As background, the question-asker is a new mom to a baby who was born premature, she's already back at work full-time, she's up for feedings every 2 hours all night long, and her question:
How do I fit running back into my life? Or is that even possible?
Oh... the things I know now that I wish I knew then!
Go easy on yourself.
Getting back into running probably is important to you at this new juncture in your life, because it gives you a sense of control, it helps reduce your stress levels, and it gives you a few precious moments of quiet.
But it's also REALLY FREAKIN HARD to get yourself out of bed at 4am when your night of "sleep" was more like a few cat-naps.
So, yes, go easy on yourself.
Take walk breaks when you need to. Accept that a "training schedule" might not be in the cards for you right now. You will eventually feel like a runner again. I promise. But it might take a little longer than you had hoped.
Yes, some mamas are back to marathon-running within months of popping out a child. My advice?
Cheer for those other running mamas!
The success of a marathon-running mama does not diminish your exhaustion, and their distance should not be a yardstick against which you measure your own running performance. Running can be a competitive sport, but running can also be for recreation, catharsis, and fellowship.
Speaking of which...
Find a good running group.
Find a running group filled with other running mamas who understand that running schedules need to fit around nap schedules, school schedules, and swim class schedules. They have also had to deal with diaper blowouts in the running stroller, caring for a sick child the week before their 10k, and staying hydrated while running as a nursing mama.
They will be your support group, and you will forever be thankful for their wisdom and empathy.
Tell your partner that fitness is important for your health. Feel no guilt about leaving your baby with family, friend, or sitter for an hour. Seriously. Your health is important to your child's health.
Invest in a good running stroller.
There will be times when you need to get outdoors, but no one else is around to watch your baby. There will be times when the weather is so gorgeous you can't imagine keeping your baby indoors, even if you have a partner or sitter available. There will be times when the whole family just wants to get outside for some fresh air.
Buy the good running stroller - you won't regret it.
When your baby is little, sing songs as you huff and puff slowly along. When your baby gets bigger, play I Spy games or have your kiddo bring a book along for the ride.
Cheer yourself on because no matter how quickly or slowly you're chugging along, YOU are running while pushing 100 pounds of baby + equipment. How many people can claim that victory?
Find all of your local playgrounds and map the running routes from home to those playgrounds. Your little one might not want to sit still "for a run" -- but sitting still "to go to the playground" is a different animal entirely.
And last, but not least...
Go easy on yourself.
Seriously. Running is supposed to be fun. Let it be fun.
If you are too hard on yourself, and running becomes a chore, you might give up entirely. Don't do that. Your child will grow out of the up-all-night phase. You'll get your groove back. In the meantime, let running be fun.
You have enough things to worry about as a new parent. Don't add running to the worry list!