To be honest, I thought getting back to running after having a baby would be a walk in the park compared to getting back to it after having a liver swapped over. And in lots of ways of course it is and there is so SO much more advice out there and communities to answer questions and offer guidance, plus there’s a really wonderful baby-shaped distraction. But it’s not the walk in a park I was expecting!
Back to Running
The first couple of weeks post-push I didn’t even feel human and just assumed I’d never leave the house again. I was actually fine with that at the time, all I wanted was buttery toast and nipple shields. And then in the third week I started to feel a bit more myself and decided it was time for a run. In hindsight this was utterly, and I mean utterly, moronic.
I thought I was being so sensible with my five minute walk warmup followed by six lots of one min jog with a minute of walking between each. Looking back I can’t quite work out how I thought the sensation of my organs falling out through my pelvis was OK. But on I cracked, brain just bursting with fairy dust.
It was the following day, when I realised I couldn’t contract my pelvic floor even a tiny bit, that I thought perhaps I’d jumped the gun a smidge. Even that tiny amount of running had been a very bad idea.
So I got serious with pelvic floor exercises, doing them throughout every single feed (and Otto is a very hungry baby). I assumed a couple of weeks of that kind of commitment would reward me with the ability to run again. Alas, no chance, and five weeks later, when I was eight weeks post-push, I hit a dark place.
Sad Brain Syndrome
I’ve written before about how important running is to me for my mental health and, as wonderful as having baby Otto to love and look after is, not running was starting to feel like I’d lost a big part of my identity. Lots of people said very caring things to me like ‘give yourself a break and just enjoy your new baby.’ Although well intended, these comments made me feel super guilty. Did I not love the Ot Bot enough if I still wanted to go out and run? Thankfully my husband, Paul, also has the running bug and so understood how I was feeling. Therefore, when I found a specialist pelvic floor physiotherapist who was also a runner, he encouraged me to book a session ASAP.
In the past I’ve spent a lot of cash on physios who haven’t helped all that much. So, having found Jo, Mumma Physio, via Insta rather than via a friend’s recommendation, I was wary. However, it didn’t take long at all for me to realise she was just the ticket. She was realistic but positive and the exercises she gave me were all about little subtle movements. That was the most important thing I’d learnt about recovery following the transplant - don’t try and build a house on sand foundations. And for that reason, I knew she was the physio for me, I trusted every exercise she gave me and I did them diligently.
I saw Jo weekly and three weeks later, at 11 weeks post-push, I tried a run again. A five minute walk warmup, four sets of one minute jog/one minute walk. It didn’t feel perfect, but in the following days my pelvic floor was no worse. This was a big step - now I was able to start introducing running while continuing to manage my pelvic floor. Three days later I increased this to six lots of one minute, slightly faster.
Back on Track
And that’s where I am now! I do pelvic floor exercises daily (or as daily as I can manage depending on Otto’s whims), combined with dynamic exercises to help build running muscles and fire up the pelvic floor when running. On Jo’s advise I plan to gradually increase running duration and speed, little by little.
The World Transplant Games are only five months away and how often do you get the chance to run for Great Britain! But actually, right now I just want to run! Not far, not fast, just to run again. Feel some strength in my legs and some order in my mind. I’ll keep you updated! #runbecauseyoucan!
Thank you, as always, for giving this a read :)