So many of my Postpartum Moms come to me because they want to get back to running to feel like themselves, and how could we blame them! Running can indeed be incredibly freeing. What a great way to get out of the house, breathe in some fresh air, expend some energy and wake up those muscles after nine long months of pregnancy. Not feeling like yourself and craving a good run is common for most active new moms; you’ll get there!
One step at a time. First of all at this time, it’s important to be aware of what your body has endured during this time and also resist the urge to go back to running after pregnancy as if nothing has happened…. because so much has happened in the past few months….
There are a few things you need to know when returning to running after giving birth. In fact, don’t think that getting the green light to exercise from your doctor means you’re ready to do absolutely anything. This “green light” should be accompanied by a huge asterisk. I personally recommend waiting at least four months before resuming jogging, but it’s important to remember that you can find anything and everything online, so let’s clarify a few things so you can make the best decision for you!
1. Strengthen your core and pelvic floor before returning to jogging after having a baby.
The muscles and ligaments that hold your organs and pelvis in place have stretched and weakened during pregnancy and childbirth. Running is a high-impact activity, so imagine that with each step your organs are pushed forward against your stretched abdominal midline, and down toward your weakened pelvic floor muscles. Remember that one of the functions of your pelvic floor is to be a shock absorber, but if it’s too weak to do its job, everything gets pushed down into your vagina. Resuming running after childbirth with a non-functional core and pelvic floor is the perfect scenario for pelvic organ prolapse (bladder and uterus falling into the vagina – not fun!) To safely return to running after childbirth you must give your body the best opportunity to build your core after pregnancy, core and pelvic floor exercises are essential. Without a strong and stable core, you may experience back pain, pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction or even pelvic organ prolapse. Your post-pregnancy belly needs love! A strong core and resilient pelvic floor are essential to being able to run pain-free and prevent potentially serious injuries.
2. First one step, then another, then a short run and then….
Treat yourself as if you were injured: if you tore ligaments in your knee, you wouldn’t start running right after surgery, would you! The same concept you need to apply to postpartum. First you need to focus on your pelvic floor and abdominal re-education with postnatal exercises, then progressively start….
A great way to start is power walking. This is a much gentler form of cardiovascular exercise to start with after childbirth, with much less gravity pressing on your joints and organs. Session after session you can increase the duration and intensity of your walks to gradually get back on track. Then, once you feel comfortable, you can begin a walk-run program. To do this, simply alternate one minute of running with one minute of walking for 20-30 minutes total. Stay in tune with your body and if it feels like too much start with 2 minutes of walking and 1 minute of running. When you feel ready you can switch to running for two minutes and walking for one for 20-30 minutes total.
Running every day can actually add more stress to your pelvic floor and lead to injury. Your pelvic floor needs to recover between runs. Remember: one drop of urine is one drop too many, so make sure you’re not suffering from stress incontinence and if that happens take a few steps back and focus on your daily posture, abs and pelvic floor re-education. It’s important to follow a specific postpartum recovery program after pregnancy to reactivate your body, re-educate your pelvic floor and reconnect your abdominal wall.