So you just had your 6-week postpartum check-up and have been medically cleared for exercise by your doctor. That’s great news!
If you were a runner before giving birth, I’m sure you're eyeing your running shoes and feeling eager to get back out there.
But not so fast! At 6 weeks postpartum, your body is still healing from childbirth and is not quite ready for high impact activities, no matter how good you are feeling. In fact, our latest evidence-based guidelines recommend waiting at least 12 weeks before trying to run again (1). And that is the minimum, assuming everything is healing normally with no complications; many women will need even more time.
Trust me –– I know how frustrating waiting can be. I’m a runner and Mom myself, and I fully understand the urge to just get out there and run. So if your body is not quite ready to run yet, what should you be doing in the meantime?
Whether you are 6 weeks or 6 months postpartum, you need to train your body to run before heading out for that first jog. That means starting a progressive strengthening program that is specific to the demands of running.
Running is a high impact activity that requires a lot of single leg stability. Unlike walking, there is never a time when both feet are touching the ground at the same time. Because of this, you want to make sure you can perform low impact, single leg strengthening exercises with good control before attempting to run. In this post, I’m going to show you 5 exercises that work on single leg strength and stability to set you up for success with running.
These are intermediate exercises intended for those who are already confident with basic lower body strengthening exercises. Specifically, you should be able to perform heel raises, squats, single leg stance, and bridges with proper form and without pain, heaviness/pressure in the pelvis, or urinary leakage. If you’re not able to perform these without symptoms or you’re unsure if you can perform them correctly, an assessment by a pelvic floor physical therapist can help give you individualized guidance.
Assuming you passed the prerequisites above, you're ready for the exercises below.
1. SINGLE LEG HEEL RAISE
Stand on one leg next to a counter or a sturdy surface, hold on for balance as needed. Rise onto the ball of your foot then slowly lower down. Start with 3 sets of 5 repetitions on each side, 3 times per week. Build up to 3 sets of 8, then 3 sets of 10 as tolerated.
2. SINGLE LEG BRIDGE
Start lying on your back with one knee bent and one knee straight. Raise your straight leg, push down with your bent leg, and lift your pelvis off the floor. Slowly lower back down. Make sure your pelvis stays level. Start with 3 sets of 5 repetitions on each side, 3 times per week. Build up to 3 sets of 8, then 3 sets of 10 as tolerated.
3. SINGLE LEG SIT TO STAND
Start in a seated position with one foot on the floor and one foot out in front of you. Come into a standing position, then slowly lower back down. The lower your chair is, the more challenging the exercise will be. Start with 3 sets of 5 repetitions on each side, 3 times per week. Build up to 3 sets of 8, then 3 sets of 10 as tolerated.
4. LATERAL TOE TAP
Bend your knees slightly while bringing your hips backward. Shift your weight onto one leg. Lift your other leg, then tap your foot out to the side and back in. Start with 3 sets of 5 repetitions on each side, 3 times per week. Build up to 3 sets of 8, then 3 sets of 10 as tolerated.
5. SINGLE LEG DEADLIFT
Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent, then hinge from the hips bringing your opposite leg back behind you and your torso towards the floor. Return to a standing position. Start with 3 sets of 5 repetitions on each side, 3 times per week. Build up to 3 sets of 8, then 3 sets of 10 as tolerated.
Need more help? Our pelvic floor physical therapists are here for you. Contact us today to request an appointment.
Also check out our Pregnancy & Postpartum page to learn more about returning to activity after having a baby.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.
- Goom, Tom & Donnelly, Grainne & Brockwell, Emma. (2019). Returning to running postnatal – guidelines for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population. 10.13140/RG.2.2.35256.90880/2.