This is a frequent conversation with my pre and postnatal gals.
Question: When can I start running again?
Answer: Probably (read: definitely) not after your 6-week check-up when your doctor “clears” you for all exercise.
(Side note, but docs, can you please use different wording with your postnatal clients when it comes to this? Running is not the same as core activation, breathing, resistance training, etc.)
Postnatal ladies, I need you to be patient with this one, because it will significantly impact your recovery in the short term and health in the long-term. Postnatal exercise is fantastic and I encourage it as soon as you’re ready and feeling up for movement.
Working on abdominal and pelvic floor activation exercises, retraining your breathing patterns, doing exercises such as squats, lunges, hip thrusts, pulling, and scapular slides are all amazing. They will be extremely helpful in your healing and fat loss journey, if that is a goal of yours.
However, running, and any high impact exercise for that matter, is a completely different story. What your body has undergone during pregnancy, labor and delivery is no joke. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and probably continue to keep saying it :)).
If you think that running is going to be your best bet for getting back to your “pre-pregnancy” weight, or into your jeans, or even get your abs back, it’s just simply not going to be. There are much more effective and safe ways for you to do this, I promise you that.
I understand that you may love to run and I fully support you in getting back to it. But please, keep reading to find out why I need you to wait at least 3 MONTHS to pound the pavement. To be crystal clear, this is with 3 months/12 weeks of structured postnatal specific resistance training (core retraining, glute/back strengthening, breathing exercises), not just 3 months from delivery day.
- You are mega sleep deprived
You likely do not have the ability to focus on a million things at once right now, which is what running will take when you’re getting back into it. Abs bracing, pelvic floor engaged, glutes firing, diaphragmatic breathing, etc. through hundreds and thousands of steps? Sounds exhausting just thinking about it and I got a full 8 hours last night 😉
- Your new body is unstable right now
Not just because of the changes to muscular strength, but also because the hormone relaxin is at an all time high for first few months postpartum. This is the hormone that made it possible for your body to be able to carry a baby and birth it. It makes your soft tissues (for example, ligaments) more lax and therefore, you are far more susceptible to injury. Especially injury to hips, pubic symphysis, low back, and knees.
- It is essential to retrain your core and floor
Your core muscles are not ready to support your body through repetitive pounding food strikes. It is a recipe for disaster. Your posture is likely not optimally aligned, especially if you are spending long days breastfeeding and carrying your baby.
You probably have some degree of diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and your spine is not well supported. Your pelvic floor might not be functioning at 100% and you could be experiencing incontinence symptoms. You will exacerbate these issues with running.
- Uterine and bladder prolapse are real things to be aware of
I recommend all my ladies go see a pelvic floor physiotherapist to put both our minds at ease. If you are experiencing ANY issues with urinary and/or stress incontinence, see a PFP so they can give you treatment and exercises to help rehab you.
If you’re having incontinence with sneezing or laughing, or if you are running wearing a pad because you’re leaking, just back up and keep training the basics of core/floor healing.
- Acknowledge you are in recovery mode and start slow
To get back out there, start building up your mileage slowly. Maybe you start your runs with 1 minute + 1 minute walking, and add 30 seconds to a minute on your run time weekly if it feels good. You will need to keep up your strength training routine as your get into a regular schedule of running. Do not let this fall off. (Written by Jessie Mundell)