Dear new runners, come-back-from-injury runners, trying-to-lose-weight runners or any runners who have had to start running from scratch:
I have the utmost respect for you. It is not an easy task! I’ve been humbled, frustrated and amazed at what the body is capable of doing, and not doing.
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I’ve been running since I was about seven years old and miraculously have been injured, to the point where I could only cross train, a total of three times in my entire career, but I’ve never actually taken more than a few weeks off of total training — until now. So here I am, an Olympic runner, with more Olympic dreams on my mind, yet my fitness is that of a beginner runner.
Fortunately, I was able to stay decently fit throughout my pregnancy. But, since I had to cut down on moderate exercise quite a bit in the final month and then couldn’t do much more than walking post-C-section for another month, I now have to go back to basics.
So what does that mean? Well, I’ve heard horror stories of women coming back to training post-pregnancy too quickly, so I’ve been trying to do things right. From my understanding (and now experience), the biggest challenge is retraining and strengthening all the lower abdomen muscles and ligaments that have been stretched out or not used as much as usual.
This is where I’m fortunate enough to have lots of experts helping me out. I’ve been working very closely with my physiotherapist, massage therapist, chiropractor and strength and conditioning coaches to make sure I’m targeting my weak areas. I also need to give a special thanks to my fellow mama runners Lauren Fleshman, Ingvill Makestad and Krista Duchene who have all given me extremely valuable advice on coming back to running post-baby. I’ve now spent hours in the gym learning to engage tiny little muscles in my pelvis and core so I can regain the stability that are so important in running and injury prevention.
5 weeks: 3 x 60 minutes easy walking, 1 x elliptical, 1 x walk with 5 x 1 minutes run/5 minutes walk
6 weeks: 2 x 60 minutes easy walking, 1 x 60 minutes bike, 2 x 40 minutes walk with 4 x 2 minutes run/5 minutes walk
7 weeks: 2 x 60 minutes easy walking, 1 x 60 minutes bike, 2 x 40 minutes walk with 4 x 2 minutes run/3 minutes walk
8 weeks: 2 x 60 minutes easy walking, 1 x 60 minutes bike, 2 x 40 minutes walk with 4 x 3 minutes run/2 minutes walk
9 weeks: 1 x 60 mintues easy walking, 1 x 60 minutes bike, , 2 x 40 minutes walk 3x 5 minutes run/2 minutes walk
10 weeks: 3 x: 1 x 30 minutes elliptical + treadmill 4 x 5 minutes run/2 minutes walk
I followed a similar pattern working up to 10 minute runs, until I got up to 40 minutes of running twice a week. I was finally feeling like I was getting back into things when I started getting knee pain. It got bad enough that I had to stop running for three more weeks and only cross train. I had to take a few steps back and focus on my stability more, so that my body was better able to handle the load of running.
I’m going into such detail because I want you to realize that even elite athletes are human and have to start from scratch to build their body and fitness back after time off. It’s not easy for anyone!
I’m now been 15 weeks and I’m starting back running slowly (again!) but this time I feel fitter from cross training and stronger from being in the gym. It’s been difficult to have patience but I know that I have to go through this process of feeling like running is very hard work before I can get fit and back to normal. I’m sure it will take several months until I feel like myself again but it will all be worth it if I can get back to a competitive level of racing.
Of course, there are no guarantees but I’m up for the challenge and very motivated to get back to the world-class level. And so my long road to Rio 2016 begins!