Updated: May 11, 2022
Many women are given the green light for physical activity at their 4-8 week postpartum visit with their OB/midwife, but does that mean your body is actually ready for ALL physical activity?
Running, regardless of the speed, is considered a high impact activity; aka it places quite a bit of stress on your pelvic floor.
Even at the 4-8 week postpartum mark, there is still A LOT of healing going on internally that you don’t necessarily see or feel.
So even though you may be cleared at that time, newer research is suggesting waiting until at least the 12 week postpartum period to begin running (an impressive study done in 2019 by a group of physiotherapists in the UK supports this).
Just because you can, or are capable of doing a specific exercise, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Nothing magical happens when you get cleared-it’s not like you wake up the morning that you are 6 weeks postpartum and BAM, your body is magically ready to jump back into everything.
The same goes for the 12 week postpartum suggestion for running and higher impact exercise.
You shouldn’t just sit around until you hit 12 weeks and expect your body to respond well to the stress of running.
There is a lot that you can and should be doing in the weeks leading up to then to prepare your body for running. Let’s dive into my top suggestions for things you can be doing to build a strong foundation and prepare your body to hit the pavement when you are ready to.
Set realistic expectations.
Don’t expect to be the same runner you were before you got pregnant when you are first getting back into it. Expect that it will take some time, patience, and consistency. Understanding that your expectations should adjust daily/weekly based on how you are sleeping (we all know how rough that newborn sleep life can be…), if you are breastfeeding, fluctuating hormones, your energy levels, your mental health, etc.
Visit with a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Even if you had an “uncomplicated” pregnancy and birth and everything feels fine, there is A LOT that happens during these events that we can’t necessarily see, so seeing a PFPT can give you some great insight on how things are really healing and functioning.
*There is so much more to pelvic floor recovery than just kegels and they aren’t always the most appropriate option for everyone, so getting an evaluation can be super helpful. Also, if you had a c-section, pelvic floor PTs can help with that!
Bring awareness to your core and pelvic floor.
To go with pelvic floor PT (or if PT is not a viable option for you), bringing awareness to your core and pelvic floor and their recovery is an important foundational consideration. This will help you get more familiar with YOUR body and help you learn how you can manage symptoms or pain. You can try starting with some core/pelvic floor recovery breathwork. Check out the video below for one way you can do this (you can start this early on postpartum if it doesn’t elicit any symptoms).
Progressing through strength and conditioning training will help prepare you for your first run. Like I mentioned earlier, there is a lot that you can and should be doing during those first 12 weeks to get ready for your first run.
Focus on building up your glutes, core, and overall strength. Single leg strength and stability will carry over to your running stride, so taking time to do single leg work is important. Start with the basics and continue to progress to more complex and intense strength work.
Walk before you run.
Start slow with impact. Once you’ve built up your strength and are ready to progress to more, you can start to add in more impact. Walking earlier on postpartum (when you feel ready and respond well) can be a good first step. You can progress into exercises like heel slams (stand on your tiptoes and drive heels to the ground), then progress to hopping, single leg hopping, bigger jumps, etc. If you are managing those well and not experiencing any symptoms (see below for a list of things to watch for), start with a very short run/intervals (think like 20-50 meters to start) and continue to progress from there.
If you experience any of the following pain or symptoms, you shouldn’t ignore them or try to push through (“No pain, no gain” and “No excuses” are not appropriate in these chapters, or really any time.). These things are signs that you either need to make some adjustments or slow down a bit. Consult with your doctor, pelvic floor physio, and pregnancy and postpartum athleticism coach to help you better manage symptoms.
Coning or doming along the midline of the abdomen
Pulling sensations in the abdomen
ANY amount of unintentional leaking (urine or feces)
Pelvic pain or pressure
Heaviness or a bulge feeling in the vagina
Pain during or after exercise (back, hips, pelvic, belly)
Fatigue, exhaustion, or excessive soreness-this is likely a sign you need to back off a bit
Spotting or bleeding
A note on symptoms-you may occasionally experience some mild symptoms after a run. This is your body’s way of giving you feedback, so don’t freak out and just pay attention to what it is and if it lingers for awhile (a day or longer), that is likely a sign to make a change.
These are all ways that you can learn to “listen to your body” and make appropriate changes and decisions to best guide your journey back to the exercise you enjoy.
Making informed decisions about what is most appropriate for you and your body can help you maintain activity, without pain or symptoms, and help with your postpartum recovery long term athleticism.
Want more info on how you can navigate symptoms, exercise, and your journey? Fill out THIS FORM to schedule a FREE call with me to discuss how you can get better guidance with navigating exercise and managing symptoms in pregnancy and postpartum!