A question we commonly get asked here is “When can I start running again after my baby is born?” Running can be a great form of exercise and can provide moms with some quality alone time, but there are several things to consider before getting back into a running routine after you have delivered. Pregnancy and postpartum fitness specialist, Jamie Kocher weighs in on how to safely return to running after pregnancy.
I will give you basic tips and recommendations regarding returning to running after delivering a baby. The timeline of when to return to running varies person-to-person. On average, I’m not recommending getting back to running before the 3-month mark, if not the 4-month mark, and I’ll explain why.
First, running is hard and it is hard on your body. Running causes a lot of high level impact on our bodies and our bodies just went through 9 months of changes and a delivery. Your body has been through a lot, and it needs time to recover well before it’s able to tolerate those high impact exercises. I recommend starting with walking and strength training to allow your body to heal and strengthen before starting higher impact activity like running. A good way to think of return to running: you don’t run to get in shape, you get in shape to run.
Signs that your body may not be ready to return to running:
- Pain with daily work or exercises such as low back pain, hip pain, pelvic pain, or knee pain. Pain is the indicator that your body may not be strong enough or ready for the load of running. Pelvic pain is one of the things that I see commonly in women who run. So if you have pelvic pain of any kind, it may not be a good idea to start into a running program.
- Bladder leakage: Urine leakage, even a small amount, is a sign that your body is not accepting the load of the activity well.
- Heaviness or bulging sensation in your pelvic, vaginal or rectal area. If you feel heavy down below, your body may not be able to withstand a load of running.
- Bulging or doming in the center of your belly while standing up or during certain exercises/activities during the day, that can be a sign of core dysfunction including diastasis recti which can affect your ability to return to higher level exercise.
If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, your body may not be ready to stand the load of running. It would be good for you to partner up with a pelvic physical therapist to assess these symptoms and help you design a specific program to address problem areas before you return to running.
Things to do to prepare your postpartum body for running:
- You can start a specific strength training program to retrain the core, including the pelvic floor muscles and all the surrounding supportive muscles. Getting strong is essential for a runner. Running is a high demand on the pelvic floor and core. You want to make sure that you are strong to support the movement and timing of running. This applies to the women who are recently postpartum, and even the women who are 3 or 6 years postpartum and want to start a running program.
- Make sure you are retraining your core and pelvic floor muscles. I’ve already talked about strength training, but being very specific about how you train your core and your pelvic floor is key. There’s a lot of load and a lot of stretch and pressure on your abdominal wall and your pelvic floor while pregnant. It is key that you retrain those muscles in these early stages before starting a running program so your body is ready to take on the demands and impact of running. This is where pelvic physical therapy can be a huge help to make sure that you’re incorporating core work and pelvic floor work in your training program.
- Be aware of prolapse. If you have vaginal heaviness, feel/see a bulge vaginally, or are diagnosed with a prolapse, take this into consideration before returning to running. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to seek out a pelvic physical therapist. Talk to your doctor about this. How can you get in the best shape possible before you start putting more load and demand on those already compromised tissues?
- Make sure you are strength training appropriately for runners. Here at Legacy, we are trained to analyze your core stability, running form and how this impacts your transfer load. We may recommend exercises like squats or lunges for gluteal strengthening and make sure you are doing the right core strengthening. We may also implement balance training into your program. There are a multitude of activities/exercises to improve your strength for running. You want to make sure that you are strength training every week at a minimum of three times per week.
- Your body needs sleep and adequate hydration. It needs good stress management. It needs good nutrition. There are other important components to getting back to running other than being strong and being able to run again. These components are also the building blocks for recovery when we begin to exercise or strength train again.
One last thought– acknowledge that you are starting over. You are beginning a new phase of your fitness. Even if you’ve been a runner, after your pregnancy, you just had a beautiful but huge change to your body. You’re not starting from square one, but you are not going to likely be able to pick up where you left off because your body has been through this amazing change. Give it the grace that it needs and time to heal and know that you’re going to get back into your running with the right guidance, but you need to start slowly. This doesn’t mean going out and running 5 miles at 6 weeks postpartum.
It’s important to get seen by a pelvic floor physical therapist if you’re not really sure how to start a program or strength training. We recommend everybody see a pelvic floor physical therapist after childbirth whether it was 6 weeks ago or 1 year ago. They can really see what’s going on in your body and make sure that you’re set up for returning to running.
Do you still have questions about the best way for you to return to running postpartum? Want to talk with a postpartum fitness specialist about your fitness goals? Click here to learn more about our postpartum fitness options at Legacy PT.