"When can I start running again?" is a question we often receive from women after giving birth. The short answer for postpartum running we like to give is, "it depends...".
It is difficult to give general guidelines on the best return to running practices. There are many factors to consider, and a few questions we have for you before we can give you the quality guidance that you deserve.
Some of the factors that may impact your return to running include:
- What type of delivery did you have? (i.e. vaginal, cesarian, VBAC)
- Did you have any perineal tearing?
- Do you have a diastasis or abdominal wall separation?
- Are you experiencing any symptoms of heaviness or pressure with increased activity?
- Did you have pain during pregnancy? Has that resolved?
- What are you reasons for getting back into running? Do you have a frequency or distance goal?
WHY do we want/need to know this information?
Even though our bodies are MAGIC, pregnancy and postpartum can be stressful [physically and emotionally]. We need to allow ourselves the time and space to heal. If we don't address the dysfunction we may experience continued imbalances that may lead to compensations that may lead to injury.
These facts are not meant to scare you, but to inform:
- 75% of women will develop at least some degree of pelvic organ prolapse during their life
- 1 in 3 women will have prolapse to the level of the vaginal entrance OR beyond
- 1 in 3 women will have leakage/incontinence to some degree
Like we have said many times before, even though these dysfunctions/symptoms are common, they are NOT normal. It's just not as simple as wait 6 weeks or wait 12 months and you will be fine. There are things that we can do to address the imbalances that are causing your symptoms and help guide you back to activity and if you so choose, to running!
BUT, what can I do in the meantime?
0-2 weeks postpartum. Gentle pelvic floor exercises including breathing and proper core activation, and walking.
2-4 weeks postpartum. Slowly progress abdominal wall activation exercises (i.e. dead bug progress) and walking distances. Maybe even consider bodyweight squats or bridges.
4-6 weeks postpartum. Introduce low impact exercise such as cycling or elliptical. Keep in mind mode of delivery and comfort with sitting on the saddle.
6-8 weeks postpartum. Incorporate scar tissue mobilization, if needed. Increase walking duration and intensity. Add in gentle strength training such as squats and deadlifts (with gradual load progression...start with baby's weight).
8-12 weeks postpartum. Introduce swimming (if lochia stopped and wounds healing) and continue to build strength and endurance of all previous activity.
**Disclaimer: These are merely examples of exercise progressions. Please talk to your PCP or Pelvic Health PT if symptoms occur or become worse upon increasing activity.
In the end, the best answer we can give is to *pause* and take inventory of your body. If you feel that there may be an imbalance or symptom that is not improving, we can help! We will offer you an individualized assessment to see where you are at right now. We are here to guide you to the best way to return to the form of exercise you want to do.
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