Run the Baby Weight Off

Everywhere you look these days, mommies are running.  Maybe it’s the sense of belonging to the running “club” when you pass another mommy on the street with her jogging stroller. Or maybe it’s the phenomenal 400-600 calories per hour that running burns.

Want to get started? It’s not as hard as you think. 

There are some general rules for injury prevention which every new runner (or sporadic runner who wants to run more regularly) should follow:

  • fill out a Par-Q questionnaire and see your doctor, if necessary, before starting
  • be properly fitted for new shoes
  • go more slowly than you think you can and build distance before speed
  • cross-train – strength training, yoga and other forms of cardio like cycling, rollerblading, walking or swimming are all good choices
  • plan days of rest – at least 1-2 per week

So you’re ready to start.  It’s important to remember to start slow.  Running is great exercise but it does place repetitive impact upon the same joints each time you do it.  Starting slowly will help those joints and their surrounding muscles to get used to the movement and adapt to run as efficiently and injury-free as possible.  A general rule of thumb when beginning a running program or stepping up your current running program is: Never increase your distance by more than 10% per week.  So, if you ran 5 km afew times last week, aim to run a maximum of 5.5 km per run this week.

Also important: Build distance before speed.  Don’t worry about those veterans racing past you on the trail.  They started slow too.  Find a pace that feels most natural to you and stick with it.  Build up your distance until you can run 20-30 minutes consistently.  Then begin working on speed by trying to cover a longer distance in the same time (again, adhering to the 10% rule above).

So how do you get to that 20-30 minutes?  It takes time.  Give yourself 8 weeks to ramp up (or longer if you need it) by following this basic plan:

Warm up for 5-10 minutes with brisk walking at the outset of each workout.

Week 1: Run 1 minute; walk 2 minutes.  Repeat 8 times.

Week 2: Run 2 minutes; walk 2 minutes.  Repeat 7 times.

Week 3: Run 3 minutes; walk 2 minutes.  Repeat 6 times.

Week 4: Run 5 minutes; walk 3 minutes.  Repeat 4 times.

Week 5: Run 7 minutes; walk 3 minutes.  Repeat 3 times.

Week 6: Run 8 minutes; walk 2 minutes.  Repeat 3 times.

Week 7: Run 9 minutes; walk 1 minute.  Repeat 3 times.

Week 8: Run 20-30 minutes.

Aim to run every other day, at least 3 times per week, in order to build up over the 8 weeks.  Can you go faster than this?  Probably.  Should you?  Probably not.  Shaving one or two weeks off your learn-to-run program is not worth the trade-off of increased risk of injury, burnout and fatigue.  If you want to be a runner, you must learn to enjoy running or you will never stick to it.  Realistic goals, like this 8-week running program, allow you to succeed.  Success feels good.

A quick note about jogging with the kid(s)…

If you are using a jogging stroller and taking the munchkin along with you while you work out – power to you!  You have found one of the few forms of regular exercise easily done with baby in tow.  To avoid back pain and/or injury, hold the stroller with both hands.  By keeping both hands on the stroller you will avoid straining one side of your back excessively and you’ll get an even bigger workout for the glutes, calves and hamstrings – the muscles of your butt & the back of your legs.  And what mommy doesn’t want a firmer butt and legs?

Dara Duff-Bergeron is a top Toronto personal trainer, mommy of 2 and founder of Fit Family and Belly Bootcamp prenatal/postnatal fitness for modern mommies. Visit www.fitfamily.ca for more fitness tips, tricks & news from a mommy’s point of view.