10 Tips on Training for a Marathon after Having a Baby

When I learned my baby’s due date was August 13, 2021, I planned to use the 3 months between giving birth and October’s Grand Rapids Marathon to train for the long jog with my baby. 

Turns out, I didn’t run the marathon 3 months after birthing my daughter. It took over a year after she was born to run my first postpartum marathon.

This timeline doesn’t make it less of a success story. The months I took to rebuild my body and learn how to merge running with motherhood is what made running a marathon after giving birth possible.

If you’re reading this because you’re training for a marathon with a baby, you’re in the right place. Keep reading!

Bri terry and her daughter crossing the finish line at the Grand Rapids Marathon
Bri Terry completing her first postpartum marathon with her daughter in 2022.

How do I train for a marathon after giving birth?

Training for a marathon when you have a baby takes time, energy, and an overhaul of what your pre-baby self knew as a workout schedule. It also takes compassion, flexibility, and patience.

Before You Begin...

●  Give yourself time to heal.

●  Check in with your pelvic floor and core muscles.

●  Start with walk-run intervals.

●  Incorporate strength-building exercises.

Training around your baby’s schedule and running with a buggy will make your workouts feel different, but it’s important remember those workouts—as sluggish as they feel—are nurturing your fitness goals.

When Can I Start Running after Giving Birth?

Usually, moms can start running 6-8 weeks following a vaginal birth and 11-12 weeks after a c-section. Still, there are factors that delay when you can start running postpartum:

●  Difficulty of delivery (c-sections and other birthing injuries need more time to heal)

●  Your fitness level before and during pregnancy

●  Excess scaring in the pelvic area

●  Postpartum depression

●  Diastasis recti (separation of abdominal muscles)

●  Lack of support from others

If you’ve been cleared by your doctor, but are unsure if your body is ready, test yourself by walking for 30 minutes. If you can do this comfortably without pelvic pain (pressure or tearing sensations), you’re ready to add short jogging intervals to your stride. 

Can You Breastfeed and Train for a Marathon?

You certainly can! Training for a marathon while breastfeeding does not affect the production, taste, or nutrients in your breast milk. 

Nursing sports bras and portable breast pumps give new moms training for a marathon accommodations to nursing schedules and breast discomfort. Feed or pump before long runs to avoid engorged breasts or clogged ducts.

Ultra Runner, Stephanie Northway, took breaks to nurse her newborn while running half and full marathons postpartum. When she ran a half marathon that didn’t allow strollers, she pumped during the race with her portable electric breast pump.

Keep in mind breastfeeding takes energy (it burns 250-500 extra calories per day, after all). Make sure you stay hydrated, nourish your body, and allow yourself to rest—it’s okay to skip a run so you can rest.

Active mom running with baby jogging stroller

How to Fit in Running with Busy Family Schedule?

Fitting training runs into a packed family schedule takes creativity and Tetris-level time management. Here are some tips:

Run Errands (Literally!)

OTM Founder, Charli Rohn, incorporates training runs with errands like running to the grocery store or post office. Don’t worry about being sweaty—Walmart is not going to judge your post-run shimmer.

Schedule Your Training

Know your family’s schedule and where you can fit a training run. Plan with your partner, and alternate days you exercise so you can both meet your workout goals.

Just Commit to 20 Minutes

Marathon training sessions don’t need to last hours. Twenty minutes of activity is more sustainable when you’re juggling a busy family schedule.

How to Find Time to Run without Baby?

When you need a break from training for a marathon with a stroller, knowing your little bundle’s eating and sleeping patterns helps you find time for solo runs. If your baby’s naptime routine is predictable, plan to run while baby is asleep. 

Having trusted caretaker—partner, friend, family member, etc.—watch baby while you run also frees you from pushing the luggage equivalent of an Everest expedition on your route. Don’t hesitate to ask for help!

10 Tips on Training for a Marathon with a Baby

1. Plan Your Week in Advance

Take 5-10 minutes to organize your week to reveal windows for workouts.

●  Look at your week and mark 1-2 mornings you can run before baby wakes up. 

●  Schedule time for your partner or another caretaker to watch baby while you run for a couple hours. 

●  Sprinkle short strength building exercises throughout the week. 

●  Prep meals that yield hefty leftovers to save time when planning dinner.

2. Get a Jogging Stroller

A jogging stroller is essential if you plan to do stroller running with your baby. Joggers maintain a stable ride at running speeds without veering off-course. 

Training for a marathon with a stroller lets you run and spend time with your baby, simultaneously. Do your easy runs while running with a buggy. Although stroller running takes practice, you can count running with a 28+ lb jogger and baby as resistance training.

3. Do Your Long Runs without Baby Early in the Morning or after Baby’s Bedtime

Long runs without baby are vital to your marathon training. Being ready by race time hinges on getting those double-digit miles under your feet.

Asking yourself to wake up early or stay up late when you’re functioning on an absurd sleep schedule feels more tortuous than ambitious. But giving yourself those solo miles builds endurance you need to complete your marathon and gives you a bit of time for yourself.

mom in activewear lunging with baby on shoulders

4. Do Strength Workouts with Your Baby

Admittedly, using your baby as a medicine ball sounds foolish. I’d think so too if my daughter didn’t cackle with delight when I did lunges with her on my shoulders. When you have a baby attached to your limbs at all times, you’re engaging in a lot more strength training than you think.

Ideas for Strength Training with Your Baby

●  Set up your workout area with a play mat and toys to provide baby with entertainment while you knock out a strength circuit.

●  Change diapers on the floor so you can do a plank while waiting for baby’s little bum to dry out. DO NOT PLANK WHILE BABY IS ON THE CHANGING TABLE. 

●  Find workout classes that incorporate baby in the exercises (they exist!).

5. Prioritize Your Runs Like You Prioritize Appointments

When you’re training for a marathon with a baby, your runs NEED to be more than “something I’ll get to, if I have time.” Schedule your runs and commit to the time you carved out for them.

Even if the day ends with dishes in the sink, the house littered with toys, and un-vacuumed floors, you still got your run in—and that counts more toward your marathon goal than vacuuming.

6. Pack Your Running Clothes/Gear the Night Before

Having your workout outfit prepped for an early run or packed for a lunch break workout, is one less thing to worry about when getting out of your bed cocoon in the morning.

7. Run with a Friend and Make It a Play Date

Plan a training run with a friend or a mom from a local running group (search running groups on Meetup.com). Map your route to end at a park so your kiddos can play afterward.

8. Use Your Treadmill (if you have one)

For the amount of dread runners have toward these human hamster wheels, treadmills are valuable to fitting workouts into a busy schedule. It’s all about gaining those miles. If you have access to a treadmill, use it!

The treadmill I have in my cold, dingy basement was vital to training for my marathon postpartum. My husband’s work schedule didn’t give me much opportunity for solo miles. My treadmill helped me complete some good runs while watching my daughter, via baby monitor, snooze in her crib.

9. Counter Nap Resistance with Stroller Running

You know those days where all hopes of productivity are obliterated because baby decides not to nap? After accepting those sacred naptime hours will not be happening, pack baby in your jogger and go for a run. You’ll get a couple hours of training for a marathon with a stroller, and baby might end up napping in the jogger.

Sure, your to-do list will linger, but at least you’ll get some miles in.

10. Remember, Anything Is Better Than Nothing At All

If you approach marathon training with the idea every run has to cover double-digit miles to be valid, you’re setting expectations that are impossible to maintain.

If you only have 20 minutes to exercise, use them. If you have only 10 minutes to run, lace up your shoes and go. If you can only manage 1 minute of squats while swaddling your screaming newborn, squat away. It all adds up

Conclusion

Training for a marathon with a baby is challenging. It requires adaption and adjustment, and—to be honest—running when you really don’t want to. It also increases confidence, battles self-doubt, rebuilds strength, and gets you an awesome medal at the finish line. 

Now that you’re equipped with tips on training for a marathon with a baby, sign up for one! Find your next 26.2-mile triumph at Runningintheusa.com.

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