Tackling the Trails as a New Parent
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You’ve decided to pursue the ultimate challenge, harder than any ultra or any FKT: you’re bringing a tiny trail runner into the world.
The rewards are immediate and indescribable. However, we runners like our routines, our personal time and, yes it’s true, our bodies. This little shredder is about to challenge all of that.
Trail Runner asked some top athletes how they maintain their training and trail running as new parents.
Keep doing what you do best
Good news: avid runners may be among the best prepared for new parenthood. Lack of sleep, lack of nutrition and the endless, inconsolable wailing of a human in the darkest hours of night … these inconveniences are nothing new.
Jenny and Scott Jurek recognize that their endurance training helped ready them for life with their now-nine-month-old daughter Raven. Jenny is a seasoned ultrarunner, and Scott is a seven-time winner of the Western States 100 and former Appalachian-Trail FKT holder. “After finishing the Appalachian Trail FKT together in 2015, sleep deprivation with a newborn was no big deal!” says Jenny.
Karolina Lavagnino, an avid trail and ultrarunner from southern Oregon, was also thankful for her endurance preparation when her daughter, Mia, was born 11 months ago. “When I had tough days, I knew they would be over, just like hitting a wall during a race,” she says. “‘This too, shall pass,’ I thought.”
Lavagnino and Jurek ran until the day they gave birth and extol the benefits of staying active to the last minute. “I had no pains or issues and always felt better after I ran,” says Jenny.
“Exercise can decrease the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, back pain, constipation and other pregnancy-related conditions, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,” writes Liana Heitin in an article featured in this magazine from July 2016.
Staying healthy is a matter of triage
Priorities change with a new baby in the mix, and running often becomes fourth or fifth on the list. Says Timothy Olson, two-time Western States 100 champ (and current course record-holder) and father to four-year-old Tristan and one-year-old Kai, “People say your life doesn’t have to change. That’s nonsense.”
Parental nap time, he says, is key. “With middle-of-the-night feedings, playing and screaming sessions, it’s a challenge to recover from workouts. Take advantage of nap time when you can for both training and sleeping.”
Scott Jurek likewise lets his running take the back seat sometimes. “There are days when work and sleep get in the way,” says Jurek. “I try to listen to my body and not cram training in when I don’t have time.”
Often, food intake becomes more important than mileage, especially for new moms. A varied diet will build the right base to get back out on the trails. Lavagnino stresses “nutrition, nutrition, nutrition! Drink tons of water, eat seasonal, colorful veggies with healthy proteins and remember you are not feeding just yourself.”
Schedule your runs—and stick to them
Between feeding, teething tantrums, bath time and nap time, it’s easy to let the day slip away. Consider making consistent, concrete plans to train.
“Time management has been the biggest adjustment,” says Scott Jurek. “Everything has to be planned out and adhered to. If I say I’m going to be back at a certain time, I need to follow through and not tack on a few more miles or another peak.”
Jenny agrees: “We both prioritize fitness, so we make sure each parent gets enough time every day. I have weekly things scheduled like my Wednesday-morning ladies run, Tuesday-night yoga and Thursday-night kickboxing. Scott and I share a calendar on our phones so he can see my workouts and plan around them.”
Managing time translates to managing expectations as well, Olson explains. “I had to change my whole approach and re-learn how to train. I focused even more on quality versus quantity, which was a challenge for a long-distance ultrarunner.”
While off the trails, exercise with your kids at home. “I use my kids as training tools all the time as long as they are having fun,” says Tim. “A baby is a great kettle bell and planks are now horse rides. My kids are included in push-ups, lunges, squats as well as added weight for hiking, stroller runs and pull-ups.”
Keep your sense of adventure
Naturally, runners are going to raise the fastest, healthiest people on the planet. It all starts with getting back on the trails—and bringing baby.
The Jureks take it a step further: “We hiked across the Grand Canyon together when Raven was four months old,” says Jenny. “It took us 14 hours with lots of stops for the baby. It was a super-fun experience.”
Krista Olson, Tim’s wife, has likewise maintained a passion for adventure and running post partum. “Continue to go after all your passions. Put your mind to it, talk it over with your partner, come up with a plan, put in the work and get after it,” she says. “Those adventures together as a family are some of the best of my life. I have the opportunity to see the world through my kids’ eyes, vividly beautiful and full of wonder and curiosity.”
Exercises to recover and stay fit (consider using your kid as weight for extra challenge)
Kitchen lunges: While little Prefontaine is smashing Cheerios into your laptop, take the opportunity to do lunge repeats.
Moms, postpartum, start with 10 (or as many as is comfortable) on each side and work up to 25 each side, being sure to engage the pelvic floor. Dads start with 20 each side and work up from there.
Tip: Utilize the counter for stability during the early days when the back and core are most fragile (moms). Set the kitchen timer to keep focused.
Nursery wall sits: Put baby Shelton in the jumper and find the nearest wall.
Moms start with 15-second increments, three times daily. Dads sit for 45 seconds, three times daily.
Tip: Sidle up to the dryer, stack the clean clothes on top and fold while you sit.
Tummy-time leg lifts: It’s tummy time for the Caballo Blancito.
Moms and dads: Lie on your side, legs extended. Cross your top leg over your bottom leg and plant the top foot flat on the floor near the knee of the bottom leg. Lift the lower leg up toward the ceiling. Do 25 reps each side, ending with 16 small pulses at the top of the lift.
Tip: Bring baby with you onto the floor when you do these leg lifts three times per day, and the little one will have mastered core strength in no time!
Nap-time bridge pumps: Baby Jornet settles in for a nap.
Moms and dads: Lie on your back, arms extended with palms pressing down, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lift your pelvis as high as it will go. Engage the gluteus, abs and core. Repeat 25 times.
Tip: Close the curtains.
Yoga-ball baby bounce: Babies love bouncing.
Moms and dads: On a yoga ball, keep the core engaged while holding your baby. Yoga balls are also great for stretching tired, imbalanced backs.