One of the most difficult things about my both of pregnancies was not being able to run like I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong, I was really fortunate that I was able to run nearly my entire pregnancy when I had my daughter (now age 2), and while I was pregnant with my son (born July 24, 2016).

Running while pregnant is not fun!

When I ran while pregnant it felt slow. It felt awkward.

I constantly felt like I had to pee my pants. Sorry if that’s TMI, but it’s the truth—it was my reality!

Aside from running (generally only once a week while I was pregnant), I used Beachbody programs including Hammer & Chisel, 21 Day Fix & 21 Day Fix Extreme to keep myself active and strong throughout my pregnancy.

I stopped running at 35 weeks when I was pregnant with my daughter. I was actually hospitalized overnight at 35 weeks for low amniotic fluid so my exercise regimen was restricted exclusively to walking. With my son Jameson, I ran all the way until 38 weeks pregnant, but that last run was uncomfortable. My hips ached. I was only running once a week at that point and decided it was my last run, then 6 days later I went into labor.

I actually worked out the morning that my water broke!!

Most obstetricians recommend no physical activity for at least 6 weeks after you have your baby. That allows your body time to recovery properly (and frankly, who has enough energy much before that to workout anyway?! Haha!) But I am not one to enjoy siting still, so I was desperately counting the days until I could workout. Most of all, I was counting the days until I could run without a belly getting in my way.

Looking back now, I’m not sure what is worse… running with the Double Bob stroller or a pregnant belly?!

My last marathon was one I'll always remember

I have run marathons and half marathons before, but hadn’t run more than a 10K (6.2 miles) since having kids. My last marathon was actually the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. A race I will never forget, a race no one will ever forget.

I was so fortunate to have finished the Boston Marathon before the bombs went off that day.

I will always continue to think of and pray for those who were injured or lost their lives during that marathon. Looking back, maybe it was partially subconscious that I hadn’t run another marathon or half marathon. I still get chills every time I hear a fire engine or ambulance. Because on the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, the sirens passed us over, and over, and over again.

We signed up for a half marathon & race day was just 5 months postpartum

I love running and I was dying to get another half marathon under my belt. So I decided that after having our son, I wanted to sign up for a half marathon. My sweet husband, Dan, agreed to run it with me and train along side me. Together, we decided we would race in the Seattle Half Marathon on November 27, 2016, a little over four months after having our son.

I'm most successful when I have a plan in place, workout calendar to follow, a program that tells me exactly what to do and when to do it.

I knew that I would be most successful in getting back into “running shape" if I had a race scheduled and a plan to follow. I've always loved Hal Higdon’s half marathon and marathon training programs. I decided to choose one that had us run just three days a week. We realized very quickly how difficult it would be to get in all of our runs with two kids under 2 years old. Not to mention that it rains quite a bit in Seattle during the months of October and November, which was in the heart of our training!

Training For a Marathon After Giving Birth

In addition to running three days a week, I was concurrently doing Insanity Max30 for the first 60 days of my half marathon training and Core De Force the last 30 days. I have no doubt that these two programs helped me tremendously as I prepared for the half marathon. My core, upper body, and legs got stronger—all of which helped me increase speed on my mile times as the weeks of training progressed. Both Insanity Max30 and Core De Force incorporate Shakeology (a complete nutrition shake packed with 70+ vitamins and minerals) and clean eating. As a nurse, athlete, and health and fitness coach, I know that nutrition is 90% of the battle when it comes to optimizing your metabolism, strength, and endurance.

If you’re training for a marathon or half marathon, I highly recommend Insanity Max30 and Core De Force… and of course Shakeology which is sooo much better in fueling your body than those protein shakes you’ve probably been trying!

I was determined to get to race day with ultimately two goals in mind:

  1. Train well and stay injury free.
  2. Finish the race.

Training was not easy. It took time. It took dedication. Some days I was so tired (what did I expect with a newborn?!) that it felt impossible to get my legs to move fast enough to jog. The weather quickly turned to darker evenings and rainy days, making it less appealing to push a stroller.

When I would tell people that I had signed up for a half marathon, they would ask which one. “The Seattle Marathon? That’s hilly. Have you run it before?” I had, but it was my first marathon and was in 2008, eight years ago. Needless to say, I quickly was questioning my decision. What if I couldn’t finish? What if I wasn’t happy with how I did? But I decided to push my fears aside and just do what I always do in life: my best.

So how did we train for a half marathon with 2 kids?

My husband and I decided that on Tuesday and Thursday mornings we would run first thing when we work up. He would leave at 5am, I would breastfeed my son and head out as soon as Dan got home. I would then return just in time for my husband to leave for work. By doing this, our workout was done before the kids even woke. Though I missed running with my husband on those days, there was something so freeing and peaceful about running alone in the dark. It was a time to clear my head, have time to myself, and push myself to my limits.

It became somewhat of a friendly competition between my husband and I. He would tell me how fast his minute per mile pace was for his run and I would try to match it. Ironically, we were typically within seconds of each other.

Our third run for the week was on Saturday. For those who haven’t trained for a marathon, the “long” run of the week is typically on the weekend. For the first few weeks we were able to push the stroller for these runs. They were varyed in length from 6-8 miles. That was literally the maximum amount of time that A.) our nearly 2 year old would tolerate in the stroller and B.) the time between breastfeeding sessions that our son could go. We quickly learned that if we played "princess music" on Pandora (aka the Let it Go station from the movie Frozen), Brooklyn, our daughter, could be entertained for the entirety of the 8 miles.

Because Let it Go is exactly what every parent wants to listen to during their workout, right? Haha!!

Tackling the longer runs took help

When our runs extended to those 9 to 12-mile runs, we had to get creative. We could have run separately, but part of what I loved about half marathon training with my husband is being able to run together. In the months of adjusting to being parents of two kids instead of one, it was truly a wonderful bonding time for the two of us. I always tell him that he is my favorite workout partner.

So what was our solution? The Grandparents.

We were very thankful to have Dan’s parents come hangout at the house while we ran (and the kids slept). We'd try to leave our house by 6:30am on Saturday morning so that we were home just before the kids woke up. This meant were able to get our workout in, but could still have the entire weekend to hang out as a family. On a few occasions, we even hired a sitter to do the same. Crazy? Maybe. But, it was important to us to have that time for ourselves, but at the same time not miss out on too much time with our kids. Plus, for anyone who has run 9+ miles, it is certainly more fun when you’re running with someone else!

We often got asked the same question: “What is your goal?” My answer was always the same: to finish and be injury free.

Finally, Race Day Was Nearing

As race day approached, I decided that I would set a goal time of 1:45 minutes for the half marathon. It meant that we would run 8-minute miles. I told my husband I would be thrilled to be able to run 8-minute miles for my first half marathon after babies.

I hadn’t slept very well for weeks leading up to the race as our son was going through a sleep regression. Waking every 3 hours at night was beginning to take its toll. I truly believe Jameson was determined for me to have no excuses come race day and he slept 6 hours straight on the night before the race. Hallelujah! We spent the night prior at my parent’s house as they so graciously offered to watch our kids while we ran our race.

The day arrived and I was beyond nervous

I honestly wanted to throw up! I always get nervous for races, but I was especially nervous about this one. The course was hilly. This was my first half marathon in over three years. What if I couldn’t finish?

I couldn’t have asked for a better race day, it was cold (but not rainy). I wore “throwaway” clothes for the first few miles, which was a long sleeved shirt and gloves that I ended up tossing on the side of the road and leaving. Using “throwaway clothes” was a trick I learned throughout the years as a way to stay warm for the first few miles of the race when you don’t have family or friends waiting with you at the start line. Does anyone else do the same?

There were people lining the course in various spots cheering us on. I felt strong and fresh, I kept kept eyeing my watch as we were staying on pace to hit our goal. The only bad thing about running post-babies is that it meant I had to stop to use the restroom… twice. And my amazing husband decided to wait for me (despite my insistence for him to keep going). So a quick pit stop at miles 4 and 10 and we were back on our way. With 2 miles to go, I realized we were well on our way to finishing under 1:45, but that if we pushed it hard to the end, we would both run a personal record (PR) for our half marathons.

Hooray! We did it!

I kept replaying a quote over and over in my head, “When your legs give out. Run with your heart.” I crossed the finish line at 1:39:39, just 2 seconds faster than my previous PR. Dan finished 6 seconds ahead of me. Most of all, I was just ecstatic that we had finished—I had done my best. We quickly raced home to see our kids and have brunch with my parents.

Would I do it again?

I am not going to lie, It’s not easy to train for a half marathon right after you have a baby. But is it worth it? Absolutely.

So now what? We still trade off running at 5 and 6 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are part of a triathlon club on Sundays where we swim 40 minutes, bike 40 minutes, and run 3.1 miles. I just started my second round of Core De Force, and am looking forward to incorporating the “deluxe workouts” into this round for an extra challenge!

And, I am trying to convince my husband to train for another half marathon with me. HA!

What was your experience like getting back into working out after having a child? Did you jump back in full-force? Or take your time? What would you recommend to other new moms?