Shout out to all new mamas out there. You’re killing it! It may not seem like it, but you are.
I wanted to chat about something I get asked about often… returning to running after having a baby.
So, what’s the big deal about running? Can’t I start running at 6 weeks?
The short answer is… No. 😊
The unfortunate part about returning to any sort of fitness postpartum is that the guidelines are vast and nonnormative amongst healthcare professionals. That “six-week” magic point is often thought of as an “all-clear” from a patient perspective. Meanwhile, across the world and even across medical offices this “magic” return to exercise number varies.
Luckily for us, in 2019 three physios developed a set of guidelines focusing on a safe return to run for postnatal women. So cheers to you Grainne, Emma, and Tom for helping us learn more than we already knew!
According to these guidelines and research, running should resume 12 weeks-6 months after giving birth. Light, low-impact exercise should occur until that point. (I can see the look on many of your faces after reading that.)
I want you to think about some realities of pregnancy and post-partum life. First off, your body is amazing, you carried human life, and you birthed human life. You’re a Rockstar. However, you cannot forget that…
During pregnancy, your bladder and other organs smoosh together. Your posture changes. You more than likely experience back or pelvic pain. Your abdominal wall stretches and your pelvic floor carries a bowling ball of extra weight.
During birth, your vaginal canal stretches and you may experience tearing down there OR you may undergo surgery. BOTH are normal births. Both require time and healing.
After birth, your life has changed. You’re not sleeping much, stress increases, and love is more than ever! Your scars may be uncomfortable, you may be breastfeeding, and you may not be getting the energy and recovery YOU need (Did you know a lack of sleep is associated with decreased muscle strength & new muscle synthesis as well as an elevated injury risk?)! Just an FYI…it can take over 6 months for the pelvic floor region to feel semi-normal again and more than 7 months for the abdominal fascia to regain its tensile strength after C-section.
If we put that all together, don’t you think those are good reasons why we hold you back from running until 12 weeks? Don’t shoot the messenger, please!
I know it is not what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. Childbirth is like running several marathons over and over. Your body requires time to heal before getting back into the full swing of things.
So, how can you tell if you’re ready to get back into action after 12 weeks? My best recommendation would be to have an evaluation by a physical therapist who is well versed in postpartum care & running. If that is not possible, these are my recommendations.
First, I want you to ask yourself these questions:
If you are experiencing any of these, I recommend a discussion with your OBGYN, a pelvic health physiotherapist or a credentialed healthcare provider. These are RED flags (possibly yellow depending on severity) to your return to running. Although these symptoms may be considered common for a short time after birth, they are not normal. Ladies you need to know that peeing your pants or leaking forever is NOT normal (contrary to common belief).
If you answered NO to all the questions above, you are free and clear to return to running IF you can perform the following without peeing your pants, pain, or vaginal heaviness & dragging sensations
(Please note these are adopted from” Returning to running postnatal-guidelines for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population” & amended to meet my personal guidelines for patients. Strength testing is also recommended, those tests marked with a * below. They are not imperative to be able to perform fully prior to returning to running. Yet, they should be used as a guide when building appropriate strength to reduce running-related injuries.)
Recommended tests before returning to running postpartum:
Just a side note and something to think about before rushing into things… high-impact exercise can have a 4.5 fold increase in the possibility of pelvic floor dysfunction & running increases the pressure in your abdomen by 1.6 to 2.5 times! So, ladies… take it easy. Use your 12 weeks-6 months wisely. Let your bodies & minds heal and enjoy time with your little one.
Running will come.
As always, if you have any questions about this topic please do not hesitate to send me a message. I always look forward to hearing from you!
Yours In Health,