Are you feeling emotionally ready to begin running or training after pregnancy and birth? Do you know whether you’re physically ready?
Within this article, I will show you recognised tests to show whether you’re ready physically to return to running and other high-intensity exercise after birth. And how to get ready if you’re not quite there yet.
Often after birth women are raring to go, to get some head space, to ‘bounce back’. As much as I hate that phrase, having had kids myself I understand the desire to feel at home within your body after birth. I really don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but the most important advice I can give you is that you will get there, but do it safely.
The Importance of Taking your Time
Regardless of the type of birth it takes around 6 weeks for the body to recover from it. As it would should you have been recovering from a scar, surgery or sprain. The size of the wound in the uterus left once the body has expelled the placenta is akin to a paper party plate. We must all leave adequate time, hydration, nutrition and circulation to allow this wound to heal. When we return too soon, we can slow this healing process down.
What to do in the First 1-6 Weeks Post Birth
You need to allow the body to heal. This means treating the body and mind with respect during this stage. You must allow time to heal the birth canal, any scars from tearing/c-section/episiotomy and the uterus.
Things you can do to assist this process;
- Rest. No matter how boring, it will help your recovery. One of my friends told me “two weeks on the bed, two weeks by the bed and two weeks in the home”.
- Pelvic Floor Activation. This provides blood flow to areas that need nutrients carried within the blood to get to the areas. You can use the Squeezy app from the NHS to set daily reminders on your phone.
- Book in with a local women’s health physio for a 6 week post natal check up. Something that I truly believe should be part of the post natal care period, with the current 6 week GP check notoriously inadequate.
- Massage. To the stomach and around any scarring. This again will help circulation to any areas needing blood flow.
- Posture (buggy/slings/feeding), as discussed in a previous blog, there are numerous postural compensations that happen before and after pregnancy. Be aware of shoulder and hip position whilst using the pram, sling and/or feeding.
- Nutrition. Optimal healing during the post natal period relies heavily on the nutrients put into the body. Focus on a balanced plate with all food groups of carbohydrates, fats and protein with a heavy emphasis on varied vegetables and fruit for high micronutrient levels.
- Hydration. All of your tissues, a specially connective tissues are made primarily of water. Without adequate water, healing will slow. The focus on hydration is especially important if you’re breastfeeding and/or pumping.
After the 6 Week Recovery Period
Dame Jessica Ennis Hill got back to competing 10 months post birth of her first child. And impressive and inspiring feat. What we haven’t seen is the behind the scenes period running up to that point.
I an article in The Times, she mentions how her physio wouldn’t let her return to her pre-pregnancy workout until she was 6 months post natal. And this is for a woman in her late twenties already an Olympian with high levels of support in her exercise and nutrition. She states “there should be no running, no jumping and no sit-ups for at least 24 weeks after the baby was born” having learnt form her physio how to return to exercise safely.
What this means is that it’s imperative to build up from the inside out. Focussing on breath work to re-educate the deep core cylinder before then progressing to add light tension, then functional movements and finally load to the movements on the path to recovery.
If you aren’t sure where to start I advise seeking support from a women’s healthy physio therapist registered to provide a Mummy MOT or get in touch with me via the contact form.
Tests to Complete Prior to Returning to Running
I’ve taken here an excerpt from a PDF guide from some research on the post natal return to running by world renowned physios Tom Groom, Grainne Donnelly and Emma Brockwell. You should be able to complete all of these tests without pain, leakage or pelvic dysfunction before returning to running.
- Walking for 30 minutes
- Single leg balance 10s
- Single leg squat 10x each side
- Jog on the spot 1 minute
- Forward bounds x10
- Hop in place 10x each leg
- Single leg ‘running man’, 10x each leg
Post Natal women can benefit from individualised assessment and guided pelvic floor rehabilitation for the prevention and management of pelvic organ prolapse, the managements of urinary incontinence and for improved function. Running is a high impact sport placing a lot of demand on the body. In a recent systematic review investigating urinary incontinence in female athletes, high impact exercise was found to have a 4.59 fold increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction compared to low impact exercise.
Women after giving birth need adequate time in order to heal, often more than she believes. The mind is often ready much more quickly than the physical body. Regardless of delivery type, it is recommended that within the first 3 months of the post natal period a low impact restorative regime is used. This can be followed by a return to running between 3-6 months post natal at the earliest. For the best outcomes in returning to running seek advice from a women’s health physiotherapist and/or qualified pre and post natal personal trainer.
Urinary Incontinence in Female Altheles: a Systemic Review. International Urogynecology Journal. De Mattos Lorenzo et al. 2018
Returning to Running Post Natal – Guidelines for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population. Tom Groom, Grainne Donnelly and Emma Brockwell. https://www.absolute.physio/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/returning-to-running-postnatal-guidelines.pdf
Burrell Education – Advanced Post Natal Wellness Practitioner