In my pre-child years when I could sleep in, drink hot coffee and have full conversations without being interrupted, I completed a marathon, a number of half ironman triathlons and one full ironman.


Leanna 1

Just about to cross the finish line in Ironman Austria 2008


I have just had my 4th (and last) baby but now I can’t run!!  I tried 10 days ago, and I literally can’t run.  My body has forgotten what to do.  I have nostalgically looked at others running whilst I had my big belly and have been impatiently waiting till the time when I could put on my my running shoes and start again.  The time is now and I can’t do it!  Its a weird feeling, as I have done a lot of running in my time, but my body can’t work out how to allow me to run along the road.

When the ‘day of running’ arrived I got out my running hat, running tights (thank goodness they are stretchy!!) and even my watch to see how much slower I was than last time I ran.   I walked a bit to warm up and then  ……  I tried to run.  It was such an effort to push myself off the ground and even harder to do it a number of times in a row!  My upper body felt like it was disconnected from my legs, my arms where moving in their own rhythm and I felt like I was waddling more sideways than making any advancement forwards.  When helping my patients with running technique I spend time teaching them to run on their toes but I couldn’t for the life of me stay on MY toes. It was such an anticlimax after months of anticipation.  It dawned on me that this must be what it feels like for people who have decided to start running after never having run before.  It was happening to me!

I turned off my watch (as I didn’t want to know how slow I was really going) and continued to run/walk around the small block from home.  Gutted and despondent I called Craig Kirkwood from CK Coaching ( who is our go-to for all things running.

Craig has competed at the Commonwealth Games for marathon and is now a triathlete who won his age group at Ironman NZ and has been to Kona 3 times.  He has set himself a challenge to run every day and has now done 537 days in a row of running at least 30 minutes!  He is an expert in the true sense of the word.  I explained my dilemma, he had a snigger and said to relax and that it wouldn’t take long to get back running normally again.  I struggled to believe him after what I had just experienced.  When Craig coached me last summer, I was doing hill reps, 1 km speed reps, tempo runs etc. all of which seem like a distant memory now.


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Craig Kirkwood on the way to winning the Mount Joggers Half Marathon 2016


Craig suggested that I:

  • Continue to do run/walks to gradually increase the running time and lessen the rest time eg run 1 min walk 2 mins.
  • Work on increasing volume and base fitness before doing any speed/hill sessions
  • Run every second day to give myself a recovery time between runs and then aim to run for 2 days in a row and then have a rest day gradually building up to 3 days in a row and then 4.
  • Swim to work on my core strength and control

I have thought about our conversation many times since last week and realised that Craig is right (of course).  I need to get some strength and control back in my core muscles and my legs and some fitness back so my heart doesn’t feel like it is going to beat right out of my chest!  But what I really need to do is teach my body to get the connections back that it once had.  The nerves in my whole body were tuned in to fire and then activate the right muscles and coordinate them to switch on at the right times to allow me to run.  Somewhere in my body there are the connections but they need to be reminded what to do again and then again and then again.   I realised that this is why, if you are a novice runner, it takes a long time to feel like you can run and build up some form and fitness.   You have no nerve patterning to start with and with each run you are laying down the pathways for you both to activate the muscles and coordinate the running activity. It is also why, if you have run before, you can regain some of this coordination much quicker as your body remembers what it used to do.

I ran again today and what do you know, I can stay on my toes for a bit, my waddling sideways is less, I am not so bent over and gradually my muscles are starting to remember what to do.   Things are looking up.   With a husband and 4 kids to run around after I just need to find the energy and the time to get out the door more often….. I think I might have to invest in a good head torch for these dark nights!


Leanna 3

My 4 children (Josh, Lachie, Paige and Zach) and I doing a bush walk in Ohope last month


Watch out for more blogs on returning to sport after kids and stay tuned to find out what event I am planning to do next!!!