Ready to run post baby? Be sure read this & to use these screening exercises first!
When it comes to returning to running post baby there is no set timeframe or milestone that you will hit and be on your way. Running is a high impact activity that places a lot of strain on the body and whether you have recently or not so recently given birth, it is important to ensure it is ready.
As mothers embark on a postnatal exercise program it is important to rebuild from the inside out and focus on the basics before jumping into the fun and fancy stuff. I recommend that a low impact exercise timeline is followed within the first 3 months, followed by a return to running between 3- 6 months postnatal, at the very earliest. It is important to understand that milestones will vary for every woman depending on her postnatal status and risk factors for pelvic floor dysfunction. Some may get back to it running 5 months postpartum, others 5+ years post baby.
The Key Signs and Symptoms of Pelvic Floor and Abdominal Wall Dysfunction Include:
- Urinary and/or faecal incontinence
- Urinary and/or faecal urgency that is difficult to defer
- Heaviness, pressure, bulge or dragging in the pelvic area
- Pain with intercourse
- Obstructed bowel movements
- Separated abdominal muscles and/or decreased abdominal strength and function
Feeling eager to clock up the kilometres again?
Perform these five screening tools to help determine if you may be ready to start progressing in your return to running journey.
- Balance on each leg for 60 seconds
- Jump on the spot for 60 seconds
- Hop on each foot for 60 seconds
- Do 8 jump squats
- Jog on the spot for 60 seconds
Then ask yourself:
- Did I leak?
- Did I feel discomfort, heaviness or pressure in my vagina or rectum?
- Did I experience any pelvic or back pain?
- Am I at least 3 months postpartum?
If you did experience any pain or discomfort there may be some work to do before you get back to running, but you can get there! Continue working on rebuilding your strength and work with a Women’s Health Physio or Trainer that is certified in pre and post-natal exercise (find them HERE). If not, you might be ready! Book in to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist & build into your running gradually applying the principle of progressive overload.
Start small: If you ran 10km a few times a week pre baby I don’t advise you head out and hit that on your first run. Starting small is key to avoiding injury and determining your bodies response to the running stimulus. For example, using a treadmill or tracking with your GPS watch perform a 1km run followed by a 5 minute walk, repeat for 2-3 rounds or 2 minutes running, 5 minutes walking for a total of ~20 minutes.
Build gradually: Build from there. Your first 1km unbroken and symptom free, to 2km unbroken and symptom free and so on.
Check in during and after each session: do you experience any of the pain, leaking of discomfort during any of your runs? If so, what time of the day & month was it, how was your hydration status? Women living with pelvic floor dysfunction notice that their symptoms change depending on the day, where they are at in their cycle and stress levels. Maybe you felt great during a morning run but notice later that or the following day you feel heaviness in your vagina. Making little notes of any distances covered, tempo changes and symptoms experienced can help ensure a timely return to running journey.
You don’t have to go your return to exercise journey alone. Do link in with a certified trainer and Women’s Health Physio to support you. Accepting that the journey is not linear and is likely there’ll be some regressing (that’s okay and normal!). As I have said throughout each of my three postnatal exercise journeys, ‘You have forever to find your fitness’.
Brooke Turner is a mother of three and a leading international health & fitness speaker, writer & educator, having presented at fitness conferences in Australia, Asia and New Zealand and contributed to some of Australia’s leading health & fitness publications. The founder of Balance Fitness & Nutrition, Brooke is a qualified nutritionist, exercise scientist & personal trainer, specializing in exercise & nutrition for pregnancy & motherhood. Brooke is on a mission to educate & empower women, & fitness professionals working with women on safe, effective & enjoyable exercise for optimal mental & physical wellbeing. Brooke’s resources include her internationally certified course for exercise professionals Functional Fitness for Pregnancy and PostPartum™ and online pre & post natal exercise and nutrition ebooks.