Welcome to the wonderful (but challenging!) world of motherhood.
Your body has been through a lot throughout your pregnancy, whether you experienced morning (or all day) sickness, back pain, pubic pain, fatigue, nausea or reflux … .
Now that baby has FINALLY arrived and things are starting to settle (a little!), you might be starting to feel like it’s the right time to start doing something to help your body recover and get stronger.
When can I return to exercise after pregnancy?
Returning to exercise after having a baby is different for every woman, however there are some general rules.
It is recommended that you wait a minimum of 6 weeks before returning to exercise other than light walking.
It is important to get the ‘all clear’ from your Obstetrician or the Hospital before returning to exercise (whether this be the gym, Pilates, Yoga, group training etc).
If you want to know a bit more about returning to exercise after your pregnancy, check out our blog.
In this blog we will discuss returning to running post-natally and where to start.
If you were a runner pre-pregnancy and even managed to continue during, you are probably itching to get back out there ASAP.
Running is a great outlet and can provide stress relief, a time to mentally chill out and is a great release of endorphins (those happy hormones).
But unlike with other forms of exercise, waiting only 6 weeks to return to running is not what is recommended based on current evidence.
When is it safe to return to running after having your baby?
Although every woman is different and there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach, based on current guidelines, it is recommended that women wait until at MINIMUM of 12 weeks after having their baby to gradually return to running.
12 weeks to some may seem like eternity, but you need to take into consideration all the physical, mental and hormonal factors that your body goes through postnatally.
Running places such a high impact on your body and joints with every stride, so it is important that you have had an adequate recovery before returning on your running journey.
How much stress does running really put on my body?
Ever wondered how much force is going through your body every time your foot hits the pavement?
Well, let us tell you it’s a fair bit!
Studies have shown that the ground reaction forces during running can be anywhere between 1.5 – 3x your body weight and can be dependent on the surface you’re running on.
Why is that so important?
It is important because it relates to your pelvic floor. Yep, there it is (you knew it was coming!)
The high impact of running increases your intra-abdominal pressure, which puts extra stress on your pelvic floor.
After pregnancy and giving birth (particularly if you have had a vaginal delivery), your pelvic floor will be weak, so extra pressure onto it may increase the risk of things such as
- Musculoskeletal Injury
How to make sure your body is ready to return to running – Pelvic Floor
Something that you can start soon after giving birth are exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor.
You can do these laying on your back (picture below), while you are feeding your little one or while you are driving.
How to strengthen your Pelvic Floor
For these exercises try to squeeze and draw UP the muscles around your your vagina and back passage at the same time.
(You should feel a ‘lift’ each time you engage your pelvic floor muscles, and a distinct feeling of letting go).
Alternatively, you can imagine like you are gently trying to stop yourself from passing urine mid-stream.
Once you feel the ‘lift’, try and hold this for 5 seconds, then relax.
Repeat this 10 x 3 daily.
Try and build this up to 10 x 10 second holds, 3 x per day.
If you are not sure you are doing it correctly, it is always worth coming in for a visit to your physiotherapist and they can check that you are engaging the right muscles!
Exercises to start strengthening at home
Returning to running doesn’t just require a strong pelvic floor, but it also requires strong core, leg and buttock muscles.
Joining a Mums and Bubs Rehab class is one way to strengthening these areas to prepare your body to get back out on the pavement.
Some exercises that you can do yourself at home are shown in the video below.
Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps each exercise.
4 Questions to check that you are ready to return to running
One of the biggest limitations to returning to running is weakness in your pelvic floor muscles.
Below are a few questions that you can ask yourself to see if you are ready to run or if you should seek help. These questions have been taken from our friends at the Continence Foundation of Australia.
- Do you sometimes (or always) leak when you cough, sneeze, jump or lift something heavy?
- Do you sometimes (or always) leak before you get to the toilet?
- Do you have to rush to get to the toilet?
- Are you frequently nervous because you think you might lose control of your bladder or bowel?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions, then you should seek advice from your Maternal or Women’s Health physiotherapist before returning to running.
If you have answered ‘no’ to all of the above questions, then you should be safe to gradually start running.
Are your No’s turning in to Yes’s
If you have started running and are noticing that those ‘no’s’ are changing to ‘yes’s’ then you need to stop and consult your physiotherapist immediately.
Don’t go gung-ho!
We know, its super tempting to pick up from where you were last time you ran, but don’t!
You need to build back up slowly.
And yes, it will take some time but it will be worth it!
Your body and muscles need time to adapt to running again, so start with a shorter distance and slower pace and then build from there.
Gradually increasing your distance or pace is important to minimise the risk of injury (particularly pesky knees).
Try add a touch more distance every week or two, rather than every time you run.
If you start to notice any aches or pains, it is important to get in touch with your physiotherapist as soon as it pops up.
It may just mean that your running program needs adjusting or to strengthen/stretch a few areas.