Posted by: Joe English | February 4, 2009

Commentary: When Runners Have Babies

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

In an earlier post one of I celebrated the fact that one of my favorite people — a close personal friend — had tied the knot in marriage. I wrote about what its like for a runner to go into a marriage and how running might fit into that relationship. This morning that same runner asked me for my advice in having a baby. I’m brimming with joy tonight as I think about her little one coming into this world and as a parent of a 16 month-old, I think I’m in the position to offer some advice on this topic.

Lucas Cash at 16 months

Lucas Cash at 16 months

I have to tell you to start that I would not have been qualified to give advice on this topic before the arrival of my own little bundle of joy 16 months ago. I might have been able to provide my typical advice on how to work with life’s fragile balancing act to fit runs into a busy life, but it wouldn’t have really had the stamp of truth from a parent that’s been through those first months of living with a child.

And I should say that the last time I saw my friends — they must have just been newly pregnant at the time — that I didn’t put the best face on parenthood. I remember telling them how tired I was and how much attention the little ones deserve. I asked if they were thinking about having children and they answered a bit glumly, “well, maybe we’ll have to think about it after what you’ve been telling us.” I hoped at the time that they would accept my back-peddaling as I told them that no matter how much time and energy it took it was all worth it. I’m glad that they decided to go for it.

With all of that said, what advice can I offer to the new parent. Well, here are some tips for runners that are having babies:

— First to the men out there — it is going to be hard for you to understand this, but when your wife is pregnant, you can not conduct your life as if nothing at all has happened to you. Nothing will grate on your blessed wife’s nerves more than seeing you continue on to do all of the things that you normally do while she’s getting bigger, more tired and more antsy to have that baby. This is something that my wife and I came to understand together much later: the major change in life happens for the man when the baby is born, but it happens much earlier for the woman — about 10 months earlier. So its not OK to act like everything is cool while waiting for the little guy to pop out. Be sensitive to the fact that your partner is really going through something pyshically and emotionally huge in their life and act accordingly.
— In the later months of pregancy, although exercise is good for most expectant moms, running may become difficult. This really depends on the woman and her body. There have been reports, for example, that marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe ran up until two weeks before her baby Isla was born (and then ran again two weeks later), but this won’t be true for everyone. Water aerobics is a great exercise for expectant moms in their later months of pregancy, because the water takes a lot of the pressure off of the lower-back during exercise.
— Once the baby arrives, its pretty much all hands on deck for the first few months. Mom and dad, if you’re runners, don’t expect to run much. Speaking from experience, this wasn’t only a scheduling issue, I just didn’t have the energy. The lack of sleep and the constant go-go-go of taking care of baby just wears you out. Never fear though, a lay-off of a few months isn’t going to kill you as a runner. It all comes back quickly when you get back into it.
— Strollers are great and if you get the baby to like the stroller they will probably like the baby jogger. Most baby joggers are made for babies about eight months old or older. Some joggers have attachments for the car-seat bassinet, but honestly, unless its a slow jog on a warm day and baby is napping, it didn’t seem like a great idea to me. I took baby out for his first runs in the jogger at about seven or eight months, when his strenght was enough to handle a little jostlnig, and he seem to enjoy them.
— Although most baby joggers have a wind-screen, keep baby warm and once the weather turns cold baby shouldn’t be in the jogger. Remember that he or she is just sitting there, not expending any energy and exposed to the wind, so they’re going to be colder than you are. I stopped taking baby in the jogger as soon as the fall weather hit this past year. But he has since been back and enjoying it now that we’re in the Arizona weather for the winter.
— As for the parents, make sure that both parents are getting some personal space and are getting to do the things that they enjoy, whether it be running or something else. It becomes more important than ever to preserve time for you as parents to be together. Establish a relationship with a trusted relative or baby-sitter that can take over to let you out for date night, a joint workout or whatever you need. If your life becomes completely consumed by baby, your marriage will go straight to the back-burner and that isn’t a good thing in the long-term.

So in closing, to my friends Karen and Joel, I wish you the best and I am overjoyed for you. Having a baby was the best thing that I have ever experienced in my life. Sure it was tiring and I took at least 18 months almost completely off of running, but now I have a beautiful little person walking around my house and, at times, coming along with me on my runs in the baby jogger. My running has come back and I’m now running faster than ever. Baby is only walking now, but soon he’ll be running too and I hope that he’ll follow daddy in his footsteps as a runner one day.

Good luck and all the best to you as you set out on this journey together.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Managing Editor, Running Advice and News



  1. Joe,
    Good points all. I’ll add that we were the first to have a baby jogger way back in 83-84 in Tucson. We used it a lot for running and walking and we even entered some races with it (ran a sub-19 for 5k once with him). Brendon actually loved the jostling. So, tune in to how the child reacts to the ride. Some will love it some may not. But you are right… bundle them up and protect them from the elements.

    Also, one thing we did that helped our sleep patterns was to alternate nights up. That way neither of us went too long without at least a half way decent sleep.

    You are dead on about space. Moms need time away regardless of how wonderful little ones are… we are all human beings and need time for ourselves to regenerate our batteries. Make the time to make this happen.

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