If you were a keen runner before pregnancy you might want to get back to it as soon as possible and that’s great – for your physical and mental health. However, running is a high impact activity and there’s groundwork to be done to prepare you for this kind of exercise. Guidance recommends that you should wait until at least 3 months after birth to start, perhaps longer given certain considerations. Read on to learn more.
What kind of birth did you have?
As a guide those who birthed by c-section should wait at least 8 weeks before commencing low impact activities and for vaginal births 6 weeks. With vaginal birth, if perineal tears or episiotomy occurred this should also be factored in to increase recovery time before resuming high impact exercise. This also coincides with GP postnatal check-ups where the doctor can give you advice on returning to exercise taking into consideration your individual birth experience. But remember, low impact means very gentle exercise such as walking, yoga and swimming. It is wise to start gently before moving on to exercise such as running or high impact cardio.
Are you breastfeeding?
It is possible that while still breastfeeding and up to three months after weaning from the breast levels of relaxin in the body can mean joint laxity is still present meaning mothers could be more prone to injury during this time. So take extra care if this is the case.
Pelvic Floor Health
Running places a high gravitational load on the pelvic floor which may already be weak from the strain of carrying baby for 9 months. It is so important to strengthen the pelvic floor postnatally to avoid incontinence, prolapse, pelvic or lower back pain and diastasis recti. If you experience any of these symptoms before, during or after running it is advised not to pause until you have worked on these issues.
You can start to work on strengthening the pelvic floor within a few days of giving birth. Work on short sharp engagements combined with longer holds. it is highly recommended to see a women’s health physio for a full checkup (often known as the Mummy MOT) postnatally to ensure there are no problems and receive advice on how to continue your recovery and exercise routine safely.
From 6/8 weeks a specialist postnatal yoga or pilates class is a good place to work on strengthening the pelvic floor and safely beginning your journey back to high impact exercise.
Check our local women’s health physio Harriet Hodgskin’s website for some great info on the pelvic floor and how to work on strengthening it – Pelvic Floor Blog >
Recommended Exercises to Build up to Running
It is recommended that you ensure you can complete the following exercises (some of which we practice in my postnatal yoga classes) without pain, heaviness, dragging or incontinence before attempting to return to running.
- Walking 30 minutes
- Single leg balance 10 seconds
- Single leg squat 10 repetitions each side
- Jog on the spot 1 minute
- Forward bounds 10 repetitions
- Hop in place 10 repetitions each leg
- Single leg ‘running man’: opposite arm and hip flexion/extension (bent knee) 10 repetitions each side
- Single leg calf raise 20 repetitions
- Single leg bridge 20 repetitions
- Single leg sit to stand 20 repetitions
- Side lying abduction 20 repetitions
If you find that you cannot complete these exercises, be gentle with yourself – your body is recovering from a huge event. Go slowly to avoid further injury and build strength and you will reap the benefits later.
Getting Started – Couch to 5k
Couch to 5k is a great way to ease yourself into running once you feel that your pelvic floor, mobility and strength is ready for the challenge. The app will ensure that you progress at a steady pace and starts with a mix of running and walking to gradually build up your fitness and stamina.
The majority of the information in this blog post is taken from research paper “Returning to running postnatal – guidelines for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population” (Goom, Tom & Donnelly, Grainne & Brockwell, Emma. (2019).
I highly recommend reading the full document to prepare yourself for returning to running.