For moms who are runners, that time that you set aside to run is almost sacred! It’s your time to focus on you, get some alone time, clear your mind and increase your health. As your pregnancy progressed, you probably found that running like you did pre-pregnancy became pretty hard. By your 3rd trimester, you may have switched to other forms of cardio, such as biking, swimming, or walking. Scaling back is important during the 3rd trimester, as you don’t want to put any undue pressure on your pelvic floor.
But now that you are postpartum, you’re probably itching to get back to running. You may be 3-4 weeks postpartum and feel pretty good, so you’re tempted to get out and run a few miles. I’d advise against that. In fact, you should probably wait at least 12 weeks before you start to seriously get into running after delivery. Here’s why:
1. Pelvic Floor (PF) Health – there is not nearly enough attention paid to the PF postpartum in American healthcare. Pregnancy and delivery does a number on your pelvic floor and whether or not you end up having some sort of dysfunction, those muscles are weak and need to be strengthened before they are taxed by something as high-impact as running. I strongly advise every woman to see a PF Physical Therapist postpartum to evaluate if there are any dysfunctions that need to be addressed before returning to exercise or even some daily activities. Peeing involuntarily isn’t normal; a heavy feeling in your vagina isn’t normal; feeling like things are falling out you vagina isn’t normal. These things aren’t just par for the course of being a mom. They can be addressed and improved and should be before you consider returning to running postpartum.
2. Relaxin – this is the hormone released in your body during pregnancy that helps your ligaments loosen in order to accommodate baby. However, once you’ve delivered, that doesn’t mean Relaxin immediately leaves your system. Studies have varied, but Relaxin can stay in your system anywhere from 4-12 months once you’ve stopped breastfeeding. Every woman and every experience is different. But bottom-line, your ligaments are going to be loose for months postpartum and the pounding of running is not going to do you any favors. Plus, it could leave you more exposed to injury, especially if you’re running outside and could misstep leading to an injury that will put you out for awhile!
3. Build a Progressive Return – even if you were to wait, say 6 months, postpartum to start running, you shouldn’t just go out and run 3 miles. A progressive return to any form of fitness is the best approach in the postpartum period. You’ll want to start out with walking early postpartum. Then, depending on your pelvic health (and any other factors that need to be taken into consideration) you can progress to run/jog and then progress that through different variations before you return to long periods of running. I also strongly suggest that you incorporate strength training in with your running. Movement-specific exercises can be a great help to strengthen muscles that need to be strong to get back into running.
You don’t need to be afraid of returning to running postpartum, but you should return intelligently. Take these three things into consideration. Find a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist near you and then reach out to me for some running-specific exercises to help you!