Image: Ful-on Tri Duathlon.

Written by: Sally Benton

When our little boy, Ollie, was 10 months old I did Berlin marathon. With a time of 3 hours 40 minutes I wasn’t too far off my pb. Whilst I’ve always kept fit and have done a number of marathons, and triathlons, up to Ironman distance, I’ve never been remotely hardcore, certainly not in relation to a lot of people in the club.

When I was pregnant I had no thoughts at all about getting back in to exercise and thought I might just become a content home-bird. For medical reasons I’d been advised not to train at all during pregnancy so just did lots of walking and some gentle swimming. I really started to miss exercising properly.

I ended up having a C-section so was unable to do exercise, or drive, for 6 weeks after giving birth. When Ollie was 4.5 weeks old I was so desperate to get back in to exercise I begged my GP to sign me off…..looking at me as though I was slightly crazy he gently explained I only had 10 days left – and refused!

I had heard lots of horror stories from friends and friends of friends about getting back into exercise too soon (details I won’t share) but they were warnings I took seriously and meant that once starting to exercise again I did so very carefully and gently.

At 6 weeks (to the day!) I did my first run. Just a very, very slow 1 mile from Roehampton cafe to our house. I was buzzing!! Just being in the park in my running kit felt exhilarating.

I couldn’t quite bring myself to go to the normal post-natal exercise classes such as buggy fit and discovered a number of “normal” classes I could attend and take Ollie to. I went to a spin studio in Mortlake once a week that allowed prams during the daytime classes, I found a personal trainer who ran a Friday morning class by the river in Barnes (that I could take the pram to). Both coincided with Ollies morning nap so were great. One morning a week I would meet a couple of friends from ful-on tri (Claire Deane and Sarah Taylor) at a gym where we’d put our babies in the crèche and swim for an hour before having a coffee catch up whilst feeding the babies. Mark, my husband, would get home in time for me to go to club sessions. To begin with I did Thursday night spin and just being at the club felt great and everyone was so encouraging. My then regular session became, and still is, the Tuesday night run.

When Ollie was 6 months old we bought a running buggy. He loved it and living just outside Richmond Park meant I had a wonderful maternity leave summer filled with lots of running. Around this time, a ful-on tri friend, Jane Dwyer, got an entry for Berlin marathon and it didn’t really take any persuasion for me to decide that I was going to run Berlin too. I racked up weekly miles by going out with the buggy whenever I fancied, then at weekends get my long run in.

It is important to recognise the role of the Dad in all this because it is a balance for the whole family. Mark has encouraged me to keep exercising and supported my training. He gets home in time for me to go to Tuesday run as well as to go out running other nights and at the weekend. Mark is a keen cyclist so we make sure he can fit rides in, and having a turbo set up at home means that any evenings I am out he can get a session in.

Finally, the friend network has been so important. Our ful-on tri friends are a huge part of our social life and most of them didn’t have children when Ollie was born. They encouraged us to join them for sportives and other events, and have always been happy for Ollie to come along to parties. This was so important and something we are so grateful for because it can be a little bit isolating having a baby. In fact, everyone in the club has been really inclusive and Ollie went on his first Majorca training camp at just 7 months old.

So, to finish off, if I was going to advise anyone else about exercising post-pregnancy, based purely on my experience the main points would be;

  • don’t put pressure on yourself to get back to training once you have a baby because a baby is all-consuming- and you just might not want to train
  • take it very slowly and don’t push your body too soon. If you do experience any problems seek medical advice immediately
  • there are so many classes out there that you can do with a baby you might just have to search a bit to find the ones that work for you

And for both parents, use the support network of friends, and the wonderfully friendly and supportive ful-on tri club, to help you find the balance that you need to keep you happy and fit whilst balancing out your new responsibilities as a parent.