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Navigating Postpartum: Your Guide to Returning to Running

by Dr. Christy Carosello PT, DPT


The joys and challenges of motherhood are unique, and for many active moms, getting back into running postpartum is an important goal. Returning to running can have a huge impact on the pelvic floor and your musculoskeletal system, especially if you return before your body is ready. In this blog post, we will discuss the key considerations, guidelines, and tips to safely and effectively return to running after childbirth.


Understanding the Postpartum Period:

The postpartum period refers to the period of time immediately following childbirth. It typically lasts about 6-8 weeks but can vary for each individual. It is normal to experience abdominal pain and cramping as the uterus contracts back down to pre-pregnancy size. Bleeding and vaginal discharge (known as lochia) are also normal during this time, although it should gradually decrease in volume and change from bright red to dark red or brown over time. It is also common to have perineal or vaginal pain, especially with vaginal tearing during delivery; however this pain should gradually improve over the early postpartum period. Additionally, many women may experience emotional changes, such as mood swings, anxiety, or baby blues.

After birth, hormonal changes also impact a woman's body. Estrogen and progesterone decrease, which can contribute to postpartum depression. Oxytocin and prolactin increase. The former is responsible for helping the uterus contract, while the latter is instrumental in lactation.

While the majority of healing does occur during the early postpartum period, it is important to recognize that a mother's body will continue to heal and change for 6-12 months (or longer, especially when breastfeeding).


Listening to Your Body:

Before embarking on any exercise regimen, consult your healthcare provider. Your body has gone through significant changes during pregnancy and childbirth, and a professional’s guidance will ensure your readiness for more strenuous activities.

Throughout your postpartum running progression, stay in tune with your body’s signals. If you experience discomfort, pain, or fatigue, it’s crucial to reassess your approach. There’s no rush – your body’s healing and strength-building take time.

It is important to monitor for red flags upon gradual return to running. Warning signs that may indicates it's too early to resume running include but are not limited to urinary incontinence during or after your run, return of or increased postpartum vaginal bleeding and discharge, or pain. If you experience any of these symptoms you should hold off on your return to running and consult a healthcare professional, such as your birth provider or a pelvic floor therapist.

Remember, your body requires ample rest and proper nourishment during this period. Prioritize sleep, hydration, and a balanced diet to fuel your recovery and running progression.


Strengthening and Rehabilitation:

Pregnancy and childbirth can take a toll on the pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to issues like urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or pain with sexual intercourse. It is also common to see other issues such as diastasis recti (abdominal separation), low back pain, and abnormal posture as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. Participating in a guided and graded core, hip, and pelvic floor strengthening program, can help moms safely return to activities such as running and weight training.

Following several weeks of a foundational strength program, it is also essential to implement return to plyometrics and graded impact before hitting the pavement for a run.

Remember, it's important to perform pelvic floor exercises correctly to maximize their benefits. Consider consulting a pelvic floor physiotherapist who can guide you through the exercises and ensure you're doing them effectively.


Gradual Return to Running:

It is recommended to wait a MINIMUM of 12 weeks post-delivery before beginning any return to running program. However, it is important to listen to your body; and for many mothers this means waiting until closer to 6 months.

Prior to attempting running, it is important to establish a foundation for running. This includes gradually resuming appropriate core and pelvic floor strength and stamina, as well as establishing single leg strength and plyometric tolerance. As outlined above, if you experience symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction or onset of pain, you are likely progressing too quickly and should pull back or seek guidance from a pelvic floor therapist. Once you have progressed through your strength and rehabilitation program, performing a single leg strength and functional loading screen, such as the ones below, can assess readiness for transition to return to running activities:


Transitioning to running requires a patient approach. Implement a walk-run strategy by alternating between walking and jogging segments. Begin with short intervals: walk for a few minutes, then jog lightly for 30 seconds to a minute. Gradually increase the jogging time while reducing the walking time. This approach helps your body adapt and minimizes the risk of overexertion.

As you gain confidence and stamina, lengthen your running intervals while keeping walking breaks in between. Slowly increase your running time and decrease walking time, but ensure you’re comfortable before making these adjustments.


Conclusion:

Returning to running postpartum is a remarkable feat, reflecting your strength and determination. By following this progressive approach and listening to your body, you’ll pave the way for a rewarding postpartum running experience. Embrace the journey, celebrate each step forward, and cherish the empowerment that comes with reclaiming your running stride.


 

Are you ready to return to exercise postpartum but looking for a guided approach? E-mail us at: hello@mamasinmotionllc.com to see how we can help!


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