By Hannah McKimm
Returning to running after pregnancy is an exciting time and a big milestone. Whether you are an experienced runner or taking it up for the first time, there are a few steps to tick off before you hit the pavement. Here is my guide to returning to running after pregnancy to help you do so safely and enjoy the process.
Ask for clearance from your doctor at your 6 week review.
Although this appointment can feel a little brief, it’s a great opportunity to ask your doctor any specific questions you have. Don’t expect to be told that you can start running straight away, but ask whether there is anything you need to be doing or any extra precautions you need to take, based on your personal birth experience. I recommend starting a note in your phone with questions you think of leading up to this appointment as it’s too easy to forget on the day.
See a Women’s Health Physio for a comprehensive pelvic floor assessment.
This is an absolute must, whether you had a caesarean or vaginal delivery, if you want to start running after giving birth. The impact of running puts a significant amount of load on the pelvic floor and the whole pelvic girdle. Seeing a Women’s Health Physio around the 6 week mark will help you to ensure that your muscles are ready for that load when the time comes. Some women will need to improve their pelvic floor strength, for others it will be their endurance and for some it’s even a matter of reducing the activity of their pelvic floor. A specific assessment and plan will make a huge difference to your experience by preventing possible dysfunction from occurring once you begin running.
Start strengthening your core and lower body
Before you begin running, build up some strength in these muscles, which haven’t been used in such a high intensity way for quite some time. In particular, you need good calf, quad, hamstring, inner thigh, glute and core strength. Exercises like bridges, calf raises, lunges, squats, planks and dead bugs are all perfect for runners. Once you complete the Postnatal Program on Our Pilates, you can start to focus on these areas with any of our Pilates for Runners classes. Aim to be able to do 20 single leg calf raises, 10 single leg bridges and 10 single leg squats with good strength and control and jump on the spot for 60 seconds without any leakage or heaviness.
Give your body at least 12 weeks to recover.
Adequate recovery and healing time is essential before you begin running after giving birth. Soft tissue is mostly healed in around 6 weeks, but this is just the beginning. Your muscles then need time to strengthen, your body needs to adapt to its new shape, and you need enough energy in your bank (see the next point below) to put into running. I speak to women all the time who expect to be able to run again at 6 weeks, but this is potentially harmful and can result in overload injuries - which no new mum needs to deal with! It may feel like a long time, but if you start back too early, you might spend even longer recovering from an injury you could have avoided.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep and nutrition.
What does this even mean when you have a newborn in the house? When I started running again around 16 weeks, Harper was nowhere near sleeping through, but I was at a point where I was getting a cumulative 6-7 hours of sleep most nights. Even though my sleep was broken by feeds, I was waking in the morning feeling somewhat rested and like I had a little energy to give to something other than my standard daily tasks. I was consistently eating 3 good meals a day and I just felt ready. I suggest waiting for the point where you’re no longer struggling to get through the bare basics (eating and showering) before you take on something like running.
Get the right gear - good runners and a sports bra are essential.
If you return to running while breastfeeding, you’ll need a very good sports bra and you may need to be fitted for one. I started off wearing a LuluLemon high energy support bra with an Allfenix zip up crop over the top and felt secure and supported. Look around until you find a solution that works for you so that you can be comfortable while running. It’s also no myth that women’s feet can change size and shape during pregnancy. So it is worth getting fitted for a pair of running shoes before you start running again to avoid any issues that can arise from poor footwear.
Do not compare yourself to ANYONE else.
This is true for anyone, but I think particularly important for new mums. It’s a time where we can be incredibly vulnerable to comparison culture and perpetually feeling like we are not doing enough. This is your journey and your body and experience is completely different to anyone else’s. Focus on yourself and what you are doing and block everything else out.
If you’re keen to get back to running, or are getting started for the first time, we have 3 running programs you can choose from on Our Pilates: 0-5km, 5-10km and 10-21km. I suggest all new mums begin with the 0-5km program to give your body the chance to adapt and build strength back safely. I am always happy to answer any questions, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at @ourpilates or email@example.com.