Lots of women are keen to start running again after having a baby. However, getting back into your training too soon or training too hard can cause significant problems in the postnatal period. In this article, Chartered Physiotherapist Rowan Wilson looks at how to prepare for your return to running.
Time To Recover
The first 4-6 weeks after you’ve had a baby are the golden period for healing. So it’s vital to give your body some time to rest and recover. This will allow the tissues of your pelvic floor muscles to heal, the abdominal muscles to come back together and your ribs, spine, pelvis and pelvic organs to realign. Running in this period can delay healing and puts you at risk for developing pelvic floor problems, pelvic organ prolapse or delayed closure of your abdominal muscles as well as back, hip and knee injuries.
There are no specific medical guidelines for returning to running after this period but as running is a high impact activity having good strength your buttock muscles (glutes) to support and stabilise your pelvis is essential. Here are some of our favourite exercises for building strength in your glutes that are also safe for your pelvic floor:
Glute Strengthening Exercises For Postnatal Women
Before you start you’ll need to practice tightening your pelvic floor and lower abdominals together.
Breathe out slowly and tighten your pelvic floor muscles by imagine you are stopping yourself from passing any wind and draw in your lower abdominals slightly away from the line of your trousers. You don’t need to work these muscles too hard … try to find a point halfway between completely relaxed muscles and tightening them fully, so they are working together at about 50% capacity.
Single Leg Balance
Place your fingertips on the bony points at the front of your pelvis. Breathe out to tighten your pelvic floor and lower abdominals. Take your weight onto one leg and balance keeping your pelvis level and still. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side.
Breathe out to tighten your pelvic floor and lower abdominals. Slide your back down a wall, keeping your knees in line with your feet. Hold for 3-5 slow breathes without letting go of your pelvic floor or abdominal muscles. Breathe out to rise again.
Place one foot on a step and breathe out to tighten your pelvic floor and lower abdominals as you step up. Squeeze your buttock muscles right to the top of the movement.
Tips: add an arm swing into the step up to replicate the arm swing required during running.
Building Your Endurance
You’ll need to build up your fitness levels gradually, so don’t try to pick up your running where you left off prior to pregnancy. The hormonal changes of having been pregnant, having a baby and also breastfeeding will affect your body for several months so start with brisk walking initially.
If you can, try to go for walks where your arms are free so that your body can use your natural arm swing. Build up the pace and distance steadily and comfortably and start to integrate hill climbs to increase the work for your glutes.
A Few Precautions…
If you had a significant tear of the pelvic floor muscles, episiotomy or a C-section you will need to allow more time for healing and we would strongly recommend seeking advice from a health professional specialising in postnatal care before resuming exercise.
If you experienced any pelvic girdle pain or lower back pain during your pregnancy, suspect you have a significant separation of your abdominal muscles or if you have any other bladder or bowel symptoms then a physiotherapist specialising in women’s health will be able to prescribe a safe, effective and individualised programme to support your recovery and get you back to doing the things you enjoy again.