Out There Mothers

Postpartum Running

How to start running postpartum/after giving birth

Having a baby is a huge, fantastic and amazing feat for any woman to experience. Our bodies are amazing machines and becoming a mother is an experience like no other – the hardest, but the most rewarding thing you could do in a lifetime.

Getting back into to exercise following the birth of a baby is often very high on the importance list for many new mothers. Everyone wants to lose the baby weight and feel themselves again. Especially for those mothers who ran before the baby was born, they are often itching to get out for a run and feel the freedom and joy of running again.

When can I start running after having a baby?

The widely accepted standard for returning to running after birth is to wait at least 6-8 weeks after a vaginal delivery, and 8-12 weeks after a c-section delivery or until cleared by your doctor. By 6 weeks postpartum, most women are no longer bleeding and their uterus has returned to pre-baby size. However, each mother’s recovery is unique and it’s important to listen to how your body feels and make small, gradual progress to avoid injury.

Step 1: Assess and strengthen your pelvic floor and core muscles

Whether you had a vaginal or c-section delivery, your pelvic floor muscles will be weakened. A strained pelvic floor leads to urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, and other issues. Many moms joke about peeing when they laugh, cough, sneeze or run but it is actually not normal for it to continue for an extended time following pregnancy!

If you experience leaking, you probably have pelvic floor disfunction and should definitely work to improve this before continuing exercise. Practising Kegels and proper posture will target pelvic floors muscles. Though, many get best and faster results by consulting a physical therapist or trainer who specializes in postpartum recovery. Our tribe of mothers have had fantastic success with the MUTU programme. Its main focus is reengaging your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles in preparation for further exercise and general life.

Step 2. Start with walk-run intervals

Walking is a fantastic activity to start for your body.  Begin on flat, even surfaces. Gradually add short runs into your walking. Keep the runs to a few hundred metres and continue doing intervals of walking and running. Focus on slowly increasing the amount of running while decreasing the time walking to allow the body to gradually adapt and reduce the risk of injury.

Running on non-consecutive days allows for appropriate recovery between runs. Once you can run continuously for ~30 minutes, then you can carefully start increasing run frequency. Build up one day per week and maintain for a couple of weeks, until you are returned to your previous mileage.

Remember to watch for red flags such as pressure, pain or leakage and stop if of these occur. You should definitely consult your doctor or a physiotherapist if you experience any of these signs.

Step 3: Incorporate cross training to rebuild your strength ​

Your body is going through a lot of changes and incorporating cross training into your routine can help to reduce your risk of injury and rebuild your strength.

Yoga, cycling, swimming and gentle workouts are all fantastic cross training activities that can help minimize the stress that running may put on your body.

Juggling this around a new baby can be a challenge, but we recommend keeping it to small, short activities. Anything is better than nothing at all!

Woman cycling for cross training postpartum

What do I need to start postpartum running?

1. A good, supportive sports bra

After all the changes that have occurred to your breasts, its essential to invest in a comfortable sports bra. Chances are that your old sports bras don’t fit anymore. Plus, if you have a little one to nurse, you’ll want a bra that makes it easy to swap from running mom to feeding mom in a matter of seconds.

2. Quality running shoes suitable for postpartum

No one-size-fits-all when it comes to the best postpartum running shoes as every mother’s feet are different! But make sure your shoes tick these boxes:

  • Support: Look for shoes with good arch support, especially if you had a vaginal delivery, as this can help alleviate pressure on your pelvic floor.
  • Cushioning: Soft cushioning can help reduce the impact of running on your joints and back.
  • Fit: Look for shoes that fit snugly, but not too tight, to avoid blisters and other foot injuries.
  • Breathability: Shoes with good ventilation will help keep your feet cool and dry, especially during hot summer months.
  • Flexibility: Look for shoes with a flexible sole that can accommodate the natural movement of your feet while running.
3. Comfortable, supportive leggings or shorts

Leggings or shorts that fit your new postpartum body shape can make a difference! Your old shorts or leggings might not cut it and it’s important to have clothing that fits for running.

4. Anti-chafe gel or spray

Once you get into longer runs, you may find your body takes a while to adapt and some rubbing or chafing can occur. Common areas include shoulder straps, under your sports bra, and around your toes or feet. Having something to combat chafing can help you to continue your running schedule without having to wait for painful skin abrasions to heal.  

5. Running watch

Having a running watch can really boost your performance as you can track your progress and be motivated to keep going a little bit further with each run.

6. Jogging stroller if you plan to run with your baby.

A pram that is designed for running is essential if you want to start taking baby on your training runs.

What are the risks of running too soon after birth?

  1. Physical Strain: The body undergoes significant physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy and birth, and running too soon after birth can put unnecessary strain on the body.

  2. Pelvic Floor Weakness: Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, and running too soon can exacerbate this weakness, leading to pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.

  3. Diastasis Recti: Running too soon after birth can also worsen diastasis recti, a condition where the abdominal muscles separate.

  4. Postpartum Depression: Exercise can help with postpartum depression, but starting too soon can cause further stress on the body and mind.

  5. Delayed Healing: Engaging in high-impact activities too soon after birth can delay the healing process of the perineum and abdominal muscles.

It’s important for new mothers to consult with their doctor before starting any exercise program, especially running, and to listen to their bodies and take things slowly. A gradual return to running, starting with lower impact activities such as walking and building up gradually, is usually recommended.

Running postpartum for mothers

Our final tip for postpartum running is to enjoy it! Take your time, listen to your body and celebrate running with your new baby. 

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