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How I got back in shape after having a baby boy

I can sometimes be a little naive. Therefore, despite many people telling me getting back to your pre-pregnancy shape will take as long as your pregnancy, I thought I would be back swimming, running and racing after about 2 months… This was not really the case, and both losing all the baby weight and finding my stroke again turned out to require a great deal of effort. This is how I did it. 

Week 1-6: Recovery and adapting to the new life 

Mylittle Will had to be taken out of my body via a C-section (all went very well despite a shocking change of mindset when I got those news). Therefore, I had to heal from a major surgery while trying to figure out how to keep a newborn baby alive. I have to say, whether C-section or natural birth, I think these first 6 weeks would have been similar anyways. 

The exhaustion I felt on the 5th day after William’s birth was like nothing else. I thought I was going to collapse onto the floor. We spent two wonderfully exhausting nights in the hospital trying to soak up all the knowledge we could from the baby nurses. I barely slept, because when Will was asleep I either stayed looking at him to make sure he was breathing, and a nurse came into our room every two hours to check on my blood pressure and temperature. 

Then, we came home. Those first two nights were equally exhausting. I stayed up most of the night breastfeeding and sat there in the night thinking “How am I going to make it through this?”

Then came the 5th night, where I totally collapsed and started crying on the sofa at about 8 pm. My wonderful and equally exhausted husband then told me – go to sleep. I will keep the baby downstairs as long as I can so you can get some sleep. I went to bed and slept 3 hours straight, and that did wonders. After the fifth night, it somehow turned. My amazing body got used to waking up every 2-3 hours and we got more and more confident taking care of our little Will, knowing we are actually pretty awesome at this parenting thing. 

Despite all this exhaustion, the tiny little face of my son looking at me always fills me with so much energy. There is so much emotion, and the feeling of being a mother is worth every sleepless night. It is a kind of love that I could not feel before, and I think I speak for all mothers when I say that I cannot describe it in words. 

During the first weeks, exercise was as far away from my brain as it has ever been in my entire life. Priorities certainly change. The only thing I did during the first 6 weeks was taking little walks. By the 6th week I had worked myself up to taking walks of an hour with the stroller. 

The Road Back to Myself after becoming a mom

At the 6-week postpartum mark, my doctor said I could start resuming normal life, including exercise. By this time, I was dying to get my athletic body back and couldn’t wait to get those workout endorphins flowing. This was also my longest dry-time from swimming since I can remember. 

Many friends told me that it’s important to build up your abdominals again. It is actually quite fascinating, what the body does to them while your baby belly grows. They pretty much stretch out and move to the sides of the belly, resting there until there’s space to move back. Sometimes, they struggle with this and you are left with a space between your abs in the front. To prevent this, I took my time building the muscles back up with the help of a fantastic Youtube workout program by Lauren Fitter. I started with this program and kept doing it for the following 3 months. 

At the 6-week mark, I also started swimming and running. Read on to see how that went. 

How I started swimming and got back my stroke 

The day after my doctor cleared me for exercise (at 6 weeks postpartum) and allowed me to submerge my body into water again, I went to the pool. It felt absolutely amazing to dive in, and just float in the water. I was finally back in my medium. 

This amazing feeling was soon exchanged for despair. I felt like a hippopotamus, or maybe a better analogy, an elephant trying to swim (I realize hippos are quite good swimmers). If you understand that I always feel like a dolphin when I swim (in shape), you can perhaps understand my immediate frustration. My stroke was off and I felt like I was wearing a lifejacket. My water position had completely changed. I am guessing due to my new, milky D-cup boobs and some extra fat on my body. On top of that, I lacked muscle mass that usually pulls me down to the correct position in the water. 

That day, I swam 500 difficult yards. I knew I had some work to do! Although I was very motivated to get back into my swimming flow, I also tried to be kind to myself and remind myself of what an extraordinary transformation my body went through in the past year. I knew I had to take my time and be patient. 

Fanny with stroller by the pool

The following weeks, I escaped to the pool in the mornings when my husband was still home to watch Will. I stayed consistent with three swimming sessions per week. The second swim, I leaped from those 500 yards up to 1000. Then, I added 500 yards each week until I got to 2500 yards. 

In the beginning, I only focused on getting those yards in, nothing else. I mixed strokes and did a lot of work with fins. After about 1 month, I started adding one tough speed or interval workout per week. Swimming faster, my stroke is better, and I know that is how I get in shape. 

Around this time, I started following workouts from my sprint swimrun training plan. I have to say, especially when swimming alone, following a plan and a practice each time makes things so much easier. 

During the summer, we traveled a lot, but I stayed somewhat consistent with my swimming routine abroad (in Sweden, Spain and Guatemala). Slowly, I started to feel like myself again in the water. 

Once back, I re-joined my open water swimming group and swam 2 miles every Sunday in the ocean. Amazing to be back! These workouts just make me so happy. We leave early in the morning with the whole family, and my husband watches Will while I swim. He usually takes him in the stroller and does some fishing along the piers. 

In September, I also decided to join a masters swimming team (that I serendipitously found across the street). After a few workouts with them and keeping consistent with my 3 swims per week, I eventually found my stroke again. It also helped to train for a race that I knew was coming up for me in November.

How I started running again 

I stopped running when I was around 6-months pregnant. It just started to feel too heavy and too bouncy, so I just kept swimming the last part of my pregnancy. This meant that I needed to start up my running from zero, after almost 6 months completely off.  

On top of that, when you are pregnant, your bones and ligaments change and need time to get back in place. It is also very important to strengthen up your core muscles to support your spine and hips before putting that much strain on it again – so I made sure I had a good few weeks of that done before starting to run. 

Fanny running with Will in stroller

As you may know, I have also had a history of running difficulty. UInjuries mixed with insecurity about my ability to perform in the running sport has always been a battle for me. This is why I took my sweet time getting back to it, and made sure I did everything as right as I could for my body. 

I started running around 3 months postpartum. My first runs were with my regular walking stroller, and I mixed walking and running. I have a 500-m loop inside my neighborhood community, which I used for my very first runs. It went something like this: 

Run 1: 1 km walk – 500 m run – 1 km walk 

Run 2: 2x (500 m run – 500 m walk) 

Run 3: 3x (500 m run – 500 m walk) 

Run 4: 4x (500 m run – 500 m walk) 

I started just once per week the first 2 weeks, then started doing this twice per week, increasing one lap of my walk-run schedule. 

Soon I increased to doing two laps running and one lap walking, working my way up to doing 3 km. 

Around month 5 I got a running stroller, which was a game changer! I went with the Thule Urban Ride – I highly recommend it. 

Then I started increasing 500 m each time I ran, working my way slowly up to 7 km. 

After I could run 7 km comfortably, I resumed my 3 runs per week schedule that I know works for me, and incorporated my regular training sessions in that: 

Run 1: Intervals, hills or other though speedwork. 

Run 2: long run (adding 1 km each week) 

Run 3: easy run, shorter

Now I am close to my normal running mileage before I got pregnant, and could train well for my first Swimrun race (Odyssey Swimrun Austin) without problem. I am feeling great and have had zero injuries or aches so far.

I did the Odyssey Swimrun Austin short course on 13 November (with my DR teammate Merle), and it went really well. We won the female category and claimed a top-3 overall finish. But the real win for me was to feel strong again. I felt better than ever competing as a mother. Every time I thought about my little son’s smile waiting for me at the finish line, it filled me with so much energy. I hope he will see me, and understand how important exercise and good health is for him in his life. Maybe one day, he will join me for a Swimrun race 😀