5 Steps to Prepare Your Body for Running After Birth

Running is so convenient when you become a mum. You can head out for a run when it suits you and your baby, and you do not need to book a class in advance only to cancel last minute because your baby needs a feed or more cuddles; however, returning to running after having a baby is not as simple as wait 6 weeks after the birth and then go back running like your body never changed.

The Return to Running postnatal guidelines (https://mailchi.mp/38feb9423b2d/returning-to-running-postnatal-guideline), published in 2019, recognise running as a high-impact sport. Did you know that up to 2.5 times your body weight bounces up and down on your body and pelvic floor when you run? Do you feel your body is ready to manage this load?

A recent study of almost nine hundred women found that 84% of women experience some form of pain (lower limb most commonly) when returning to running after birth and 29% experience urinary leaking (Moore et al 2021). That is quite a lot of women struggling to get back to running after pregnancy.

Symptoms like these are often signs that the body is not able to cope with the demands of running. Think of the additional strength and endurance your body needs to cope with 2.5 times your body weight bouncing up and down on your body! Your body needs to be in good physical condition to manage this extra pressure.

So how can you prepare your body for running after having a baby? These five steps can guide you.

1.     Schedule an appointment with a women’s health physiotherapist.

Pregnancy and birth result in significant body changes which alter how your body functions. There can be an expectation to “bounce back” after childbirth but many body changes persist in the postnatal period and women are left feeling disconnected from their bodies. Up to half of all women experience weakness in both the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy and up to a third still have a tummy gap at eight weeks post-birth.

A comprehensive screening of the whole body by a women’s health physiotherapist, allows you to discuss any areas of concern and identify any issues which may become future or long term problems. Many women can look like they are doing great from the outside but when assessed thoroughly they could have a pelvic floor injury or a poorly controlled diastasis recti and running too soon after birth may lead to longer term issues that could have been prevented if caught early.

Many women develop pelvic or back pain or bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction after birth. These conditions should not be something you should just put up with as a result of having a baby and could be prevented or managed better with appropriate guidance from a women’s health physiotherapist.

It’s recommended that women have an initial assessment after their 6-8 week GP check, but it is also never too late to book an appointment.

Your body has gone through phenomenal changes, and this assessment is what every Mum deserves after pregnancy and childbirth.

2.     Wait until you are minimum of 12 weeks after birth.

The return to running guidelines recommend lower impact exercise for up to 3 months after having a baby with a gradual return to running or other impact exercises 3-6 months.

There may be some exceptions in elite athletes but for the vast majority running before your baby is 12 weeks is too soon and puts your body at risk of injury.

This does not mean that you cannot exercise before 12 weeks. Use this time to re-establish exercise routines and build up your strength with lower impact exercises such as walking, yoga, pilates or strengthening exercises.

At The Bump Room, we have created a comprehensive postnatal exercise program designed to progressively load your body and prepare it for the demand of high-impact exercise. Check out the link here to find out more about our postnatal online exercise videos Postnatal Video Library | The Bump Room


3.    Ensure your pelvic floor muscles can tolerate the load.

Pregnancy and birth put additional demands on the pelvic floor muscles and while 12 weeks is recommended as a start point for a return to running, many women’s pelvic floor is not ready at this point.

Leaking urine, heaviness down below or pain are all signs that your pelvic floor muscles are not coping with the demands of running and you should seek advice from your women’s health physiotherapist to help rehabilitate your pelvic floor muscles.

You cannot go straight from being sedentary in the first 6 weeks post birth to running 5km. Your body is sure to protest! An exercise programme that gradually loads the pelvic floor with more challenging exercises will ensure that your pelvic floor is ready to cope with the extra demands of running.

Our postnatal exercise programmes are divided into different levels which you can progress through at your own pace leaving you feeling confident about returning to running when you are ready.

4.     Get strong.

Pregnancy and birth will create a degree of physical deconditioning in your whole body even if you remained active during your pregnancy. We know that your legs will not be as strong postnatal, your balance is reduced and your ability to control your body weight on one leg decreases after pregnancy.

Up to 2.5 times, your body weight goes down through your leg when you strike the ground on running. You need strong core and leg muscles to manage these forces.

A period of physical reconditioning and strengthening is strongly recommended before returning to running after birth. This will make your return to running a much easier experience and reduce your risk of injury. This will make your running a joy rather than a slog!


5.    Make sure you have the energy reserves.

Motherhood is demanding on the body (physically, mentally, and emotionally) and running is an additional challenge that requires surplus energy. Do you have this surplus energy available? Maybe right now you are just in survival mode and the additional stress of running is not the best thing for you right now.

Adults ideally need 7-9 hours of sleep (It is a pity babies did not get this memo)!!!! The physical and psychological consequences of sleep loss can delay postnatal tissue healing, increase sensitivity to pain and increase the risk of injury when returning to running. If your baby is waking many times at night, your body may not have the reserves for high impact exercise.

Breastfeeding is another factor to consider. Breastfeeding is quite energy-demanding and requires that you maintain adequate sleep, food, and fluid intake. Your energy levels can be depleted during certain periods on your breastfeeding journey.

Running is fantastic when your body is able but there are certain times when it is better to walk and seek more rest and recovery.

The challenge of pregnancy and the journey to motherhood is often underestimated. It is a time of major change in a woman’s body, and it is often assumed that all will be back to “normal” after the six-week check, but the reality is that getting back to running after pregnancy takes time and should not be rushed. Be patient with yourself and your body.

All runners want to run but the best way to get back to running without problems to build the body back up to meet the demand of running.

If you want to learn more about The Bump Room’s online postnatal exercise programme go to our website here Home | The Bump Room.

Reference: Moore IS, James ML, Brockwell E, et al

British Journal of Sports Medicine 2021;55:1286-1292.

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