I’ve had many running experiences over the last 17 years, but one that I can only research is running while pregnant or running postpartum. And while I’ve coached those runners, I think there’s insight that only another mother runner can provide, which is why I am thrilled to have Christine here today.
Christine is not only a running coach, but certified in pregnancy running and has created and incredible course called Bump Runner to help you safely get through the entire experience!
If you exercised during your pregnancy, whether you ran or did other forms, then you know it’s difficult. But in my experience, returning to running postpartum is even harder.
Not only is it physically harder, but it’s very emotional.
We tend to give ourselves grace when pregnant with slowing down, gaining weight, and not being able to go as hard or as fast. But once we have our baby, we expect (or simply want) to snap right back to where we were pre-baby with our bodies and our athletic performance.
We can be very hard on ourselves and get discouraged that things aren’t going back to the way they were or that the weight isn’t dropping instantly. We expect a baby and our bodies to grow for 9+ months during pregnancy but then expect our bodies to snap right back and get frustrated after a short period of time.
For a while now, I have been saying that:
Pregnancy running teaches you humility. Postpartum running teaches you patience.
Why Postpartum Exercise is Different
Your first many runs back PP you may feel clunky, heavy, and awkward. You feel like your body isn’t your own, that you’ve never run before and you convince yourself that you’ll never feel normal again!
I want to tell you that’s totally NORMAL!
Don’t be scared or discouraged if for a couple months you feel this way. I didn’t feel like myself again as a runner, where things just clicked, until 9 months PP at the earliest, but it was probably closer to 1 year PP where I was consistently back to my old paces and it just felt “right.”
Not Relax, but Relaxin
Do you know what Relaxin is? It’s a hormone that is produced during pregnancy to help relax your joints to be able to stretch, move, and grow to support the baby, labor, and delivery.
Did you know that Relaxin can stay in your system for up to 5 months after the baby is born? That means your knees, hips, pelvis, and other joints are moving and stretching in ways that your body was not originally intended and that feels strange and out of place. Give it time, it will return back.
Plus, I think it goes without saying your body has just gone through an enormous change, you’re now sleeping less and your routine has changed. All of that is going to impact how your body feels when you attempt to run and the energy available to do it with good running form.
Postpartum Running Plan: 7 Keys
A top question I receive is, “How do I return to running after having a baby?” Or, “When can I return to running after having a baby?”
The answers to these questions do vary from person to person in terms of what you did during your pregnancy, if you had any complications from labor/delivery, how your recovery is going, doctor’s approval, etc.
But here’s the gist…
1. Don’t return to running too soon
I know we’re all anxious to lace back up and get back out there, but many of us return to running way too soon and it can lead to many serious issues if your body is not yet ready.
- It can take between 6-10 weeks for the uterus to return to it’s normal size, and longer with each pregnancy! My recommendation is to wait 8-10 weeks PP before attempting your first run
- If you had a vaginal delivery, bleeding can last for 2-6 weeks. Your bleeding should be completely stopped before returning to running
- If you tore or had an episiotomy, you have stitches and they can take a week or two to heal. This needs to be fully healed before running
- You must be able to walk pain free before running
- Unless you spent your pregnancy strengthening your pelvic floor and deep core, it is most likely very weak and damaged. If you run with an extremely weak pelvic floor, you are taking a chance of developing prolapse. Uterine Prolapse is when the pelvic floor muscles are too weak and the uterus slips down and protrudes out of the vagina. This can be very difficult to repair.
- If you are experiencing any incontinence (leaking when sneezing, coughing, laughing, etc.), then be very mindful of this
2. Repair your core and pelvic floor
For all of the reasons mentioned above, rebuilding and rehabbing your pelvic floor and core are KEY to staying healthy and ensuring your return to running goes as smoothly as possible. T
here are many things that tend to be out of your control but doing the PROPER exercises to repair your body is something you can control. Be sure you are taking advice from someone who has experience and adequate knowledge in the field.
The main takeaway to remember with rehabbing your pelvic floor and core, is making the muscle connections. Going through the movement without the proper breathing and releasing/contracting of the correct muscles, will get you nowhere. It’s imperative you take the time to learn how to recognize and connect your pelvic floor and deep core for these exercises.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
This video is an example of a few exercises from my Postpartum Runner program that work on repairing your pelvic floor and core, all while gaining full body strength.
PIN THE IMAGE BELOW TO REMEMBER THEM!
The key to these pelvic floor exercises is in the breathing, relaxation, and contractions.
You can see with every repetition, my belly inflates on the inhale as I release my pelvic floor and deep core. On the exhale, you want to contract your pelvic floor and wrap your transverse abdominals around as you lengthen the fascia to the top of your head. This should be done with every repetition throughout the full exercise.
3. Let a Coach Guide You
My Birth To 8 Weeks program starts to make these deep core connections right after having your baby so your core is on it’s way to being repaired by the time the doctor clears you for exercise, which is then a great time to start the Postpartum Runner program, which teaches you the correct way to make these connections, rehab your core/pelvic floor, gain overall strength, and safely build your running base over the course of 12 weeks.
You can learn more all the programs offered by Bump Runner here.
4. Use a run/walk method to start
Whether you ran through your pregnancy or not, when you get back out there post-baby, you may feel like you are starting from absolute scratch. The very beginning. Like you haven’t run a day in your life. Try not to freak out or rush things.
A great technique you can use to build your running base and endurance, is the run/walk method. An example of this could be:
- Warm up: walk 5 minutes, 4 rounds of: run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute, cool down: walk 5 minutes
- Do this workout 3 times a week for the first week and then you can start to increase the intervals to more run time, less walk time, as you feel your body is improving.
Try not to compare yourself to what other moms do.
I understand it can be hard, but just because someone else can go out and run 8 miles at 6 weeks PP (not recommended), and you can’t, does not mean there is something wrong with you or that you are any less of a mother runner. We’re all on different journeys!Pictured here Milestoboston
Checkout our additional tips from 5 Mother Runners on figuring out jogging strollers, handling being tired and more!
5. Think of postpartum running and exercises like a reverse taper
Pregnancy has 3 trimesters and as your progress through your pregnancy you most likely need to alter and modify the workouts/exercises that you do. You may need to modify from a forearm plank to a knee plank and you’ll need to stop doing supine exercises as you enter your third trimester. With running, you may decrease distance and intensity as you navigate through the trimesters.
Think of your postpartum journey like a reverse taper. Meaning, you start easy and with the modified exercises and progress to the harder exercises over time. The runs/workouts/exercises would look something like this…
1st trimester > 2nd trimester > 3rd trimester > birth > recovery > 3rd trimester > 2nd trimester > 1st trimester
6. Don’t be discouraged by pace
This one can be difficult. We as runners tend to judge ourselves by the little number on our watch. Similar to pregnancy running, postpartum running (in the early days especially) and pace do not go together.
Do NOT judge your postpartum running progress by a number on a watch!
Listen to your body. Ease up. It will tell you what it can and cannot take.
And when you think you’ll never ever ever ever (can you sense my eye roll?) get faster, all the sudden you will. There’s a hump that you climb and climb for what seems like FOREVER and then one day you’ll go out on a run, expecting it to not feel right per usual, and something will click.
You will feel like you are flying at an easy effort. And your stride will feel natural and your heart rate will be low, and you’ll start to get tears in your eyes because for the first time in possibly a year and a half (if you include pregnancy), you feel like yourself again.
So until you get to that point, don’t worry about the pace. Don’t get discouraged if the numbers are slower than what you used to see. It will all come together eventually.7 Keys for New Mother Runners to return to running SAFELY!!! #motherrunner #runchat Click To Tweet
7. Last reminder – Give yourself grace. Have patience. Remember what your body just went through. Know that running will always be there for you. Don’t compare to other mother runners. Be yourself and enjoy your journey ♥️
Have more questions on this topic? Let us know!
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