Return to running after pregnancy and injuries

Aliphine Tuliamuk won the Olympic marathon trials in Atlanta in February 2020. But when it came time for the 26.2-mile race in Tokyo more than a year later – the Olympics were postponed to August 2021, at cause of the pandemic – she had to give up about 20K due to hip pain.

Just six months before leaving for Japan, Tuliamuk gave birth to her daughter, Zoe. Thus, instead of feeling sorry for the course of the day, she tells The runner’s world she found solace in being a new mom. “I didn’t have to think about the race and I didn’t have to think about the fact that I was going to miss a marathon again because of an injury,” says Tuliamuk. She just focused on recovery, spending time with her family and caring for her newborn baby.

When it came time to return to racing, however, in 2022, Tuliamuk says she carefully planned her racing schedule, focus on the half marathon this summer and achieve a total of 26.2 this fall.

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She admits she would have loved to make her return to the Boston Marathon this year, but “I just didn’t feel like I had enough time to train and didn’t want to rush either,” she says.

Instead, Tuliamuk returns to marathon racing this weekend in New York, his third time in all five boroughs. “I’ve always had a thing for New York,” she says. In fact, she cites her first New York City Marathon in 2017 as the first time she felt like a true marathon runner. “It was also the last marathon I ran before the Olympic trials and it gave me a lot of hope, so it was actually quite easy to choose New York,” she says.

This isn’t the first time Tuliamuk has made a big comeback to racing. In June 2019, she was diagnosed with a femoral stress fracture, forcing her to sit for weeks. Around this time, she turned to crochet to fill her headspace. Five months later, she returned for her second New York marathon, and just three months later, she clinched the top spot on the podium in Atlanta.

So whether you’re a first-time parent like Tuliamuk, returning to the sport you love after pregnancy, or coming back from an injury, this professional marathon runner offers tips for making your own comeback. While it may be necessary to strike a careful balance between work, training and parenthood, Tuliamuk says a flexible plan and expectations can help you prepare successfully to race again.

Take rest days when you need them

Looking back, Tuliamuk says she doesn’t know if postpartum influenced the injury that took her out of the Olympics. But she thinks running at a high level on unstable joints, while breastfeeding, could have contributed to the problem. That’s why she would have liked to be less aggressive to return to running after the birth and before the Olympics.

After Tokyo, Tuliamuk took six months to fully recover. Instead of running, she spent time with her family and friends, and even had the opportunity to visit loved ones living in Kenya. “The fact that my daughter is growing up and we’re having a good time has made it easier,” she says of retiring from the sport.

In January 2022, Tuliamuk says she was able to start running slowly again, this time more easily than when she last came back. “I think it was really tough because I was super out of shape,” she says. “But one thing that helped me was that I didn’t put races on my schedule because I didn’t want to put pressure on myself.”

She also started training more to support her training, focusing on the muscles that supported her hips and legs. By February of this year, her body was fully recovered and she began to return to her typical training volume.

Be flexible in your training

Being a professional runner and parent is a balancing act and Tuliamuk says she’s had some restless nights. But for the most part, she’s able to plan her training accordingly, and more importantly, she’s kind to herself when she can’t fit everything into her day.

“It certainly hasn’t been easy, especially now that I’m training for a marathon. But even when I do big workouts, I always try to remind myself that I have to take care of myself to take care of my daughter,” she says.

On intensive training days when her husband isn’t home, Tuliamuk wakes up a bit earlier to drop her daughter off at daycare, then trains. But if there is a day when she feels she is not up to it, she refrains from running that day.

Going into training with a flexible mindset can be very helpful for new parents and those coming back from an injury. Additionally, Tuliamuk says the main goal is to prioritize quality over quantity. For example, if you don’t feel well and put in hard miles that don’t serve your physical condition or mental stamina, that’s not good for your training. It’s probably best to skip a race to have a better one the next day. “If you can’t get [a run] inside, fine. It’s normal not to be able to do everything all the time,” she says.

Involve the family

When caring for a little one, some days can be out of your control and unpredictable. But with a little planning, you can adjust your schedule in a way that works best for both of you.

For Tuliamuk, that means setting aside separate time for her and her daughter, Zoe, to jog together — no pressure, just fun, but no stroller either. “Every morning I put my shoes on and she puts her shoes on because she wants to go out for a run with me,” says Tuliamuk, who may not have brought Zoe for her practice runs, but lets them when. even time to have fun sport together. “She likes to run beside me – if I leave her behind, she gives up.”

Pay attention to how you feel after training

How does your body react during and after each run? How does it feel each week as you rack up the miles? Ask yourself these questions every day to be more in tune with your body and how you feel when you return to running.

“If you ran marathons before you became a mom, don’t compare yourself now as a mom to when you weren’t a mom,” says Tuliamuk. After birth or after an injury, it takes time to rebuild your fitness. And listening to your body is the key to success on this journey.

It is better to cut a race short than to push your body too soon beyond its limits. If you still feel exhausted after running miles, it might be a sign that you need to pull back a bit and go easier or shorter.

Find what motivates you

When the races are going well, says Tuliamuk, “it’s easy for me to think of my daughter and be so proud. But then when I’m in pain [during a race]I find that doing that only stresses me out more.

During these slow times in a race, Tuliamuk instead focuses on gratitude. “It’s a privilege to be able to go out there and run as fast and as far as you can,” she said.

Another of Tuliamuk’s mental tricks: she changes her way of thinking about the pain that comes with running a marathon, saying it’s a positive feeling and you can’t feel outside of those 26.2 miles. This keeps her present and allows him to kiss her. “I’m going to be able to hurt and I always know that I can keep going,” she said.

Focus on your mental game

When it comes to the final weeks of training for a race, your mental approach to the miles can make or break your performance. Tuliamuk says that in the weeks leading up to NYC, she focused on her mental toughness. “I can’t really control the amount of training or the time I have now, but I can control the mental attitude. And I think, with the New York City Marathon being such a tough course, I’m just going to work. really, really hard to stay positive,” she says.

Looking back to when she led NYC in 2019, after a short training block, she says her approach to turning inward and focusing on gratitude paid off. So she hopes that will be the case this year as well, especially since she is in a better place now than she was three years ago.

Plus, running as a parent made the miles even more special. “Being able to push myself as a parent. It’s your time, that’s how I see it, like ‘it’s me time,'” she says. “It’s the only time I can show how strong and amazing I am when I run.”

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