Running Mum - Noon Abdelrazig
Running as a new Mom
Hello, my Name is Noon and I am a Sudanese doctor. I came to Aberdeen 4 years ago to pursue a specialist training course in paediatrics.
I fell in love with Scotland when I was 8 years old after watching the film “Braveheart”. And I loved it even more after I met my then colleague and now husband. We have bonded over love of nature, hiking and trail running among many other things.
Last December we were blessed by the arrival of our newborn girl. It was the perfect present before Christmas and New Year!
Before falling pregnant I was getting into the habit of running 5K three times a week with my beloved husband who also acts as my coach and personal trainer. I found it a bit difficult to run through pregnancy as I was getting lots of joint and hip pain. But I continued to run on and off until I was 27 weeks pregnant. It helped keeping my weight under control and my mood happy.
Giving birth didn’t go as smoothly as hoped for and I ended up with a tear. But we had a healthy baby, which we were thankful for (the midwifery team in Aberdeen did a great job!).
According to Sudanese traditions new moms enjoy a restful 40 days after birth called “Al-Nufas”, where both mom and baby will be looked after by a maternal figure (mom, aunt, sister, grandma). Mothers enjoy a healthy range of iron-rich food and cleansing herbs to drink which aid healing and nourishment. I was blessed by having my mom to join us. She was a great help to us as new parents.
While awaiting clearance from the GP, I started walking with baby in a sling and doing the recommended pelvic floor and core strength exercises. At 7 weeks post birth I started going on short 1-2.5km runs with my daughter in a running buggy, where I mixed up walking and running. At first it was hard going: my legs felt heavy and my core weak but over time I’ve been walking less and increasing the running intervals.
We live in the countryside in Aberdeenshire and there are lovely running routes to choose from, both on quiet paved roads and on trails in the woods. I prefer trail running and have found that a good sturdy buggy with big wheels (ours came to us second hand and also converts into a bike trailer, which is very handy) is great for uneven trails. But whether it’s a lovely trail or just a paved cycle path, getting out to run helps me to detach myself from the chaos of life for 30 minutes and to focus on the beautiful sceneries. Plus it works as a cardiovascular exercise, and trail running strengthens your legs to an even greater degree than road running.
Pregnancy and childbirth bring about so many changes, in your body, in your mind, in your routines! I knew from my medical training that it can take up to 6 months after delivery for the pelvis to shift from an anterior position back into its normal place. But even though, to experience the related pains personally is quite different to reading up on the explanations behind them for an exam! If you find yourself affected by pain in the pelvis or in knees or other joints, it might well be related to the still lingering hormonal changes that prepared your body for childbirth. Be easy on yourself and, if in doubt, seek medical advice.
Another consideration that is new to first-time moms is how to combine breastfeeding and exercise. As I had my own mom by my side with her experience of being a doctor back in Sudan and having raised five children herself, I was lucky to establish feeding soon and successfully. I’m aware that this isn’t always the case, and by exchanging experiences with friends I’ve learned that it is important to start slowly and make sure that your milk supply isn’t affected by working your body too hard. It’s useful to feed or pump before you set out for a run (wearing a good bra!) and to make sure you stay hydrated. Most importantly, I find not taking running too seriously is the key to success. It needs to be enjoyable and not an extra chore!
Despite all the extra considerations and having to get my daughter ready as well as myself, I find going out for a run gives baby a chance to sleep, get fresh air, and it gets me out of the house. And when my husband is home it is an activity all the family can join in. I’ve also been encouraged by other new moms in our village who are getting back to running – a small network of friends who help you get motivated is so helpful. I have chosen the Illuminator as my long-term fitness goal, and while there is never a guarantee that life won’t get in the way and you might end up not running at the event, having a focus to train towards helps me to get out there even when it’s grey or wet. Gradually I’ve been building up distance and speed, always listening to my body if rest was needed.
My baby is now 4 months old and I am getting back to my pre-pregnancy fitness. Regular exercise – or at least as regular as life with a young baby allows – has encouraged me to keep a healthy diet. As a doctor I am aware of growing evidence for the benefits of exercise during and after pregnancy. But it’s also important to keep in mind that every mom and every pregnancy is different, so seek advice from your health professionals when you’re taking up exercise. However, I have found running good for my physical and mental health, and good for my family!
You can follow my new mom running journey on instagram @herspiritrunswild.
Have a lovely weekend – and a happy mother’s day to all the wonderful moms out there!