What You Should Know Before Returning To Running Postpartum
By Erin Mumby, PTA
There are multiple roadblocks mothers may encounter when returning to running postpartum. Prolapse, incontinence, diastasis recti, C-section symptoms, weakness and/or pain may be present and interfere with attempts to return to or beginning a running program. Seeking professional guidance from a pelvic floor specialized physical therapist for help returning to running post delivery can help reduce the impact of the above symptoms and get you back to running with confidence.
Before you run, you must walk (or rest!)
Mentally you may be ready to get back to your pre partum running routine, but your body may not be. Though you may feel like you are ready to return to running soon after delivery, the typical recommended return to running begins 3-6 months postpartum. However, you are encouraged to start off with gentle walks before you progress to running.
Be sure to check in with your doctor prior to returning to any physical activities.
Waiting the appropriate amount of time prior to attempting a return to high impact exercises is necessary for healing post-delivery especially when pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms are present including:
- Urinary/fecal incontinence
- Urinary/fecal urgency
- Pelvic organ prolapse (typically accompanied by pressure/bulge in pelvic floor region)
- Pain with intercourse
- Diastasis Recti (separation of abdominal muscles)
- Muscular pain
While on the topic of pelvic floor dysfunction, it is important to be aware of the potential risk factors and complications that may affect your return to running and can increase your present symptoms include:
- Premature return to high impact exercises
- Pre-existing conditions/complications
- Cesarean Section
- Perineal scarring
- Current pelvic floor dysfunction
- Running with buggy/stroller (which alters normal running mechanics/form)
- Level of fitness
- Psychological status
- Diastasis Recti
If the above symptoms are present, you may need to wait a longer period of time before making a return to running. A visit with a physical therapist can give you helpful insight into your current situation and the best way to manage the symptoms you may be experiencing. Your physical therapist can also recommend exercises you can perform that can help to prepare you for your return to running.
Prior to beginning a running program, a new mom should be able to complete the following without pelvic floor symptoms including pain, urinary/fecal incontinence, or a feeling of heaviness:
- Walking 30 min
- Single leg balance 10 seconds
- Single leg squat 10 reps each side
- Jog on the spot 1 min
- Forward bounds 10 reps
- Hip in place 10 reps each leg
- Single leg running man 10 reps each side
A Final Takeaway About Returning To Running Postpartum
It is recommended to have a thorough screening by a pelvic floor specialized physical therapist to ensure that you have adequate hip strength, core stabilization, and pelvic floor function. Your physical therapist will provide guidance for returning to running or other high impact sport/activities postpartum. Your physical therapist will also provide you a personalized program of specific exercises to ensure success with return to running postpartum, along with a structured plan for increasing distance and time.