Journalist Sophie Kendall, 28, from Sprowston in Norwich, explains how taking up running after having her first baby, Alex, in October 2015, helped her feel like herself again.
Sleepless nights, anxiety and extreme happiness are all emotions and experiences I expected from having a baby. But losing my identity to become a mum was something that took me by surprise.
Before falling pregnant with Alex I was getting into running and doing Catton Park Run every week – my fastest time being 26.33 – as well as running 10k once a week with work colleagues.
From the beginning of my pregnancy I was determined to keep as active as I could to maintain a healthy pregnancy. I wanted to run as long as I could and ended up stopping Park Run when I was about 20 weeks.
I continued watching my husband take part in it each week, which made me more focussed on taking it up after having my son. I always felt jealous watching the runners, even in the rain and wind.
During the first few weeks of motherhood while I was stuck on the sofa for hours breastfeeding Alex, feeling exhausted and never knowing when he would sleep or stop crying, I thought it would be impossible to take up running again.
Fast forward a few weeks, when Alex was about 10 weeks older, the feeding had slowed down and a sleep pattern was emerging, I took up short evening jogs to ease myself into running again.
The overwhelming feeling I got from that was a sense of my old self as I was not all-consumed with thoughts of my son. It gave me the chance to have a clear head. It made me feel happy and reminded myself I was not just a mum – I was Sophie Kendall who loves to run.
A few weeks later I completed a Catton Park Run and I’m now going on 7K runs with my work colleague.
I now do Park Run every two weeks as I alternate looking after Alex with my husband and have signed up for this year’s 10K Run Norwich event, which gives me an incentive to get faster.
My Park Run time post baby has gone from just over 31 minutes to just over 28 minutes. I know I’m not the quickest but my faster times, and the fact I can get around the 5K course, gives me a big sense of satisfaction.
Becoming a mum has been, and continues to be, an amazing experience and I love spending time with Alex. But I think it is important to do things for me once in a while because the happier I feel the better mum I can be.
I don’t run to return to my pre-pregnancy shape. I do it because it gives me a sense of identity and makes me feel uplifted.
I would say to any new mum who wants to return to exercising or even take it up, go for it and never say “I can’t do it.” It is always surprising how good it makes you feel.