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  • Writer's picturethe_uphill_runner

Running On Empty

As a new mum re-starting my running journey, there are often many more obstacles to overcome before I even step out of the door than there were pre-baby. It’s not a case of simply putting on my trainers, downloading the next podcast episode and setting off any more. Before I can even think about pressing record on Strava, I have to think about whether the timing fits with Max’s next feed or nap time, make sure he’s clean and dressed for the weather and wrestle the pram out of the door. And even if I manage all that, I still have to somehow get my own running gear on and brush my hair whilst simultaneously making sure Max keeps out of mischief - easier said than done when he’s pulling himself up on every piece of furniture he can get his hands on or crawl after the cat. It’s a workout in itself!

For breastfeeding mums, although it’s important, it can also be hard to make sure you’re eating and hydrating enough to not only keep yourself and your baby nourished but also to fuel a sweaty exercise session. Yet another thing to make time for!

Reminiscing about pre-baby runs

Couple the extra effort involved in preparing for each run with the fact that there are very few (if any) real life races or events to put in the diary in the immediate future and I’m sure you’ll understand why sometimes I wonder if it’s actually all worth it. Of course, the main reason I run is because I enjoy it, but I do also enjoy having a goal to work towards or a training plan to guide me. I really miss parkrun in particular, and the feeling of community it brings. The volunteers cheering you on and the fact that you can turn up at the same time every Saturday and feel that instant connection with other runners. And this lack of real connection or the build up to a big event or race can really affect my motivation. However, a perk of less races taking place in lockdown means that there is reduced time pressure to complete any training by a certain date. And the last thing us mums need to be doing is putting more pressure on ourselves.

Very often (and especially on social media), we can be subjected to extreme guilt if we do decide that perhaps today isn’t the day for a run. We repeatedly hear the message that we’ll feel better for having done those few minutes of exercise and we’ll come to regret abandoning a session before even beginning it. I’m actually a great believer in the mental health benefits of running, fresh air or any sort of exercise, and there are very few runs I really do regret afterwards, but sometimes it pays to realise that a cancelled run can be just as beneficial for your mental health as a completed run. You know your body best, so listen to it. Especially for new mums, there are days when it’s absolutely worth cancelling a run to catch up on sleep, as long nights of interrupted sleep definitely take their toll. Motherhood is hard. Juggling parenting, exercise and all the rest of life’s demands is hard.

Missing the parkrun community

The lesson here is you don’t have to do it all. Allow yourself to rest and reset when you need to. Your trainers will still be there tomorrow, next week or whenever your body and mind are ready to go again. Pressing pause on your training whenever you need to will actually make you more likely to return to running more consistently in the long term than if you keep pushing yourself until you reach the point of exhaustion. Forgive yourself for not always sticking to the plan you had in your head for that day. It’s impossible to keep going if you're running on empty.

Despite there not being many real life races getting the go ahead at the moment, there is a plethora of virtual events ranging from Strava Art challenges to the Land's End to John O'Groats Virtual Challenge. So if you are looking for a little motivation boost in lockdown then signing up for whatever takes your fancy is bound to do the trick. Personally, I’m hoping to sign up to complete an, as yet undecided, quantity of miles in March through Race At Your Pace. Unlike the races I’ve taken part in before, there’s no pressure to complete a certain number of miles on a certain day, you can tick them off as and when you can throughout the month. It doesn’t deny you the chance to rest, reset, refuel or reschedule. For new mums like me, it’s ideal.

Have you completed any virtual races this lockdown? Let me know in the comments.

If you'd like to know more about my postpartum running journey, please click here. Or if you're more interested in why I love parkrun, read more here.

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