shelby3I’ve been a runner for the past 15 years. What started out as a high school extracurricular activity turned into a college career at the University of Maine at Orono. After college, I ran in road races and half marathons. In the spring of 2012, I ran my first marathon at Sugarloaf and qualified for the Boston Marathon 2013. The year of 2012 was fabulous, I felt great; on top of the world.

Which is one of the reasons why my husband and I decided it was time to add a baby to our lives.

This is where my running finally took a back seat. I had dreams of becoming one of those intense pregnant running ladies who runs her whole pregnancy, competing in marathons and road races. Not so…I tried and tried to keep running, but with the heat of summer, the morning sickness, and the fear of miscarriage, I tapered off. Then stopped altogether. AND IT WAS GOOD.

I had no idea what my body would be like after the changes and growth of pregnancy. Trying to be gentle on my joints and with the extra weight (36 lbs) I walked some to keep my fitness up. Sometimes I didn’t do any exercise for weeks on end. I relaxed and let my body heal from its long years of abuse through running.

Audrey, our little 7.6lb bundle of joy, was born in early April after a long labor. Just days prior to her birth I had created a training plan for post-pregnancy fitness in hopes to get in shape fast. I soon forgot those plans! I had duties as a mother to attend to; learning how to properly breastfeed, understanding Audrey’s cues, and changing diapers. And I had to figure out how to maintain a loving relationship with my husband now that we were three. It was confusing during those early weeks and I was happy to put running and fitness on the back burner while my body healed.

At six weeks postpartum, I was cleared for running by my midwife. Luckily I was given a beautiful BOB jogging stroller as a baby shower gift and Audrey joined me on my early runs. At first I started off slow, a half mile to a mile. Then I worked myself up to four miles. By week 12 postpartum, I ran the Bay of Fundy International 10k in Lubec. And although it wasn’t easy, I felt great!

What I’ve learned about postpartum exercise and fitness:

  1. Set goals and achieve them. Set goals that can be achieved. I set goals to run the Bay of Fundy 10k in June (success!) and the MDI Half Marathon in October.
  2. Start out slow to gauge your fitness level. I ran slow and short miles to see what my body would be able to do. You can start out by walking or hiking, gaining a little more distance every week.
  3. Find an exercise routine that works with your life. I like running 3-4 miles a day because I know exactly how much time it is going to take me and I can easily fit my busy schedule around that. On Sundays I try to get a long run in…, but sometimes that doesn’t happen! But I don’t get discouraged about it, I just try again the next day.
  4. Exercise with your baby. After running with Audrey in the stroller, I do body weight squats, push-ups and sit-ups with her. At 15 lbs, she is a great weight!
  5. Don’t be stubborn. Don’t stick with an exercise routine you hate. Don’t say, “I’ll start tomorrow”. START TODAY. If motivation is an issue, join a Mother’s group to find encouragement and motivation.
  6. Never say, “I can’t”. You can! You helped create life and brought a beautiful child into the world! I pushed for 4 hours trying to get my baby out. It was exhausting and in my head, I constantly said “I can’t”. But I didn’t vocalize those words since it would have given them power over me. You CAN do it.
  7. The key to being active is to just get out there and do it. If you are postpartum and feeling especially overwhelmed, head out to the Sunrise Trails with your baby, take a deep breath, and enjoy the fresh air. Your baby is breathing that air too. Your baby wants you to be happy and healthy as much as you want to see your child grow and thrive.

I feel that it is important for children to observe their parents taking part in healthy fitness activities. It positively impacts children to see their parents active and healthy. And although my baby is still small, she is observing her environment and my actions. There will be a time when she will want to be just like her momma. I want to help her make healthy choices which means I have to make healthy choices.