Returning To Run Postpartum
Running Tips For New Moms
Hey there ladies! This one is for all of you mommas out there who are looking to return to running! Although this blog is solely focused on return to running post pregnancy, a lot of the things that I will discuss can pertain to other sporting activities, especially those involving impact activities! Granted, I am currently only a “dog mom” to my beloved Mickey & Kona, I sure do love helping all the mommas out there getting back to doing what they love.
Are you the person who asked, “When can I start working out again?” and the doctor said in about 6 weeks. I will say, that will depend on many things. It will depend on method of delivery (C-section versus vaginal) and any types of complications (episiotomy, stitching, etc.) that may have occurred during the process. I’m not going to go into detail here, but let’s just say anything that requires stitching may require longer healing time!
Now, just because the doctor says “6 weeks” does not mean that you can be out running at six weeks. What newer and even veteran moms don’t tend to realize, is the effect pregnancy has on your musculature and postural awareness! Remember those times where you couldn’t hold your pee or just the shortest walk would make you lose your breath? Well, gals, many of those symptoms have to do with changes throughout our body stemming from our musculoskeletal system and they’re all things that need to be addressed prior to return to sport. So, when can you start running?
The recommended wait time prior to returning to running post-pregnancy is at a minimum, three months, with many people requiring six months to do so! Our bodies require time to heal as do our minds. Pregnancy, as beautiful as it is, can certainly put some physical and emotional stresses on our bodies! It can take up to seven months for our pelvic floor and abdominal tissues to recover post pregnancy and even I know (thanks to my many momma friends) the lack of sleep one experiences with a young child. All of these things sure do matter, as does what I am going to address next.
Now ladies, some abdominal and pelvic pressure can be normal post pregnancy as is “peeing while laughing” for a short period of time. However, it these things are not resolving, and you want to get back to running, they are red flags to your return! If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or have received these diagnoses, if you are looking to return to running or not, I recommend seeing your OBGYN and also a physical therapist:
- Urinary or Fecal Incontinence (Yes, peeing or pooping your pants)
- Urinary or Fecal Urgency (Feeling like you have to all of the time)
- Pelvic/Abdominal Heaviness and Pressure
- Pain with Intercourse
- Obstructive Defecation
- Diastasis Recti Abdominis (a separation of the abdominal wall that can sometimes contribute to “mommy tummy”)
- Pain in lower back/hip/pelvic region.
To follow up on my physical therapist comment, I must add that not all of us have training on numbers 1-5 (and sometimes 6) of the list above. I work regularly with ladies on numbers 6 and 7 and intermittently number one. For those symptoms I cannot help with, I do have some local sources that can! If you have any questions here, please feel free to reach out to me and I will point you in the right direction.
Now back to running. If you are at least three months postpartum and not experiencing any symptoms with: walking x 30 minutes, single leg balancing, jogging in place, forward bounding or hopping in place, you are clear to run! As an orthopedic and sports physical therapist, I also recommend you having the ability to perform 20 repetitions of the following: single leg calf raises, single leg bridges, single leg sit to stands, and some hip abduction exercises prior to initiating your running to prevent injury!
How do we recommend returning to running? Slowly. Don’t go out and try to run 3 miles the first time. Typically, a walk/run progression is recommended! Also, I recommend running 2-3 times per week and also suggest to do some additional strength training on the side! This is especially important post-pregnancy to keep your body healthy for the demands placed upon it by running! Also, as when training for other events, it is recommended that you do not increase your weekly running time and/or mileage by more than 10% per week!
A few last pointers for you ladies. Having a proper fitting sports bra and supportive workout clothing is important! If you are breast-feeding, make sure you schedule your feed times appropriately, so you are not uncomfortable when running. If you have a significant lack of sleep, don’t push yourself as less than 7-9 hours of sleep per night increases your risk for injuries (this is 7-9 hours total, and yes naps count)! Make sure you are eating enough and staying hydrated! As we all know, hydration is extremely important, but for those momma’s breast-feeding it is even more important! Also, if you are experiencing signs of post-natal depression, it’s not abnormal! Reach out for help and talk to your doctor. I know that many of you think exercise is the answer, but it may not always be!
I know that a lot of this may be shocking and I know that the list of things that are “red-flags” pertain to many people! Many of these things are normal, so please do not panic. Other physical therapists and I are here to guide you post-pregnancy and many women do not know this! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me and ask questions. Also, I will be hosting a free clinic on July 30, 2019 at Fleet Feet Poughkeepsie to discuss “Running for New Moms.” I hope to see many of you there.