Nell McAndrew: running with my baby keeps me sane

I’m a 41-year-old mother of two and a former model and TV presenter. I started running 11 years ago as a way of relieving stress – it’s my favourite way to unwind. I’ve always loved the way exercise makes me feel alive, energised and more confident.

Before I was a mum I could head out running whenever I felt like it. Now I barely have a minute to have a shower in peace, so fitting in running can be a struggle. I’ve just returned from my morning jog, taking my eight-year-old son Devon to school with him on his scooter and me pushing two-year-old Anya in the running buggy. It’s much more pleasant than sitting in a stuffy car – and it’s free parking!

It’s much more pleasant than sitting in a stuffy car – and it’s free parking!

I’ve been writing a monthly column about combining motherhood and training since 2012 and have now published a book with fellow runner Lucy Waterlow, ‘Nell McAndrew’s Guide to Running’ (Bloomsbury, £12.99). I’ve included chapters on running before and after pregnancy and childbirth, and running with a buggy.

It’s not recommended to take a baby in a running buggy until they’re at least six months old and able to sit up by themselves. This is because their heads and necks are still delicate and the reverberation from the buggy could make their heads bounce, causing neck and back injuries.

It’s important to invest in a proper running buggy, as they’ve been developed with better suspension than everNell Cancer Research 10kyday strollers and are designed to move more smoothly. Baby joggers are allowed in parkrun events, so this is an excellent way to get you and your family out in the fresh air on a Saturday morning.

READ MORE: Bugaboo’s first running buggy 

Having a second child knocked my confidence. Being a mum does that to you; you’re so tired and there’s such an overwhelming sense of responsibility. But once Devon and Anya were old enough to go in the baby jogger, I had a new lease of life. I was sometimes able to run five times a week and felt more like my old self again. I found it was best to time the runs for when the baby was tired and ready for a sleep, so it would chill out in the pushchair and watch the world go by, or even doze off.

I ran my first marathon in London in 2004, and I ran my personal best – 2 hours 54 minutes – when I was 38. It just goes to show, it’s never too late to start or to improve. I still believe I can run faster and love the challenge of pushing myself to see what I can do.

I’m a keen supporter of Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, which I’ve run loads of times, often with my family. We’re committed to Race for Life because my dad, Ted, who’s now 63, had T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer. They removed a large tumour and were very clear he had only a 50/50 chance of survival, but he’s been in remission for 11 years.

Race for Life has been a big part of my life and my running journey. When you run Race for Life it’s not a race against somebody else, it’s your own personal challenge – you against the distance, or you against your fears. So many people think they can’t run but they start by getting involved with Race for Life and then go on to do the Great North Run or the London or Brighton Marathon.

Nell’s tips for running with your buggy

* Don’t take baby jogging until he/she is at least six months old

* Buy a specially-designed running buggy and try before you buy

* Keep babies in joggers wrapped up warm – they won’t heat up like you will running

* Drink extra water if you’re breastfeeding to prevent dehydration

* Wear a sports bra and apply Vaseline to nipples to stop them chafing

* Build up your training gradually after having a baby – listen to your body

 Join Race for Life

Cancer Research UK need more women to enter their 5k and 10k Race for Life events in the London area. It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in: women and girls of all ages and abilities will be walking, jogging or running this summer to help defeat cancer. Join the #PinkArmy at raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org and enter your postcode to find your nearest event. You can also set up your JustGiving page, get sponsorship and fundraising tips and find a training plan to suit you.

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