How to return to running after having a baby

posted in: Women's Health | 0

Our women’s health physiotherapist Ali Cann has recently returned to us and running, following the birth of her son.
Here’ she explains the changes and how to get back to running after baby arrives.

After pregnancy, the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles are weak and in some cases injured. Running, like other high-impact activities, causes a sudden rise in intra-abdominal pressure. There is also a lot of force going through the lower limb each time the foot impacts the ground, and some of this will be transmitted to the pelvic floor. It is therefore really important that we make sure the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles are able to handle this increased pressure before going back to running.

Running too early can actually lead to further issues with the pelvic floor, including urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction and pelvic organ prolapse. Being a women’s health physiotherapist, I can assess the abdominal wall and pelvic floor, providing an individualised rehabilitation programme to help prevent these complications.

Give it time
It takes times to heal and regain strength, and therefore retuning to running is not recommended before three months at the earliest. For some women, it can take much longer before the body is ready. This does not mean that you can’t do any exercise at all before though.
I can guide you through a low-impact exercise programme that starts with pelvic floor and basic core exercises while gradually increasing your walking.
As your fitness starts to improve you can then begin introduce other low impact cardio exercises such as cycling on a static bike and swimming, as well as some body weight strengthening exercises, progressing to exercises using light weights.
You need to know if you’re doing too much too soon though.

If you notice any of the following symptoms it is important that you seek advice from a women’s health physiotherapist:

  • Pelvic or lower back pain
  • Leaking of urine or loss of control of bowel movements
  • Heavy or dragging sensation in pelvic area
  • A gap or bulging in your tummy

Walk before you can run
Once I feel that my client is ready to start running again, I don’t expect them to be back doing the same distance and speed they were before they stopped. Some women might have been able to carry on running late into pregnancy but for others they may have stopped early and so it could have been over a year since they last ran.

Starting with a simple run/walk – running for just a minute at a time at an easy pace, is best to gauge how the body is feeling. Then, you can work on gradually increasing the time/distance you are running for.
If any issues arise as you start increasing the training volume then please do book in to see us for an assessment and programme to get you where you need to be. You will need to walk before you can run!

My return to running:
I have first-hand experience in this as I have recently got back into running after having my little boy. As soon as I came home from hospital I started doing my pelvic floor exercises and made sure to go for a walk every day. Initially, this was just down the road but each time I would try and go a little bit further. After a week or so I started doing some basic Pilates moves and then gradually started introducing some body weight strengthening exercises.

I tried going for my first run at around 10 weeks post-partum but this was too soon for me and so instead I carried on with longer and faster walks, Pilates, light weight strengthening exercises and cardio exercises in the gym using the static bike and cross trainer.

After a couple more weeks of doing this I was then able to add some short runs into my walks and gradually built up to doing my first Parkrun, the free 5km runs in your local park every weekend.

I had signed up for the London Big Half marathon in March and so I followed a simple training plan, which gradually increased the mileage to get me ready for this. I completed the half marathon and since then have also completed a 10km race and several 5km Parkruns.
My baby is now 9 months old and I am running faster than I ever have before!

My top tips:

  1. Start doing your pelvic floor exercises straight away and do them every day.
  2. Walk rather than use the car whenever you can. It’s much easier than getting the baby in and out of the car too!
  3. Do not rush into running. Listen to your body, you will get there.
  4. Set a goal to keep you motivated.
  5. Make sure you have the right gear – good trainers and a supportive sports bra are a must.
  6. If you’re breast feeding, time your runs so you can run soon after feeding.

Rest is important too – especially when you are sleep deprived so be realistic and stick to 2-3 runs a week.