The gift of motherhood is an incredible experience that demands a new routine in all aspects of life. Mothers who were runners before pregnancy must redefine their workout schedules. This could mean running new routes, shorter runs, more time on the treadmill at home, or setting different running goals.
From Running in the Olympic Trials to Pregnancy
Team Injinji's Cate Barrett has been running since she was 8 years old, starting with loops around her brother’s soccer practice fields. She ran cross country in high school and both cross country and track during college at Baylor University. Cate began running marathons after college and raced in the Olympic Trials Marathon in February 2020.
When Cate became pregnant in April 2020, she maintained her mileage for as long as she could. She embraced all of the physical changes that came with the pregnancy, including pain in certain areas that prevented her from running at her normal pace.
During her first trimester, she competed in virtual races due to Covid restrictions but ultimately a back injury in her second trimester forced her to run-walk a few days a week.
Cate's Physical and Mental Transformation
At first, Cate thought these changes would be temporary, but the transformation that came with motherhood would be more comprehensive. Three years later, Cate has not returned to her pre-pregnancy self.
In addition to experiencing physical changes, she experienced an even more prominent mental shift. Motivated by the drive to live a meaningful life, Cate was able to grow in other areas of her life outside of running, despite juggling her new responsibilities as a mother.
“Honestly. It was really challenging," she admits.
Thirteen months postpartum, Cate got pregnant with her second child. This time she was able to run injury free 3-4 days a week. Cate recalled, “I actually ran more during that second pregnancy than I did my whole first year postpartum. I got up to a 10-mile long run and I was a lot more consistent with lifting weights, which helped me feel strong right up until my due date.”
After the initial recovery period, Cate started her new workout routine with short, gentle walks about 10 days postpartum, and didn’t exceed a couple of miles at once for that first month.
Exercising Patience with Postpartum Movement
Cate is now 3 months postpartum and hasn’t started running yet due to prolapse symptoms, but she's continuing her physical therapy, walking a few days a week, lifting twice a week, and doing yoga weekly.
Currently, on maternity leave from her full-time job, Cate is able to balance caring for a toddler and a newborn, while still having some free time for herself during the day. When she returns to work, she and her husband will adjust the routines and split the parental duties equitably.
Advice for Pregnant Runners
Cate's advice for pregnant runners or new moms is to get as much rest as possible. Sleep disruption starts in pregnancy and continues into early childhood. “Try to schedule some kid-free time for yourself during the day so you don’t have to stay up late after they go to bed.”
As for running—it’s natural to mourn the loss of your old life of athletic achievement. As a new mother, not all advice you receive will be applicable to you. The most important thing is to enjoy the present.
“All those stories about how 'Moms can do anything' sound inspiring, but it was discouraging during my pregnancy and postpartum times because it wasn’t so true for me. I didn't meet many of my postpartum fitness goals the first time. That doesn’t mean I did anything wrong—it’s just hard! That’s why it’s special when we see mothers come roaring back! But I think we need to share more stories about failure, or pulling back from running, so that moms know they aren’t alone when they’re in the valleys.”
Continuing to Show Up as a Mother Runner
As soon as Cate is healthy enough to run again, she is looking to participate in some smaller fun races such as the Cap 10K, the Sky Island 25K, and her local Turkey Trot. We are inspired by Cate and her attitude to the changes of becoming a mom. Her honesty about the challenges she's faced contributes to the larger conversation of what it means to be a mother and an athlete.