WHAT HAPPENS IF I RETURN TO RUNNING TOO SOON AFTER BIRTH
Physiotherapists often talk about 'running safely after birth' and not running too soon after birth. But what is it that women are actually risking if they begin running too quickly after delivering a baby? Returning to high impact exercise too soon after birth can put our body at risk of developing Pelvic Organ Prolapse, worsening incontinence, and creating other secondary musculoskeletal issues like back pain and pelvic pain. In order to minimise risk, and to create an enjoyable postpartum running journey, a gradual progression towards running needs to take place. Building pelvic stability and deep core strength, and allowing the body time to heal naturally is part of this gradual progression.
BUILDING STRENGTH AND STABILITY WITH RUNNING IN MIND
Often women are referred to 'pilates' to rebuild their core and pelvic floor after baby. This is a great starting point. But there is a big difference between mat based work, and RUNNING! There are a whole bunch of steps in between!
The effects of pregnancy and birth can be significant, and we need to address the 'whole picture' which means:
- Reconnecting to the body after birth (shared in depth in my signature program Homegrown)
- Rebuilding deep core and pelvic floor strength and endurance, and developing adequate core co-ordination
- Improving our posture & alignment (if required)
- Understanding breathing patterns and how to apply them for running
- Addressing pelvic health from a lifestyle perspective, and
- Having a graduated return to running using exercises that relates to running!
Some excellent postpartum running related exercises include:
- Single leg squats
- Single leg bridging
- Single leg calf raises
- Single leg sit to stand
All of which is in the 'Run Mama' online postnatal running program. This program helps you start with mat based work PLUS running based core exercises, which then progress to running workouts and running drills specifically with the postnatal runner in mind. Once you are running I show you how to build at a steady pace, how to choose your terrain, improve your running gait, and correct the common mistakes that I see postnatal runners making time and time again.
HOW SOON CAN I BEGIN RUNNING AFTER BIRTH
The effects of pregnancy and birth are many and varied. A huge range of factors will affect how soon you can begin to run after birth including:
- The type of birth you had,
- How active you were during your pregnancy,
- The condition of your deep core and pelvic floor,
- What level of running you have experienced previously,
- Factors that contribute to pelvic floor changes during pregnancy and birth like genetics, your age, how much weight you gain during pregnancy etc.
Evidence based clinical guidelines suggest that before beginning running women should be able to:
- Walk at least 30 minutes comfortably
- Contract the pelvic floor muscles fully for 6-8 seconds, for 8-12 contractions
- Perform 10 single leg squats in a row on each leg, stand on one leg for 10 seconds comfortably (left & right), and do
- Perform a sub-maximal (half way lift) pelvic floor contraction for at least 60 seconds
- Run on the spot comfortably for 1 minute
Clinical guidelines also suggest that women should hold off running and other high impact exercise until at least 3 months postpartum. In addition to these guidelines women need to know what warning signs to look out for when running postpartum.
WARNING SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR
It's easy for health professionals to tell you 'take it steady' and 'return to running slowly', but what are you really looking out for?
One of the major things we are trying to avoid when we are returning to exercise is pelvic organ prolapse - or a 'falling' of the pelvic organs into the vagina. The major 'warning signs' to look out for when returning to running are:
- A heaviness or dragging sensation within the pelvis or vagina
- Low back pain
- Incontinence or leakage from the bladder or bowel
- A bulging sensation in the vagina
- A sensation that 'everything is going to fall out'
These may happen immediately, or you may feel pelvic heaviness after your run. If you do feel any of these 'warning signs' - you need to either take a step back in your running, modify HOW you are running, or continue to strengthen and rebuild your core. Often, the core can be 'strong' but the problem lies in HOW we run.
Run Mama is a self paced, online postpartum running program that helps you to understand how to run safely after birth. Guided by Women's Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, mother, and age group world champion triathlete Taryn Gaudin. You can access the program today for just $97 AUD! Check out the program here.