Training for a Half Marathon While Breastfeeding

Training for A Half Marathon While Breastfeeding

I never imagined myself as the nursing-a-toddler type, but after fighting so hard to establish a good breastfeeding relationship (and LOVING it), I realized that we just didn’t want to stop. So we kept going…past the 6 month mark when I weaned my first child…past the 1-year mark recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics…straight ahead to the 2-year mark recommended by the World Health Organization. Do you know what else didn’t stop? MY LIFE: Avoiding the foods my son is allergic to (eggs, dairy & seafood) for an EXTENDED period of time. Forgoing some of my more flattering wardrobe pieces because I couldn’t nurse at church in a boatneck pencil dress. And discovering I had a choice to make: give up one of my Really Important Life Goals, or find a way to train for (and run!) two long-distance races that I had registered for when I assumed my son would be weaned by his first birthday.

Distance running presents a few unique challenges for nursing mamas: increased caloric & hydration needs, keeping milk supply up, preventing mastitis, finding the TIME? It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible! Here’s how I made it work and successfully finished the See Jane Run Half Marathon in Wichita and the Flatrock 25k in the woods of Elk City Lake (think Hunger Games, but with aid stations every 4 miles & smiling faces helping you up when you fall face down in the mud).

Half Marathon While Breastfeeding

This is me at mile 14 of a 15.5 mile trail run. Apparently, it was HILARIOUS. {Mile 90 Photography}

THE PLAN:

With two kids and a husband working crazy overtime, I needed a training plan that didn’t require exercising every day. I used this one that only requires 3 days per week and gives helpful advice on how to pace your training runs according to the finish time you hope to achieve. If you have access to a treadmill and jogging stroller, use them! While not ideal, they offer some flexibility in your schedule to run during naptime or when you can’t get a sitter.

THE DIET:

My guy was still nursing 3-5 times per day, so I know my caloric intake was insane – probably averaging at least 2,500-3,000 per day. I didn’t log my calories, but I did eat to hunger a diet low in grains (not carbs, just grains) and high in fat and protein. Nursing mamas need protein, and so do endurance athletes! Good healthy fats support high-quality breastmilk, so don’t skimp on those if your want to make sure your supply stays elevated! Fewer grains were a personal choice, and not one I’d recommend for everyone – it’s what works for my body. Not optional: HYDRATION. You lose a lot of fluids while running and nursing – be very careful to replenish them so your milk supply doesn’t tank!

It’s important to eat a high-protein meal or snack at least 30 minutes before your run – and ALWAYS nurse or pump immediately beforehand, no matter how short your run will be. This is obvious on long run days, but it’s also a good habit to get into for shorter distances. Comfort is key! Speaking of long runs – don’t forget to take a small carb-y snack with you. Finding one you like may require a bit of trial and error, but you’ll need these when you get to the end of your training & the miles get high. I liked using dates and salted caramel gels from GU – anything else made me gag!

Reader Tip :: Gels bars, and drinks often contain caffeine, so be sure to read labels carefully if your little one is sensitive!

THE SUPPLIES:

Great Shoes. Not GOOD shoes; not OLD shoes. You wouldn’t take a car with 300k miles on a cross-country road trip; that’s just asking for trouble! The same goes for your feet. Go to a running store and have them look at your feet and gait – their recommendations will keep you from injury.

A Great Sports Bra. Just like your shoes, invest in a well-made sports bra that offers full coverage and support but isn’t too tight. You don’t want to be battling mastitis or plugged ducts!

Water Bottle. I loved this one from Amphipod. Even when full, it wasn’t heavy, and with the strap I didn’t even have to hold on to it. There was a pocket for gels and ibuprofen, as well.

Phone. Some people can’t listen to anything when they run; some listen to talk shows or books on tape. I have to listen to ridiculous pop music from the late 90s/early 2000s and copious amounts of Broadway showtunes. Since I was already using Endomondo to track my routes and mileage (I opted not to buy a Garmin – again, just personal preference!), I created long playlists on Spotify and Amazon Prime Music to help keep my ears entertained when monotony set in.

Miscellaneous Items. I did my training in the heat of a Kansas summer,  so things like sunscreen, sunglasses and extra bobby pins for stray fly-aways became necessary accessories.

Do you have any tips for a mama hoping to run a long distance race while breastfeeding?

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