A Guide to Returning to Running After Baby
Shortly after I had my son I wanted to get back into running. With the clearance of a few medical professionals, I started running at six weeks postpartum. I ran because I wanted to get my heart rate up, to feel like my pre-pregnancy self and to be fit again. I craved the feeling of having an intense workout.
A few weeks after I started running, I began to feel an uncomfortable pain and heaviness in my pelvic floor. I reminded myself that I was cleared to run by professionals and so I continued to ignore all of the symptoms I was feeling. I thought it was normal to feel uncomfortable because I had just had a baby. Unfortunately, I had no idea the stress I was putting on my body, nor did I realize the importance of strengthening my core and pelvic floor, while slowly progressing back into running.
One day I was reading an article published by physiotherapist Julie Wiebe and something she said really resonated with me: “Every time you take a step while you are running, your pelvic floor is taking a HIT.” The idea of a strong pressure hitting my pelvic floor helped me visualize the importance of strengthening my pelvic floor before racing back into running. Shortly after I went to see a pelvic floor physical therapist to help me with strengthening my pelvic floor/core.
Now with my current knowledge, I like to think of running like a child learning to ride a two wheeler. First he/she learns to ride a tricycle, then a training wheel bike & then a two wheeler. A child takes steps to build her balance in order to have a successful foundation when riding a bike. This is similar to what we as moms should be doing after we have a baby: taking steps to getting back into running. We would never rush our children into mastering riding a two wheeler, so why do we rush ourselves back into running?
One of the steps to getting back into running is walking up a steep hill (or any incline). Walking uphill helps you get your heart rate up and it puts you in an optimal position (neutral alignment). This position helps you rehabilitate and balance your core system post-baby by helping you access your diaphragm, pelvic floor and glutes (this is crucial to reducing pelvic floor symptoms and to strengthening your pelvic floor). As you progress into running, it’s important to mix in running with walking. For example, walking 1 minute, then running 1 minute and so on (this may differ for each individual). When you begin running its crucial to MONITOR symptoms such as pain, leaking (incontinence), prolapse (heaviness), doming (diastasis recti/abdomen separation), and hip/ and/or low back pain. It’s important not to ignore these symptoms and to seek help from a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Once you progress back into running your posture is also important. After you have a baby you need to take time to strengthen your core system (pelvic floor, diaphragm, transverse abs). You can support your core system by working in a neutral position by stacking your ribs over your hips (to mimic “running into a windstorm,” Julie Wiebe), rotating your torso (not staying stiff, but instead allowing a rotation), breathing (no breath holding) and relaxing your obliques. Most women tend to run with a tucked bum (posterior tilt) and a high chest breath while squeezing their obliques. This makes it very difficult for you to use your diaphragm (breath) and your glute muscles and it puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor. This can lead to pain in your lower back, hips, incontinence, prolapse, pain with sex, or may slow the healing of an abdominal separation.
To sum up our guide to getting back into running after baby:
(#1 recommendation: SEE A PELVIC FLOOR PHYSICAL THERAPIST)
1. Walking uphill (relax obliques/belly, rotate through torso, breathe (never hold your breath), stack ribs over hips (neutral position), and monitor for symptoms.
2. Alternate walking and running (1 minute intervals).
3. Running (relax obliques/belly, rotate through torso, breathe, stack ribs over hips, and monitor for symptoms)
-Kathleen Germs (Momma Inspiration)