Running is a great form of exercise, its free, easy to fit in and you can do it anywhere so it’s no wonder that I get so many of you telling me you want to get back to it, or expressing a desire to start running all together.
However before you hit the road or the park, it’s so important that when post-natal we rehab the parts of the body which pregnancy has weakened.
This will enable you to run problem free and without the risk of injury and without the dreaded ‘peeing fear’ (which is common but by no means normal and 99% of the time totally fixable.
Quite often women feel that after they’ve been given the all clear at their 6 week check, they are ready to get back to the exercise they did before pregnancy. However this is not the case. We need to think of it as a journey to (or back to) running, slowly building it up alongside a strengthening program.
WHY DO WE NEED TO SLOWLY RETURN TO RUNNING?
Let’s just take a moment to remember what your amazing body has been through to produce this little miracle. Your belly has expanded, your abs have stretched. The connective tissue down the middle- the linea alba, has thinned and maybe separated – diastasis.
Your posture has changed, back muscles have shorted, hip flexors shortened, the ligaments and joints in the pelvis have become unstable and the relaxin, still running through your body, means all your joints are that little bit more unstable.
You’ve either pushed a baby out – stretching, lengthening, tearing- weakening all the ligaments in the pelvis. OR had the whole of the fascial network in your tummy cut open to bring your baby in to the world. Which effects the whole of the fascial network in the body.
Now let’s look at running. It’s is a high impact sport that causes an increase of pressure in the core which if not strong enough to withstand can cause down ward pressure effecting diastasis and your pelvic floor.
Then there is the rebound from the impact with the ground. This rebound travels up the legs to the pelvic floor and again can cause weakening and lengthen of already weakened and lengthened muscles and ligaments
Running also requires stability in the joints which relaxin is inhibiting. This relaxin can stay in your system for up to 12 months from when you stop breast feeding.
OK SO WHAT DOES THIS JOURNEY LOOK LIKE?
As always I would recommend you see a Women’s Health Physio at the very beginning of your journey back to exercise whether your goal is to run or not. They will give you a fab assessment of your intra abdominal pressure and an examination of your pelvic floor to see the strength and the tone. You can find your nearest Mummy MOT practitioner at https://www.themummymot.com/
For the first 3 months it is recommended you follow a gentle core rehabilitation program which can progress on to some functional strength exercises working on your posterior chain, ie deadlifts and bridges and some single leg loading, ie lunges.
After 3 months, all being ok and your diastasis being healed or very small you can start to slowly incorporated some running, maybe 2×3 times a week and short distances maybe walk run. The couch to 5K is quite good to follow to build back your endurance. You can do this alongside some specific strength workouts.
Specific strength exercises should continue to work on your posterior chain and single leg loading. The plan should include single leg balances, lunges; forward bounds and single leg hops to get your fast twitch pelvic floor muscles working; Single leg bridges, single leg sit to stand and work on abduction.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
There are a few things to look out for and are signs you should seek help from a WHP:
- Heaviness/ dragging in the pelvic area (can be associated with prolapse)
- Leaking urine or inability to control bowel movements
- Noticeable gap along the midline of your abdominal wall (This may indicate Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA))
- Pelvic or lower back pain
- Ongoing or increased blood loss beyond 8 weeks postnatal that is not linked to your monthly cycle
Other factors that might pose a risk to running are
- Less than 3 months postnatal
- Pre-existing hypermobility conditions (e.g. Ehlers-Danlos)
- Pre-existing pelvic floor dysfunction or lumbopelvic dysfunction
- Psychological issues which may predispose a postnatal mother to inappropriate intensity and/or duration of running as a coping strategy
- Caesarian Section or perineal scarring
If you think this is useful please save and share with any mama’s you think it might be of interest to. Thanks for reading,
Ps If you want to find out more I recommend you read “Returning to Running Postnatal” by Tom Goom, Gráinne Donnelly and Emma Brockwell. Published last year it is the first substantial study done about this and is super informative.