Successfully Completing Couch to 5k with a Baby in Tow

Hiking Mama

This is a guest post written by my dear friend, Karla Filibeck. She has been my accountability partner for the last two months as we both followed the Couch to 5k program. Here’s her beautiful story!

I just finished a Couch to 5K program. Yes, me! At nine months postpartum I’m in better shape now than I was before I got pregnant. Have I lost all the “baby weight?” Oh heck no. I am still carrying 20 extra pounds, pounds everyone told me would “just fall off” if I were breastfeeding. Lies! Now I’m told they are supposed to magically disappear once I stop breastfeeding. Whatever, I grew a tiny human. Now I’m feeding a tiny human, and I can run for 30 minutes without stopping. To say I am proud of myself is pretty dang accurate, maybe even an understatement.

How My Couch to 5k Journey Began

I’m trying to remember exactly how it all began. Oh sure, I could look back at the first text and Instagram messages I exchanged with my childhood best friend a couple months ago, but I would have to literally scroll through hundreds of messages and a few dozen sweaty selfies. (The sweaty selfies were her idea, and a brilliant one at that.)

Amanda and I were besties as teenagers. Life took us different directions and even out of touch until we discovered we were both pregnant at the same time with our first babies last year! There’s nothing quite as bonding as navigating the joys and challenges of pregnancy and new parenthood together - even 4,000+ miles and 6 time zones apart.

When Amanda told me she was planning to start the Couch to 5k program, I had just finished reading “Girl, wash your face” by Rachel Hollis. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was exactly what I needed to prepare myself to make a change. The book talks about not giving up on your dreams, and I remember telling my husband, in tears, that I didn’t even know if I had any dreams anymore. I, a once very achievement-oriented, goal-driven dreamer had gotten into the rut of surviving from one nap or feed to the next.

To be fair, there is a period of new motherhood where keeping you and your baby napped and fed is about all you can hope to accomplish. It’s a giant task! How long this period of time lasts depends on you and your baby. The stress of a traumatic birth, 60 day NICU stay and challenges associated with breastfeeding and other medical needs had taken a toll on me. This excerpt from Rachel’s book was exactly what I needed at the time:

“Let me take a moment to tell those of you who are dealing with and fighting through something painful: it is a miracle that you’re sitting here. You are nobly doing your best to battle your way through it. You are a warrior because of the trials you are going through, but don’t you dare squander the strength you have earned just because the acquisition of it was painful.”

Not long after, Amanda told me she was going to start running. I jumped at the opportunity, and we quickly became accountability partners. It all fell into place without much planning but, if you’re trying to get started, here are some recommendations:

My 7 Tips for Getting into a Healthy Exercise Routine After baby

1. Choose an accountability partner in a similar season of life.

No one will understand the unique challenges you face or be able to help you problem solve quite like someone who is experiencing very similar things!

2. Choose an accountability partner you truly feel accountable to.

I don’t know about you, but my closest family members give me way too much grace (or enable me, depending on how you look at it). If I’m being honest, I often do the same to them. There’s just something about change -even good change- that we resist for ourselves and others sometimes!

3. Choose a physical activity you enjoy and optimize what motivates you.

I’ve enjoyed running at other times in my life, so it’s not all that surprising that I’m enjoying it again now. Maybe running isn’t your thing, and that’s OK! There are many other free and low-cost options.

4. Identify any potential barriers and plan for them.

I knew that if I told my husband I was going to start running, it might be counterproductive. It wasn’t because he wouldn’t support me. In fact, quite the opposite! Maybe it’s some kind of weird psychological thing I’m just now figuring out after nearly 13 years of marriage, but his efforts to encourage me to push harder and further (because he believes in me) somehow make me feel like the goals I’ve set for myself aren’t good enough. So I kept my running a secret from him! It was so fun to surprise him with my progress when I was ready.

5. Give yourself grace when your efforts are imperfect.

Forget to wear a sports bra? Do your best to hold yourself together and remember to wear one next time. Baby going through a sleep regression? Teething? Developmental leap? Don’t allow it to become an excuse, but do your best given your circumstances!

6. Pace yourself and listen to your body.

In the beginning, I got so excited about how great I felt that I was running every day without taking time to rest. My body spoke up with a knee injury, so I had to take a few days off. Luckily I recovered and was able to continue. I definitely underestimated just how important it is to rest and recover.

7. Celebrate your progress no matter how big or small.

Many times I would find myself drafting a message in my head to tell Amanda I had finished while I was still running. Similarly, I started drafting this celebratory blog post weeks before I actually finished the Couch to 5k program. There’s something to be said for visualizing (or in this case verbalizing) the finish line!

What to Do After Completing the Couch to 5k Training Program

Now that I’ve finished the Couch to 5k program, my next eight weeks are less certain. No predetermined workouts are waiting for me to complete and check off, and yet I want to stay motivated and active! So what then?

1. Sign up for an actual 5k race!

Amanda is running the A2 Turkey Trot this Saturday, and this is one of the many times I hate all 4,000+ miles between us. How awesome would it be to run together?! Since that won’t be possible, I’ll be cheering her on from afar and signing up for a race (or more than one!) near me.

2. Train for a 10K?

Many people choose to continue training for a 10K after completing a 5k. While I definitely want to keep running and it might seem like the obvious next step, I’m not sure that finding more than 30-40 minutes to workout several times a week is realistic for me right now. I can only ask my little one to ride in her stroller for so long!

3. Start strength training!

Pregnancy and an emergency c-section all but destroyed my core strength, but I know I will eventually find some resemblance of my abs again. I found an app called Spitfire that lays out a 4-week bodyweight plan similar to Couch to 5k. Although I don’t foresee any strength training equivalents to a 5k race in my future, maybe I’ll challenge my husband to a “plank off” once I get stronger! (I WILL win!)

Regardless of exactly where, or how, or when I choose to move my body in the future, I will always be grateful for this Couch to 5k experience. I feel strong. I am strong! So strong I can climb a mountain and feed my baby at the top (pictured). And even if I don’t have any wild and crazy dreams just yet, this challenge has given me the confidence that I can be proud of things I start and finish - no matter how big or small - and that is priceless!

Have you ever trained for a 5k? Tell us about your experience! What motivated you? What did you do when you finished the program? Have you discovered any cool apps along the way? Do tell!