The challenges of running with a young baby
Updated: Jan 5
Find something that works and do that until it doesn’t work anymore. Then find something else.
My brother, who has a three year old, said something like that to me early on after my daughter was born. It was in the context of parenting in general, but it has also been relevant for my post pregnancy running lately.
I have done many updates lately about how my training is going, partly because it feels like it’s been a bit of a mess.
This is coming from someone who loves having routine in my training, and I won’t lie, I find it hard without it.
It shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ve got a young baby. I even talked about how important it was to be flexible in my routine in a blog post I did last year.
But for some reason, being out of routine hit me pretty hard over the last couple of months.
I had been going along pretty well, running at the gym most mornings and doing parkrun as part of a longer run. It was simple but it worked at the time. And then things changed.
I posted about it on Instagram in January, this is what I said:
There have been so many times lately when I’ve set my alarm to try to do a morning run, but haven’t had the energy to get up. I used to be a morning runner and found it easiest when it was part of my routine.
I had a routine going towards the end of last year, which mostly involved running on the treadmill while Beth napped in the crèche. It was working well.. until it wasn’t. The crèche closed over Christmas, Beth’s nap schedule changed a bit, I wanted to start running longer than a standard booking allowed and heat/smoke have made pram running difficult. It threw everything out and I’ve been all over the place ever since. I think it’s largely why I’ve been struggling lately.
I’d love to get back into consistent morning runs, but it feels so hard at the moment on limited sleep. Managed to make it out on Wednesday morning and took this pic. But in general at the moment, our ‘routine’ has been squeezing things in when we can. I’ll keep setting my alarm, maybe it will get easier soon!
There are probably a few key things that contributed to how I was feeling:
I had thought of 2019 as rebuilding my volume, and January and February as when I would get my key marathon sessions in. That probably led to me wanting to train in the same format as I did for my previous marathons (sessions on weekday mornings). It was disheartening when I was constantly too tired to get out the door for them.
Before Christmas, I had consistently been able to rely on Beth having her morning nap in the pram at the creche. I should have known it would never always be that easy! We went through a few times of her being drowsy on the way in, then waking up. And another few of me doing laps of the park before I went in, trying unsuccessfully to get her to sleep. Both resulted in an overtired baby later on.
I knew when I entered a trail race that I wasn’t going to get to do much training on trails. It takes a big chunk of the day to drive there and back and do the run. It’s a bit much with a small baby. I picked out two events to include in my training, hoping that would be enough. When the second one was cancelled, I was scrambling to find something to replace it. There were plenty of options, and while in the past I would have just jumped in the car and gone, these days it takes a bit more planning. How far is the drive, what time do I need to wake up, should I feed or pump, will Marty and Beth meet me there or just stay home. It would always end up in the too hard basket, I’d get frustrated that I couldn’t commit to anything and I’d just do my local road run. Great for fitness but not race specific.
Between all of those things, I found myself in a situation where the running schedule that had been working for me, wasn’t anymore.
It’s definitely not all bad.
It occurred to me recently that I’ve been running for six months since Beth was born now. I’m really happy with what I’ve achieved in that time:
Increased my volume enough that I’m confident I can run a marathon
Gone to parkrun most weeks with a quickest time of 18.06
Ran a half marathon in 84.31
Ran a 10km at 13 weeks pp
Mastered running with a pram (though not very quickly!)
But adjusting to some of the things I have been struggling with in my Instagram post has been a challenge. Since then, not a lot has changed. My training has been pretty sporadic, with lots of changing and moving things to fit it all in.
But there are the ways I have found (or tried to find) to make things work better again:
Not trying to plan more than a week in advance. Sometimes I’m even planning what I’m doing the next day the night before. It’s not what I’m used to, but at least I know it will most likely happen.
This means I’ve really had to be flexible with my schedule. When I look back at what I’ve done in the last few months, there are weeks with no sessions, weeks with multiple sessions, sessions at different times of the day, sessions on whichever day of the week they best fit in. It’s probably not something I’ll keep doing as Beth gets older, not for now at least it means I am getting the training in.
Accepting that if I’m too tired to get up when my alarm goes off, I’m too tired to run. As much as I’d love to be in my morning routine, there is no point forcing something I’m too tired for.
Having back up plans in place if I don’t manage to wake up. Sometimes that means a run when my husband gets home. Other times it means making a crèche booking and using it for a run if needed, or strength work if I do manage to wake up for a run.
Changing the time of my crèche bookings to after Beth’s nap time. It seems to work better when she naps at home in the morning and I take her the crèche ready to play.
Accepting that I might need to run less volume if I’m really tired. This often means letting my body make the decision if I rest or do a recovery run. In the past, I’d very rarely skip it. But if I’ve already had a big week and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open, I won’t go.
Trying to cut down the number of things I’m doing overall. This isn’t really running related, but it doesn’t help with energy levels if I’m rushing home from the gym, trying to shower, get Beth ready and go out somewhere else. It’s not possible to do everything, and sometimes things need to be put on hold while you’ve got a lot going on. Another reason why I haven’t updated my blog in awhile!
So while this post has helped me sort out why I’ve struggled with not being in a training routine, it does seem like it’s going to be awhile before I can get back into one.
A big part of this is changing my expectations, and it’s given me a few things to think about if I attempt a road marathon later this year.
But in the meantime, hopefully my mish mash of training will be enough to get me through my first big postpartum race next month!