. From Mums on the Run in Scotland to Parkrun across the UK. My local Portobello Parkrun has become something I look forward to every week. I love the fact that it’s such an open community: there are fast runners, leisurely strollers and those with dogs and buggies. It’s just a really positive way to start the weekend.

 

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Hi, my name is Rachel and I live in Scotland with my husband and baby boy. I'm interested in exploring pregnancy, birth and parenthood through a feminist lens. I'm an advocate of positive birth and breastfeeding. And although my birth or breastfeeding journey was far from plain sailing, I am proud to be part of a community of mothers at http://tellmeagoodbirthstory.com and https://www.laleche.org.uk I write at www.feministparent.com and you can follow me on twitter at feministparent1

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