How to: Get back to running after pregnancy
Now your baby is here, how do you get back into running? Here's how
Here Laura Uglow of True Vitality 4 Mums shares her 9 Top Tips for Returning Safely to Running After Pregnancy.
When can I start running again after the birth of my baby? This is a question I get asked a lot, which is great as exercise boosts mood, gives you some much-needed ‘me-time’, and can get you out of your PJ’s! But even if you worked out through your pregnancy you need to ease back into a running routine. Your body has been through big changes and if you take on too much, too soon, you could end up injuring yourself.
If any activity makes you feel worse the day after you do it, scale back and if you are still having problems then you could consult a woman’s health physiotherapist for any questions you may have about your own body’s recovery. I’ve written my 9 Top Tips for a safe return to running here, but the most important thing is to listen to your body…
1. Take it slow
It is so important that you give yourself and your body the time to heal and recover completely from whatever type of birth you have had. Once you have have had your 6-8 week check by the doctor and had the go ahead to exercise, focus first on the type of strength-type training and give any high impact cardio a break.
Depending on your pre-pregnancy fitness levels you will need to give yourself at least 6 weeks more before you get back into running. This is on top of the 6-8 weeks it will take for you to get your doctors sign off after you have given birth.
2. Strengthen your core, hips and pelvic floor
There will be no running if you don’t do these…or at least the running won’t be productive or pleasant! A weak pelvic floor can cause issues from leakage to severe pain. It is essential to strengthen the muscles that were stretched and weakened during pregnancy and delivery. The muscles in your hips and bottom are super important too as they will help to keep your pelvis stable, therefore preventing injury. You should spend at least 6-8 weeks strengthening these muscles first before you embark on your new running regime! *If at your six weeks post natal checkup sand you are leaking any urine, ask your GP for a referral to a Woman’s Health Physiotherapist.
3. Don’t set time goals
If you are competitive then setting time goals can force you to push past what your body is ready for, therefore increasing your risk of injury. Try setting goals on how you want to feel and what your body feels ready for rather than pushing yourself too much. Get out and learn to enjoy running safely again without the extra pressure! Start with power walking then run with a friend or your little one in your buggy and use it as time for you to clear your head and learn to enjoy exercise again.
4. Give your body a break between runs
Hold back on those daily runs for a while as your body and more importantly, your pelvic floor needs time to recover between runs. The impact from a run can cause the muscles you are working on strengthening to become strained and weakened. Take a day off and allow those muscles to firm up again. Running consecutive days in a row can compound stress to the pelvic floor and lead to injury.
5. Know your hormones
Immediately after birth your hormone levels are a bit crazy, and your body still releases the hormone relaxin for about 5-6 months after the birth (Relaxin is the hormone that relaxes the ligaments in your pelvis getting you ready to give birth!). And if you're breastfeeding, chances are your hormone levels won’t return to their normal monthly cycle until after a year or so. Your hormone levels and the relaxin in your system affect the ‘laxity’ and strength of your pelvic floor, which is another reason why it is so important to follow an appropriate exercise regime that will strengthen all the muscles in this area BEFORE you begin any high impact exercise regime. Get to know your body so you can feel if something isn’t right, never push through it or risk causing injury.
6. Wear a supportive running bra (or 2!)
You will need extra support for your runs, especially if you are breastfeeding. Shock absorber, Sweaty Betty and Lululemon do some great ones. Some of my women even wear 2 bras sometimes to give them even more support!
7. Running and breastfeeding
Post-natal exercise does not decrease milk production and it also has no adverse effect on the baby, however, if you exercise and you breastfeed, you will need to drink up to 50 per cent more water than normal on those days. Also if you are doing particularly high intensity exercise, there is a chance of lactic acid build up in your muscles, but everything returns to normal after an hour or so. Lactic acid can get into breast milk and create a bitter taste, so to avoid this, you may want to feed your baby or pump a half-hour before you exercise and your breasts will also be less heavy and your baby will be less likely to interrupt your workout due to hunger!
8. Use the RPE to help you determine the right level for you
Here is a rough guide to help you determine how hard you are working out and what the right level should be for you. To determine if you are pushing yourself hard enough with any cardio exercise, use the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale; An RPE of 1 means very easy. A 9 to 10 means you’re so out of breath you cannot speak. If you have been working out alot and have a higher fitness level, aim for a 8-9 during the work intervals. If you are still building up your fitness level, aim for 6-7.
9. Start with power walking and progress slowly
Power walking is a much more gentle form of cardiovascular exercise for you to begin with after childbirth and there are many ways you can make your power walks more fun.
Once you have improved your core strength and increased the length and pace of your walks and you feel comfortable you can start a walk-run programme: Try alternating one minute of running with one minute of walking for 30 minutes total (15 minutes of running and 15 minutes of walking). If that feels too much you can start with 2-3 minutes walking and one minute of running and once you feel stronger you can progress to running for two minutes and walking for one minute for 30 minutes total. Be sure to take rest days in between!
Find out more about the True Vitality 4 Mums 12-Week Post-Natal Transformation Programme here