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Reviving the Athlete Within: A Guide to Triathlon After Baby

My first triathlon race after having a baby

Looking back I had some interesting expectations about what I’d be able to do after having a baby. Most of these were misguided! But the main reason why was because I had no idea about how my time would be impacted by raising a family.

I had already qualified for the 2018 ITU World Championships in the Gold Coast Australia before having my daughter. I was the National Standard Distance Champ in my age group at that time so I applied to go under special circumstances. As I couldn’t do a qualifying race while pregnant (and win!).

The first year postpartum

I honestly thought I’d have lots of time while at home on maternity leave. Little did I understand about the demands of a newborn and the little sleep that I would get.

Even though there was lots of time doing “nothing”. This “nothing” included:

  • Rocking my baby sleep

  • Holding my sleeping baby

  • Bouncing my baby on my knee while staring out a window

  • Stroller walks to help get my baby to sleep (and stay asleep!)

  • Trying to nap while my baby slept.

However, I was determined to do the Gold Cost World Champs in September 2018, which was 9 months after my baby was born. So here are some of the tips (and mistakes) I made to get to my first triathlon postpartum:

Be realistic with your time

Be realistic with the time you have and what you can do with it. As I’ve mentioned, I had a lot of time sitting around doing “nothing” but not able to do anything else either.

This may mean shorter distance triathlons are more achievable as they require less training (and less time to complete). In any event, it is always better to start off with something small as you’ll be more likely to achieve it. Which will make you feel really good about yourself when you do!

My mistake was training for a standard distance/Olympic triathlon. I didn’t really have the time to train for this the way I would have liked. Looking back, a sprint triathlon would have been much more enjoyable as I would have felt less pressure and stress to train and enjoyed the event more on race day.

Realistic expectations

Which leads me on to adjusting expectations to meet your new circumstances. This is something that I didn’t do very well and it added to my stress levels.

I would think about how I used to train and the times I used to do. While it is great to have goals, now is not the time to go and try to smash out PBs. The fact is that things have changed - your body and your life.

A big part of why I wanted to do the Gold Coast World Champs is because it gave me a link to the outside world and was something I enjoyed. There was a mental health element to my training that was more important than the physical aspects. Which, if I had to do it all again, I would focus on more.

Bring it inside!

The key to any training is consistency. So the big question when you have young children is what can you do consistently? If you are spending a lot of time at home, then it makes sense to try and do your training at home too.

I invested in an Elite Drivo smart trainer. But any wind/turbo trainer will do and you can pick up cheap second hand ones off Trademe. This is a game changer as it gives you a training window when your baby is asleep at home. I’d do about an hour during my daughter’s lunch naps every other day.

Cycling is about half of the triathlon race, so you should aim to spend about half of your training time on it. Hence, if you can get your cycling done then you are halfway there! Big tick!

I also recommend Zwift as a way of keeping the boredom at bay while training inside. Because, let’s face it, it is very hard to stay motivated when staring at the same wall or outside the same window for any length of time!

The right gear makes a difference

Along with an indoor trainer, there are a few other training pieces that can make it a lot easier to reach your goals.

The first is a good maternity sports bra (if you are breastfeeding). Cadenshae do good ones. That way I could potentially stop and feed while out running. But I also did have to wear two sport bras to deal with the extra weight of the milk supply.

And you will probably need a new sports bra anyway in a different size.

The second thing is a running stroller. I ran with my daughter from about 4 months to 18 months. Even when no longer running with it we still used it for walks and as the main stroller. So it got really good use.

Check out second hand options and make sure you try out different models, if possible. Different models have different features and it is all about personal preference. I ended up using a second hand Mountain Buggy stroller.

A running stroller enabled me to fit in runs during the day during the week when my husband was at work. I’d often use the run as a way to lull my daughter to sleep as well - two birds! Found that if I waited until my husband got home from work I was too tired to go out for a run.

It takes a village…

Finally, it is important to have the support of your friends and family. Not all of your training can be done inside or with a running stroller e.g. swimming. So for those times you are going to need to leave your baby with someone else or trust your partner to do what you do (which for new mums is not as easy as it sounds).

I had an arrangement where I would put my daughter down for the night and go and meet some friends for a swim. I knew I had about 2-3 hours before the first wake of the evening. Of course my daughter didn’t take the bottle so I was more limited than if she did. But that is why a good night time sleep regime was important for us.

After being stuck home all day it was quite nice to get out and meet up with friends!

The final word

The first year postpartum is all about recovery and adjusting to your new baby. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be a super mum.

But do try and make time for the things you enjoy and that can give you a break from parenting and reconnect you with friends. This will make you a better parent.

If you are thinking about returning to running you can download my return to running sheet.

Returning to Running Guide
Download PDF • 3.14MB

I have also designed a return to running postpartum programme: Run Confident - Run Strong. Designed to take your new life into account and provide you with not just the training, but the info you need to run confidently.

If you would like individual coaching, please click here to book a free, no obligation consultation call.

Sierra Ryland

Sparkle Fitness



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