Out There Mothers

10 tips to consider before returning to running postpartum

10 Signs You Are Ready To Run Postpartum

It is very common for new mothers to want to get back into their running! However, running postpartum requires a lot more than just finding the will to get out there. You will need to make sure that your body is ready, too! 

Running prematurely postpartum can result in some serious injuries, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to care for a tiny human! 

In this article, we will explore the top 10 steps to follow before you are ready to run postpartum. Let’s dive in! 

Self-test to check you’re ready for Postpartum Running

  1. Balance on each leg for 30 seconds
  2. Jog on the spot for 1 minute
  3. Hop on one leg 10 times without losing balance
  4. Do 3 ten second pelvic floor contractions (kegels)
  5. Perform 20 each of calf raises, sit-to-stands and single leg bridge while lying on your back

1. Ensure Your Pelvic Floor Health Is Okay

The first step in assessing whether you’re ready to start running postpartum is to look at the health of your pelvic floor. A strong pelvic floor is crucial before resuming exercise following childbirth.

Why does the pelvic floor need to be strong?

Your pelvic floor is a band of muscles and tissue attaching to your pelvis and spine, and therefore creates stability throughout your body. These muscles hold up the organs located in the pelvis including your bladder, bowel and internal reproductive organs, and essentially help you with peeing, pooping and sex. 

Without a strong pelvic floor, these 3 functions can be greatly impacted. Running before your pelvic floor is strengthened and ready can weaken it further, cause injury and disfunction and really set you back. 

How to tell if your pelvic floor is weak

A weak pelvic floor will present symptoms such as leaking urine when sneezing and pain or pressure in the pelvic area.

Checking your pelvic floor strength is a good idea before starting running. 

If you experience some of the following problems, you should a women’s health physiotherapist to check your pelvic floor. Some symptoms of a weak pelvic floor include: 

  • Leaking when you are running, jumping, sneezing, or coughing. 
  • Feeling pressure in the pelvic area 
  • Lower back pain or lumbar pelvic pain 
  • Pain in intercourse

Even if you are not experiencing any of these issues, it is important to get cleared by your doctor, physiotherapist or medical advisor before starting exercise to identify any underlying issues or hidden problems. 

2. Strengthen Your Core And Pelvic Floor

Everyone can benefit from core and pelvic floor exercises, but especially those who have just had a baby! Working on your core strength is a great step in getting back to exercise and running. 

During pregnancy, your muscles, ligaments, and tendons will stretch. The effects of this varies between women and can differ with each pregnancy. Issues such as diastasis recti is common, but should be healed and strengthened before running. 

If you see your physiotherapist or doctor, you will likely be given some exercises to strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles following the birth. 

Signs that show your body isn’t ready to return to running:

  • Urine leakage
  • Pain in pelvic area
  • Prolapse symptoms (pressure in rectum or vagina with a sensation like something is going to fall out)
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Swelling in legs
  • Unusual physical changes to your body
  • Shortness of breath

3. Assess Alignment

Many pregnant women also have a pelvic tilt which occurs when your pelvis is tipped forward and downward. 

This is common during and after pregnancy because of the hormonal changes that allow the pelvis to tip. This can lead to an increased risk of a hamstring strain. 

If you have a lower abdomen that is protruding and a tight back and hamstrings, this will indicate that you have a pelvic tilt. 

There are lots of exercises that can help with this, and you should speak to a doctor if this is causing you any issues.

Focus on your running form

Another way to run efficiently and reduce the risk of injury is to make sure you plant your foot directly underneath your body while running.

Keep your strides short and avoid overstretching and planting your foot out in front.

Running downhill makes keeping inline harder and places more pressure on your pelvic floor, so it is best to walk these sections when you are first starting out.

How to run without putting pressure on your pelvic floor:

  1. Practice keeping your body inline while running: knees, hips, ribs all stacked
  2. Plant your feet directly underneath your body with each stride
  3. Focus on shorter, quicker steps rathen than long strides

4. Work On Breathing

Before you are ready to resume running after giving birth, you should ensure that you have worked on your breathing. 

After you have your body properly aligned, you should work on your diaphragmatic or deep belly breathing. This is when your breath comes from your ribs rather than your tummy. You can practice this type of breathing a few times a day while lying down before progressing to practicing it while sitting or standing. 

How to practice diaphragmatic breathing

  1. Start first while lying on your back, then try it sitting and standing as you progress
  2. Breathe in through your nose, filling your belly with air
  3. Push your diaphragm down and out as you inhale
  4. Work on exhaling longer than you inhale
  5. Practice for 5 minute sessions each day until you feel comfortable to incorporate it into your running

Breathing strengthens the diaphragm, and using diaphragmatic breathing also decreases the oxygen demand, meaning your breath is slowed. In turn, this means you use less energy to breathe during running. 

If you can get on top of your breathing, you will be able to run much more efficiently. Getting on top of both your running form and breathing technique can greatly improve your running efficiency, so get in touch with a running coach if you feel like you need more help before resuming running postpartum.

5. Walk Before You Run

You must test out your fitness and well-being by walking before you start running. If you head out for a walk and you feel any pressure, pain, or leakage, then you may not be ready to start running.

When you go out walking, stick to flat surfaces to begin with. After you have walked on flat surfaces comfortably, try out some uneven surfaces. This will help you to strengthen your core and gradually build that fitness.

Despite how fit you may feel, you shouldn’t overdo it and need to make sure you gradually build up to running with your postpartum body. 

6. Mix Walking And Running

Before you start running continuously, you should try a mix of walking and running. Perhaps try running when you are on a flat surface, and walking up and down hills. Downhill is very difficult for the pelvic floor due to the muscles it uses, so you should be very careful to run downhill before you are ready. 

Starting slow and gradually building on your base fitness is always a good idea to avoid injury. 

Consider starting a Couch to 5k running plan that gradually builds your fitness. It is frustrating to hold back if you have been used to running long distances before baby, but sticking to the basics will help prepare your body and help you to avoid injury later in your fitness journey.

7. Alternate Running And Cross Training

Once you have started running it is important to not run on consecutive days to begin with. Ensure that you alternate between running and cross-training. You don’t want to put too much pressure on your muscles at the beginning, resulting in an inability to run for much longer. 

What cross training is best for running?

Cross training includes any form of exercise that helps strengthen your body without actually running! The best cross training activities for moms getting back into running includes:

  • Pilates or yoga
  • Swimming
  • Hiking or walking
  • Cycling 
  • Lifting weights, stair stepper or elliptical trainer

8. Continue To Work On Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor

Even after you have started running, you should ensure that you continue to strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles.

Your pelvic floor should never be forgotten! 

Continue to carry out some muscle-strengthening exercises to build up your muscles. You can talk to your doctor about some great exercises you can do to build this up.

Check out how to strengthen your pelvic floor and make sure that you work on this continually. The pelvic floor is a muscle and a few exercises every month or so isn’t enough to keep it in good shape! Practicing pelvic floor strengthening for a few minutes each day could make a huge difference to your running strength.  

9. Give Yourself A Rest

It is important to give yourself a rest now and then to ensure that your body has time to heal. Every three weeks, reduce the amount that you run to make sure that you build yourself back stronger. If you have started a running plan such as a Couch to 5k, make sure you stick to the set rest days. 

Everybody needs rest after exercise for muscle repair and rejuvenation, and new moms are no exception! Being a mother is a huge responsibility and can be very demanding, which leads us into our next and final point:

10. Ensure That You Are Mentally Ready!

It is important to ensure that you are physically ready to get started on your run, however, it is just as important to ensure that you are mentally ready, too. 

Being a mom to small humans is very demanding and can take a toll on your mental health. While you are looking after your baby, it’s easy to feel like you must get back to normal as soon as possible. However, please moms cut yourself some slack! Know that it’s okay if you take a few months to get back into your fitness journey. 

Remove stress by letting go a little and understand that exercise WILL always be there for you. On the other hand, your baby won’t last forever as it WILL be a toddler before you know it!

Ensure that you put your mental health first and only start running when you are ready. 

In summary, everyone is different, and you should listen to your body and mind to ensure that you are ready to get back to running. While you may feel like you are physically ready to start running, you may need to work on strengthening your core, pelvic floor and alignment first. 

Consider working with a running coach or physio if you need extra support to strengthen your body before resuming running postpartum. 

In summary, everyone is different, and you should listen to your body and mind to ensure that you are ready to get back to running. While you may feel like you are physically ready to start running, you may need to work on strengthening your core, pelvic floor and alignment first. 

Consider working with a running coach or physio if you need extra support to strengthen your body before resuming running postpartum. 

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