Running After Babies
What you Need to Know
The most common question I get as a post natal run coach and physiotherapist is “When can I get back up and running after I have had a baby”?
I'm sorry to say this...but I ALWAYS recommend at least 4 - 6 months.
Running after babies is FREAKING HARD!!!!
That doesn't mean you can't do anything in that time period, just hold back a bit on high impact running. You can be walking, walking hills, doing appropriate core and strengthening work but RUNNING IS HARD on your postpartum body. The impact is high and despite your love for running or running through your pregnancies, your body needs some recovery time after having babies. Giving yourself this physical and emotional time to heal and recover now, will have you back up and running stronger for the long term before you know it.
The Must Know Signs That Something is Wrong
Whether you had your baby 3 months ago or 3 years ago, here are the abnormal signs that you must be aware of:
- low back pain
- pelvic pain
- unexplained hip or knee pain
- urinary leakage during workouts (you pee your pants a little or a lot)
- you have the urge to pee a lot but not much actually flows
- a heaviness or a bulge in your vaginal area with workouts or any jumping activities
- outie belly button where there was not one before
- bulge down the midline when you attempt a standard crunch
- maybe you look pregnant when you are not (“mommy tummy”)
All of these are COMMON but not NORMAL and signs that something is off with some part of your core stabilization system. If you experience any of these or have any questions, please see a pelvic health physiotherapist in your area before you go any further into your run training or workout regime. At the minimum, do you research, adjust your training and expectations on yourself.
I share this with you because more than a runner, I am a Registered Physiotherapist. I am highly trained and skilled at understanding the body, how it moves and how to restore movement when it is broken down BUT my training completely skipped over how a woman's body changes with pregnancy and her postnatal return to running. Pregnancy and birth aren't "injuries" that typically need "rehab" and are totally normal life processes but when us mamma's are strong runners wanting to return quickly, we need to view pregnancy and birth as something that requires a little "return to play" structure and guidance. This education and guidance does not exist anywhere and is why I need to talk about it.
Personally, I learned this stuff the hard way. I had a diastasis recti, a weak pelvic floor and I peed when I ran early on. I learned to rehab myself because of my unique training, education and body awareness. If I struggled, I know you must be struggling out there too, unaware of why you are leaking when you run, staring blankly at that bulge down your midline with crunches and wondering why you are having back, pelvic, hip pain or repeated injuries. Running may be feeling SUPER hard leaving you SUPER frustrated.
I do not want that for you.
Whether your baby was 3 months ago or 3 years ago, here are a few basics tips for running after babies:
- Again, I strongly, strongly recommend you wait 4 - 6 months after birth to get running. Your body is truly in rest and recovery mode and needs time. Sometimes we have to do what’s best right now to be our best later on. You will run again but take this time to focus on recovery, getting strong and connecting to your core. The hormone relaxin is still pumping through your body at an all time high in the first few months postpartum. This is the hormone that made it possible for your body to be able to carry a baby and birth it. It makes your soft tissues (for example, ligaments) more lax and therefore you are far more susceptible to injury to your hips, pubic symphysis, low back, and knees.
- It is essential to retrain your core and pelvic floor before you start pounding the pavement. Your core is made up of your postural muscles, low back muscles, abdominals, diaphragm and your pelvic floor. To support the impact and demands of running, these muscles all need to be strong and coordinated as they work together. If you are spending long days breastfeeding, carrying your baby or sitting at a compluter, your posture is likely not optimally aligned. When your posture isn't aligned, your core muscles are not activated or firing optimally and they certainly are not ready to support the demands of running. You may even have some degree of diastasis recti (LEARN MORE HERE) putting your back at risk. As a result you end up with any of the signs listed above that are common but NOT normal. Running will exacerbate these issues. Core work must be initiated before high impact running.
- Uterine and bladder prolapse are real things to be aware of. I recommend all my ladies go see a pelvic floor physiotherapist (PFP) to put both our minds at ease. If you are experiencing ANY of the issues listed above, see a PFP so they can give you treatment and exercises to help you rehab. If you’re having incontinence with sneezing or laughing, or if you are running wearing a pad because you’re leaking, stop running and get back to basics of core/floor training.
- When you want to get up and running, begin by focusing on strength training specific for runners. This applies if your baby was 3 months ago or 3 years ago. Running is high impact and you need to be strong to be successful in your new training program. 1 - 3 months of structured specific resistance training created for runners after baby, on preferably 3 days per week is recommended. Working on abdominal and pelvic floor activation exercises, retraining your breathing patterns, doing exercises such as squats, lunges, hip thrusts, side lunges, side planks and more will be extremely helpful in your up and running or return to running program. This is what we will work on in the Get Fit, Lean and Learn to Run 28 Day Coaching Program.
- Acknowledge you are in recovery or beginner mode and start slow. To get back out there, start building up your mileage slowly. My very beginner running program starts off at run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes. Learn to tune into your body and be hyper aware of the red flags that anything is off (see above). You will need to keep up your strength training routine as youbuild yoru endurance. Strength training never ends and it never gets easier, you just get stronger!
- Don't forget the other important components of training - sleep, quality nutrition, hydration and stress management. These are KEY to getting up and running and critical to have under control before you start any training program. Do not under estimate the power of any of these. As you are focusing on core and general strength work in preparation for getting up and running, make sleep, nutiriton, hydration and stress management a healthy part of the program.
I hope that you will be patient wth yourself as you get up and running after babies or even years later because it will significantly impact your return in the short term and health in the long-term. Strength and core exercise is fantastic and I encourage it as soon as you’re ready and feeling up for movement. Before you begin any run program, GET STRONG.
If you want to ask me any more specific questions about you and your journey back up and running after babies, be sure to join the FREE RunningMoms Fitness & Wellness Community HERE. This is a space for postpatum runners to connect and get real advice from me, a phsyiotherapist who specializes in getting women back up and running safe, strong, fit and feelign awesome after babies. JOIN HERE.
XO - Carey
Physiotherapist & Founder of the RunningMoms
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Helping female runners get fit, run fast, burn fat and become injury proof after babies....even while you're balancing life, a career and the chaos of motherhood.
Credit to Jessie Mundell for some of the content in here.