When can I start running after having a baby?
New mums who are runners often have two things in common.
Firstly, they are tired.
Secondly, even though they are tired, they still want to get back to running as soon as possible.
But getting back to running after giving birth takes more than just finding someone to watch over baby for 30 minutes whilst you lace up your trainers and head out the door. We actually need to make sure we are strong enough first, so that we don’t end up with an injury or pelvic floor and core problems.
Why? Because running is a high impact activity which places a lot of demand on the body. To be ready to run your body needs time to heal and get strong.
Guidelines published in 2019 recommend waiting 3-6 months before doing any running. Without any post natal complications you may be ready at 3 months but it’s best to err on the side of caution as the last thing you want is to sustain an injury that puts you out of action for weeks or even months.
So rather than thinking about a time frame which will be different for everyone, it’s better to think about your body and its stage of recovery.
Stage 1 Pelvic Floor and Core function
High impact activity such as running has been shown to have an increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction compared to low impact activity. So you need adequate time to heal and regain strength in your pelvic floor and core before you start adding the impact of running.
You can start pelvic floor exercises within the first two weeks of giving birth, and these should be progressed as the weeks go by with added core rehab.
However, if you have any of the following symptoms you should see a women’s health physio
- Leaking urine or faeces
- Urgency with needing to go to the toilet
- A heaviness, pressure, dragging or a bulge in the pelvic area
- Any pain with intercourse
- A wide gap in the tummy (diastasis recti) that isn’t healing
- Ongoing or increased blood loss beyond 8 weeks postnatal that isn’t linked to your monthly cycle
Stage 2 Start walking
Walking is an excellent way of improving your cardiovascular fitness without impact. This can also be done with baby in a pram and with other people to make it more sociable.
You should build up your time walking until you feel that you can walk comfortably for 30 minutes without any pain or aches before you start running again.
Stage 3 Build strength
In order to ensure your muscles are ready for running you need to build your strength.
Start off with squats, lunges and bridges. These movements will get you strong, not just for running but also for life with baby.
These movements can be progressed to include resistance to help build on the strength and once comfortable you can start adding single leg movements such as calf raises and sit to stands.
Stage 4 Return to running
Once you are at least 3 months postnatal, with no pelvic floor or core issues, are comfortable walking for 30 minutes and have built on your strength then you can return to running.
Follow a couch to 5k programme that will get you back to running gradually.
Once you start running if you begin to have any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction such as leaking, pain or heaviness please go back to stage 1 and talk to a women’s health physio.
When you are back running regularly set yourself short term goals to keep you on track and avoid trying to match your pre-baby PBs, at least for a while, whilst you find out what your post baby body is capable of.
And, finally, consider working with a running coach, like myself, who is trained to work with post natal runners.
Note - All advice in this post is based on the 2019 “Returning to running postnatal guidelines for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population” by Goom, Donnelly and Brockwell.