I love running. Running is my best friend.
Running helped me give up smoking. It was there on my wedding day, and it’s seen me through countless tough times. Running has paid a few bills (although created a lot more). It’s shown me how tough I can be, and pointed out my vulnerabilities. It’s taught me life lessons.
We go way back, running and me.
I love running.
But we’re on a relationship break at the moment.
Possibly, we’re through.
Running and I are no longer together.
So believe me when I say, I know how hard it is to not run.
I know how it feels to miss your autonomy, your freedom, your crutch and the wind beneath your wings. To no long be able to get away from life by simply lacing up, opening the door and going. To ache from missing your running friends and running rituals.
But I have also learned that without running, life goes on.
And it isn’t terrible.
For the first few months, it sucked. Nothing else felt as good, no substitute cut it. I questioned who I was, if I wasn’t a runner. I missed our weekends away, our early mornings together, the places we would go.
But believe me when I tell you that I am actually happy without running.
I have learned to love swimming. It wasn’t an instant attraction, but now we’re doing really well together. Swimming makes me feel happy. I love the endorphin rush as I stagger out the pool after 3km (in the same amount of time as I would have run 10 miles). I love the absolute absence of joint pain, and the strength in my upper body. I love the swimsuits and goggles are cheaper than trainers.
I also love picking up fairly heavy objects and putting them down again, for fun. I’ve played around with rowing too, and we’re getting on quite well. I can see and feel the changes in my body, and they’re pretty awesome.
And any weight I’ve put on since leaving running has been minimal, and entirely from those first few months of grief where I did some comfort eating.
And then of course there’s my four-year obsession with pull ups. With running in my life, I never made the commitment to get me some pull ups. Now pull ups and me are spending more and more time together.
When a door closes, another opens. I promise.
I hope to go back to running one day. My physio says I should be able to. But even if I don’t, my life is richer. My life is good. Running is great but I’m okay without it.
If you have to take a break from running, you’ll be all right too.
If you’re pregnant and you think it’s time to stop, you’ll be okay.
If you’re postnatal and you want to look after you body, you’ll be okay. Running will still be there for you when you’re ready. Those pavements aren’t going anywhere. Those races will still happen next year, or the year after.
But you only get one body. You only get one pelvic floor. Why would you risk damaging it?
Remodelling damaged tissue after birth can take up to two years in some cases.
Run too soon after birth and you can stretch and lengthen the ligaments in your pelvic floor until your pelvic floor doesn’t work as well as it used to. You might not notice too much, or just think it’s normal (it’s not). But then, when you hit menopause and start losing estrogen and muscle strength, the first place you’ll notice it is in your wet pants.
I don’t want to catastrophise. Maybe you’ll be fine, hopefully you’ll be fine. But I work with women who aren’t fine, and I know they ask themselves, did I do this to myself? If I’d not run, could I have prevented this?
Running is amazing.
Your body is amazing.
Running is always there.
Your body needs postnatal recovery and care.