You just had a baby, or maybe your child is grown — and now you have a desire to take up or get back into running. First off, congratulations. Taking any step towards leading an active lifestyle is a wonderful thing. Running can have a positive effect on your mental, physical and emotional well being!
As both an orthopedic physical therapist and pelvic health specialist, I often get questions from clients about how and when they can get back to running after having a baby. However my answer isn't always cut and dry. There are many factors to consider when assessing readiness for return to running. For instance, whether you ran before your pregnancy or during your pregnancy, and whether you had any pregnancy problems or delivery complications should all weigh into this decision.
Oftentimes, moms either get back into running too fast, or worry they're not able to run postpartum and never even give it a try. Running postpartum can be a realistic goal, as it is totally attainable for many new and seasoned moms.
There are many benefits to running. Besides helping you get back into shape after pregnancy, it can also allow you to burn off some steam and give you some time to yourself. Just know that running postpartum often feels different than running in your pre-baby state.
Even if you never ran prior to having a baby, you can absolutely take up the sport (or hobby) after you’ve had a child. In fact, I ran my first half marathon after having my first baby. To my surprise, I found out that I was pregnant with my second child just a week after this race!
Typically, if there aren't any medical issues, moms will get clearance to slowly resume "normal activities” at their 6-week, follow-up appointment with the OB-GYN. But do these activities include running? And what about any instructions on how to run, or how much to run after having a baby?
Just because you got medical clearance to resume normal activities, doesn't necessarily mean you should return to running, even if it doesn’t hurt. More experienced runners without any delivery or pregnancy complications might be ready to return to running at around 8 weeks. Although most women should actually hold off running until 4-6 months postpartum. I know as a runner this probably sounds absurd, but we have to understand that our bodies undergo so many changes during pregnancy and postpartum. We must make sure that we're first able to handle the high loads associated with running.
Walk Before You Run.
If someone is really eager to get back to running, I advise them to start off with a walking program until their body is ready to run. Once again, this varies from person to person. Running is essentially repeated hopping on one foot. This can be very taxing so you need to make sure your body is fully prepared to accept and dissipate these forces without pain or pressure.
Before beginning a running program, you should be able to successfully perform certain exercises, such as contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor, squatting, some basic core strengthening, and standing on one foot — all without pain or pressure.
Once you are able to run, it is best to begin with a walk/run ratio. For women who have no prior experience running, they can start with a walk for 3 minutes, run for 1 minute ratio and work up to repeating this for about 30 minutes. Women who have more experience with running may be a little more aggressive by doing an equal ratio, such as 2 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes of walking.
You shouldn’t experience pain, pressure, or any pulling when running or when moving in general. If running becomes painful, comes with pressure, or feels awkward, it is a good idea to see a qualified physical therapist who has an understanding of both pelvic health and running.
Physical therapists are movement experts who can help educate, instruct and cue you on ways to make your movements safer and more efficient. A pelvic health specialist is a physical therapist who has additional post-graduate training and credentials in managing conditions related to the pelvic girdle.
If you just had a baby, you likely endured some sort of tissue changes and injury. And, just like an athlete who sustained a sports injury, you should have a specialist by your side to help you return safely to running and an active lifestyle.
You can learn more about this topic by visiting our Pregnancy & Postpartum page.
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.