Updated: Apr 13
The burning question is often 'when can I start to run?' especially if you love running as much as I do, or used to anyway. Eager to start running again after having my daughter, I hired a treadmill for my back deck and as soon as I was given the green light to start exercising again by my Doctor I was ready to go! Or so I thought. Running used to be my outlet, a time to think, be in my own head space and feel amazing from the happy hormones. There’s nothing quite like the hit running gives and becoming a new mum, I longed for that time to myself. You don’t know what you don’t know, that is why I would like to share with you the information I wish I had when I started running. This will then give you awareness to make informed choices for your own body.
Enjoying a non alcoholic beer at the finish line at Berlin Marathon.
Your 6 week check isn’t enough
Speaking from experience and working with 100’s of mums many women unfortunately don’t get assessed at their 6 week appointment. It is all about the baby and because most of us are in a new born bubble, we don’t even consider ourselves at this stage. I remember being asked some questions in relation to my mental health and that was it. I believe we have a huge way to go in this department and that is why I recommend seeing a women's health physio before you start exercising to give you a full consultation.
So when can I return to running?
This answer isn’t as linear as you may think. We have lots of factors to weigh up and I would like to run you through some of the considerations to take into account:
If you were doing strength training and trained right throughout pregnancy, then when returning to exercise your body may recover faster meaning you will be ready to run sooner having more strength and potentially stronger glutes which are essential for running.
What type of birth you had, every single pregnancy and birth is different which means each recovery will be different.
Your pelvic floor coordination and strength to manage load and impact, your breathing pattern and abdominal wall pressure control.
If you have any signs or symptoms of incontinence, heaviness or ballooning in your pelvic region or have diastasis recti that is not functional.
Hypermobility - having joints which are extra mobile may have added risk of injury, a great reason to strength train.
When you breastfeed you have decreased estrogen and raised relaxin which causes joints to have much more laxity in them - again having a higher risk of injury.
Obesity can cause extra load onto the pelvic floor, so walking may be a good first point of call.
Caesarean scarring or perineal scarring can restrict your movement so giving it adequate time to heal is important. Having some mobilisation to the scar tissue may help.
Many mums have the goal of returning to running as soon as they feel able and seeing a Postnatal Specialist or Women's Health Physio can really help put a plan in place. They will give you a load and impact management assessment and if you pass a number of exercises without any symptoms and feel strong you can generally return after 12 weeks. This would entail following a gradual progressive program. If you run prior to 12 weeks your body may not have had time to heal. Although this is not a blanket rule for everyone, there may be a small minority who are able to run pre 12 weeks. All I would say is remember what your body has done and respect it for where it is at, at that stage. Having good sleep and eating nutritious food helps with the recovery period.
Some extra things to think about:
It is not advised to run with a pram before 6 months to protect the baby's neck and spine and is recommended to start slowly using 2 hands. Ideally running with a pram with fixed wheels. (Remember the extra load on your pelvic floor too).
Wear a good sports bra! Compression bras which are not professionally fitted compress your breasts and is better health for our lady friends if we have a supportive bra.
Elusive SLEEP! If you have a choice between sleep and going for a run, sleep should trump running every time, especially if you are tired and lacking those zzz’s.
Lastly I would like to recognise the relationship between our mental health and running, with running having a huge benefit making us feel a million bucks. As someone who used to run a lot before pregnancy this is where we need to be mindful that our athlete brain doesn’t take over and we don’t over train or over work our body. It has been known to become addictive resulting in the mother becoming very depleted.
To wrap it up. My advice would be to focus on what you can do now, get strong, don’t rush into running and think of the bigger picture so you can run injury free into your later years.
If you are unsure of your current run ready status and would like to do a self test I’d love to offer you a FREE run analysis! By performing this assessment you will find out if you are ready to run! It will give you an indication of where you may need some extra love and attention. It could be working on your balance with single leg exercises or strengthening your core for added stability. That’s where I can help as I have designed a program to build strength, power and endurance to really transform your runs, with reduced pain and no leaking! Yay! More on that later. First up, download your FREE run analysis.
If you are considering seeing a women’s health physio and unsure who to visit in your area you can locate one of our partners in our mumsafe directory.
Yours in health, happiness and connection.