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Becoming A Mom Makes You A Better, Stronger Runner, Here’s Why.

We all know pregnancy and childbirth are both endurance efforts in their own right. Well it turns out that motherhood may also have a positive impact on your running endurance, too, and I have the first hand experience to prove it.

As a new mom, and even since before I was pregnant, I’ve been interested in the question of how becoming a mother affects your running performance in the long term, not just those first few weeks and months postpartum while you’re healing and caring for a newborn.

Like me, you may be surprised to learn that in many cases, becoming a mom makes you a better, stronger runner – for reasons I explain in this post.

Hopefully you find this knowledge encouraging, reassuring, and even exciting, especially if you’re considering having a baby, are pregnant, or are a new mom who is wondering how having a baby may affect your running postpartum.

Being pregnant itself is an endurance workout

Before we even think about ourselves as runners postpartum, it’s worth a reminder that the 9 or more months of pregnancy mothers undergo is itself an endurance feat worth acknowledging and respecting.

Research shows that pregnancy is similar to being an endurance athlete, in terms of the demands it places on your body on a daily basis – perhaps even harder than being an athlete, seeing as you don’t get a break for the entire time you’re pregnant.

Other research, such as this study by the University of Michigan, indicates that the act of childbirth may be harder than running a marathon in terms of the physiological effect it has on you.

Even without reading the studies on childbirth, it seems pretty obvious that this would be true, when you consider that most marathon runners are done within 6 hours. Now, compare that to the duration of the average labor, which is typically at least 4 to 8 hours for the active stage, not including the duration of early labor contractions.

There’s also plenty of anecdotal evidence that pregnancy, childbirth and the day-to-day new Mom life postpartum can all contribute to making you a stronger runner… or at least, not adversely affect your running performance in the long term.

But how, and why?

What makes you a strong endurance runner

Before we consider new moms that run, let’s consider what makes anyone a strong endurance runner – male, female, mom or not.

The most obvious answer, for many, is physical ability.

That includes muscular strength and endurance and cardiovascular fitness (high VO2 max!) resulting from months of focused training.

This is all true, and makes sense – physical capability is important in an intensive endurance sport like running long distances – whether that’s half marathons, marathons or ultramarathons.

But the mental game can be just as, if not more important. If you’ve trained for, and participated in an endurance running event yourself, you’ll know what I mean.

Your mindset and approach to running is what gets you out training regularly, putting in the hard work, even when you don’t feel like it, you go out and get it done.

Your mental strength and determination – pure grit – is also what gets you over the finish line of your toughest endurance race, even when your body is suffering.

Overcoming mental challenges, mind-over-matter, facing your demons, breaking out of the pain cave… whatever you want to call it, it’s your mind that gets you there.

Sound familiar, moms?

Not many women can say childbirth was a ‘walk in the park’. It’s a feat of endurance.

As was carrying and growing your baby for many months.

As is that fourth trimester of new motherhood… and the months and years of being a parent that come after that.

And just like other feats of endurance, such as running a marathon, you can’t beat that feeling of self-confidence, pride and sense of achievement – although of course, we shouldn’t imply that completing an endurance race quite meets the transcendent experience of bringing your new baby into the world.

Going through childbirth does not necessarily adversely affect your running performance

Research shows that going through childbirth does not necessarily adversely affect your running performance.

This comes from a number of studies of elite athletes who have had babies and gone on to continue their professional running careers.

The general consensus of these studies is that at best, it could actually improve your running capability, or at least, it shouldn’t affect it (notwithstanding more acute childbirth-related injuries and the recovery and healing that may necessitate).

These studies include this study of elite Norwegian athletes and this study of 42 elite world class athletes.

Aside from the studies, anecdotally I can name many incredible running moms who returned after having children to run and race at a high level – including elite ultramarathon runners such as Anna Frost, Emelie Forsberg and Jasmin Paris.

3 ways that motherhood can make you a better runner

Here are three key ways many mom runners, myself included, find that their approach to running – has improved since having a baby (or babies).

With the change of approach and more structured training, an improvement in running performance is often a very nice byproduct.

1. Better time management and more focused training

As a parent you’ll likely have less time available to dedicate to running, or at least, less flexibility about when, where and for how long you run.

Many mothers report that (as all parents know), the key to getting things done in your day is by learning better time management.

By being more focused on time management and organization, you’re usually able to find, or ‘make’ time in your day to get a run in.

In my experience, because there’s less time and flexibility around when and where I run, this has led to having a more focused approach to training.

Although I may run less as a new mom than I did before I was pregnant, the training I do now is much more focused and tailored towards my running goals than it was before.

2. A better appreciation of running… and potentially a healthier relationship with it

Like anything, if you could in theory do it at any time, any day, then you may not appreciate running as much as you will when your me-time is more scarce.

Carving out those small pockets of time to run becomes more challenging once you’re a parent. Put simply, for most moms (and dads, for that matter), for quite some time, running can no longer come first.

You may not be able to immediately get back to spending hours at a time running trails how you please.

But let me tell you, when you’ve worked hard to set aside 30 minutes in the day when you can lace up your running shoes for a quick lap of the block or your local park, you will find a whole new level of appreciation for running, without risk of overtraining.

This can be a big game-changer for runners who have a self-acknowledged running ‘obsession’.

If you used to run all the time but also find yourself regularly injured with running overtraining injuries such as shin splints, achilles pain or even stress fractures, then having a more focused way to train in shorter bursts could be exactly what your body needs to boost your running performance and recovery.

Many mom runners find that these changes they’ve had to make to how they train actually result in them becoming faster, stronger and less injury-prone runners who recover quicker after training runs and races.

3. A sense of ‘showing up for’, and inspiring your children.

‘Showing up for’ your children can be done in many ways.

One of those ways that many parents quote as being important is being able to show their kids the importance of caring for your mental and physical health.

Being a runner also has that wonderful quality of being able to demonstrate to your children the discipline and prioritization it takes to:

  • Stick to a regular commitment (your regular runs)
  • Work towards goals (such as following a half marathon training plan) and
  • Take on challenges that were hard at the time but so satisfying to accomplish (like racing said half marathon – regardless of how long it takes you).

All of these are valuable life skills we can pass on to our children by leading by example. Plus, you’re less likely to flake out on a training run when you know your child is watching, so this really helps keep you committed to the training journey!

How can you keep up endurance running whilst being a new mom? Practical tips for new moms.

As a relatively new mom myself, I wrote a whole post on this subject!

My post, tips for running postpartum, is the post I wished had existed for me when I became a new mom wanting to get back into running, which is packed full of practical tips to help you get back out running after having a baby.

I have also written a guide to nutrition for new mom runners, and put together a jogging strollers buyer’s guide, which is definitely worth a read if you’re considering running with your baby.

I hope you enjoyed reading about how becoming a mom makes you a better, stronger runner, and it’s given you some insights and inspiration for your own running journey as a new mom.

If you’re a mom who runs and have any experiences or tips you’d like to share, or a different perspective on how becoming a mom changed your relationship with running (or your running performance), I’d love to hear from you – drop a comment below!

One of Trail & Kale's co-founders, a mom, and guardian of our resident trail dog, Kepler, Helen can be found trail running with Kepler and enjoying road runs with her mini in a jogging stroller, all while testing out the latest running gear for our readers.


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