I’ve just had a baby…When can I get back to running?

Well firstly congratulations on the new addition to your life – a brand-new human to love and take care of – such an awesome gift!! And now the dust is settling, one of the questions that new mums tend to ask is when can I safely get moving again?

For some, if you were running prior to having your baby you may be asking – when can I get back running? Or for others, you might be considering running to help with return to fitness – it’s an easy, time efficient exercise that can be of benefit for so many different reasons. 

As a physiotherapist I am often asked about the criteria for returning to exercise after giving birth – a great question considering your body has been through a lot producing this brand-new human. And it’s important that you safely return to exercise whilst taking care of your body and avoiding injury.

I get it, your desire for that rush of endorphins, fresh oxygen pumping through your veins, the wind in your hair, chasing some bliss that affirms mind, body and spirit.

Here we will specifically address a return to running guide. The initial stages of return are a good guide for a return to exercise postpartum, so even if you are not a runner this may give you some tips to get you on your way.

As with most things in life, every individual has had a different experience with giving birth, and recovery will differ from mum to mum. We will offer some helpful tips for you, but if you are unsure at all about your individual case then it’s advisable to see a physiotherapist to be assessed. 

The Research

In March 2019 a group of physiotherapists in the UK published the fantastic Returning To Running Postnatal Guidelines (Emma Brockwell, Grainne Donnelly, Tom Goom). This was published due to the lack of guidance available for women postpartum on how to manage their return to running. The guidelines are evidence-based and therefore invaluable advice for new mums wishing to get back to running safely and with a smile on your face. 

So, let’s share some of their great nuggets of advice!!

Where do you start?

Setting your expectations
  • Low impact exercise timeline in the first 3 months postpartum (Let’s get that core working and some gentle cardio) 
  • Return to running between 3-6 months in the absence of any pelvic floor dysfunction (Start building up some cardio and strength)
  • Planned gradual progression of return to running to reduce risk of injury (Planning for success)

The key thing to remember after pregnancy and delivery is that your body needs time to heal and regain strength – specifically in the abdominals and pelvic floor. So be kind and listen to your body. A slow gradual return now, will mean longer, happier training without injury or disappointment!!

The Guidelines

The guidelines recommend that all women, regardless of delivery method should seek out a “Pelvic Health Assessment” at 6 weeks postpartum. This can be carried out by a physiotherapist with a specialist interest in women’s health. It is a check-up to make sure your body is recovering as it should and to give you advice and support about the next best steps.

They also recommend having a “Load and Impact Management Assessment” to help with running load guidance and strength for running including having a baseline “Strength Test” done. 

So, what is “low impact exercise”?

Before you strap on those running shoes it’s important to do the groundwork. The guidelines lay out a recommendation roadmap for return to running. It’s important to be directed by your physiotherapist in order to avoid injury and ensure success.

The experts have recommended a 12-week guide on how you can safely get back to running.

Week 0 to 2 
  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises targeting strength and endurance functions. 
  • Basic core exercises e.g., pelvic tilt, bent knee drop out, side lying abduction.
  • Walking. 
Week 2 to 4 
  • Progress walking/pelvic floor muscle/core rehab. 
  • Consider the introduction of squats, lunges and bridging. These movements mimic new day-to-day life as a mother. 
Week 4 to 6
  • Introduce low impact exercise e.g. static cycling or cross-trainer, being mindful of individual postnatal recovery and mode of delivery.
  • If cycling, ensure you are comfortable sitting on a saddle. 
Week 6 to 8
  • Scar mobilisation (for either c-section or perineal scar). 
  • Power-walking. 
  • Increased duration/intensity of low impact exercise. 
  • Deadlift techniques beginning at light weights, no more than the weight of the baby in a car seat (15kg) with gradual load progression e.g. barbell only with no weight – mimics new daily life!!
  • Resistance work during core and lower limb rehab. 
 Weeks 8 to 12 
  • Introduce swimming – wound-dependant. 
  • Spin cycling – again if the saddle is comfy.
Week 12 and beyond 
  • Start small at an easy pace with running/jogging – 1-2 mins and include walking breaks.
  • Build training volume prior to intensity. 
  • Follow guidance from an app like Couch to 5km or engage with a local running coach. 
  • Monitor that there are no symptoms of pain, heaviness, or continence issues prior to or during run.
  • NOTE: Running with a buggy should only be considered at 6-9 months to protect the neck and spine of the baby.

Additional things to consider are weight, fitness, breathing, psychological impact, diastasis screening, breastfeeding, supportive clothing, and that all-important factor – getting enough SLEEP. Sleep is essential for healing so try and make it part of your routine.

Look at a holistic approach to your return to running to improve your overall experience for the better. 

The great thing is that at human repair shop our physiotherapists can talk you through your post natal journey and provide individual guidance and advice to help your return to running be a raging success! Remember to engage with us or a health professional if you are unsure about what you should be doing and what is right and safe for you. Happy Running!!

At human repair shop we not only cover return to running advice post natal but cater for all you pre and post natal queries or needs. Find us on www.humanrepairshop.com.au, or on socials on Facebook @humanrepairshop or Instagram @human_repair_shop.

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