RUN MUMMA, RUN – RETURNING TO RUNNING POST BIRTH
Posted by Anna Curtis on 28 Mar 2019
So many mums I have met over the years are keen to get back into their running shoes as soon as possible following the birth of a baby. After all, it’s a hassle-free way of exercising (you don’t need anything but a pair of running shoes…and a supportive bra to get going!), you can do it from your front door, it costs nothing, and is a great way of blasting away those stresses… and theoretically, it can even be done with baby in tow!
Perhaps you’ve run through pregnancy…maybe even right up to when you gave birth? Perhaps you stopped running during pregnancy when you started to get bigger and more uncomfortable? Perhaps you’ve never run before, but think now will be a good time to start to help shift some of that stubborn baby weight?
✔ OK, so you’ve had your 6 week sign off from your GP to get on with things (yes I’m coping OK, yes I have my contraception sorted out…all the important things, right?),
✔ You’ve got your trainers,
✔ Oversized sports bra fitted to accommodate those bad-boys,
✔ 30 minute time slot identified to get out,
✔ Baby is fed and sleeping,
✔ Hubby is ready for Daddy-day-care
What many people don’t realise is that the 6-8 week sign off from your GP doesn’t mean your body is ready for you to don those running shoes and hit the pavements. You may feel great, if somewhat jaded, but your body is still very much in the healing phase of recovering from pregnancy and birth.
Often the phrase “it took 9 months to grow a baby, it’ll take 9 months to get your body back” is thrown around, but what does it mean? We often couple the phrase with the prospect of getting back into your pre-baby jeans. What if it meant that it’ll take 9 months for your body to physically recover from pregnancy and birth? Now, …this is by no means the reality for everyone, but it is the reality for some…for many women it will be quicker…and for some it can be longer. Even for someone who has had an uncomplicated pregnancy or birth.
When you have had a baby, the pelvic floor muscles are weak and damaged in most women.
The pelvic floor takes 4-6 months to recover post birth.
Connective tissue, runs throughout your body, makes up the midline of the abdominal wall, and contributes to the strength and function of the abdomen and pelvic floor (ie your CORE). It may be disrupted and damaged during pregnancy and birth, and can take 2 years to complete it’s healing following injury.
The connective tissue of the abdomen still hasn’t reached it’s original strength 6-7 months following a c-section.
That’s not to say that we should wait 2 years…or even necessarily 6 months to return to running. But we should consider what our bodies have been through…even in the most straightforward of births, before we get out and start pounding the streets.
Returning to high impact activity before our bodies have had a chance to recover, can leave you at risk of pelvic floor dysfunction, including incontinence and prolapse, and pain.
So, when can you start running again after having a baby??
This is the million-dollar question!
Until recently, there were no official guidelines to support health and fitness professionals working with women who want to return to running after having a baby. The first guidelines in the UK have been published just weeks ago, put together by a group of dedicated and specialised physiotherapists (T Goom, G Donnelly and E Brockwell). Most importantly, these guidelines are evidence based, and driven by research.
So what do they recommend?
One of the key points to draw from the report is that all women should wait AT LEAST 3-6 months following birth before they consider returning to running. And that is for someone who has no symptoms. But it is also important to remember, we’re all individuals, and there is no one size fits all; each person’s return to running should be considered based on their own circumstances.
So, what sort of symptoms should you be looking out for?
Symptoms to look out for include:
- Heaviness down below
- Leaking urine or faeces
- A poochy tummy, or gap in the abdominal wall
- Pain in the pelvis or back
- Prolonged bleeding
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should definitely delay your return to running and seek advice from a women’s health physio.
So, you don’t have any symptoms, you’re 3 months post birth; is it OK to sign up for next month’s 10K?
While you might have been given the go-ahead to start running again, it isn’t wise to head straight back to pounding the streets, full force as you used to. You should make a gradual return to running and consider a walk/run programme, coupled with a pelvic floor friendly strength training programme. Should any symptoms develop when you begin running, it is your body telling you that you are not quite ready to be doing what you are doing right now. It would be advisable to stop the programme and seek advice from a specialist.
How can you best prepare yourself to returning to running safely?
It has been reported that the impact of running can transfer a force of 1.6 to 2.5 times your body weight through your pelvic floor…for a woman weighing 70kg, (average weight of a woman in the U.K.) that is a massive force of 175kg going through your pelvic floor muscles!!
Remember, these are the muscles that in most women are weakened and damaged following birth. It is therefore really important that your body is prepared adequately and appropriately in advance of returning to running. This should be done through an appropriate pelvic floor, core and whole-body strengthening programme, taking into account the goal of returning to running.
Walking is a massively underrated form of exercise and is a great way to build up strength and fitness in the early months (and ongoing!) following birth; it’s hassle free, you can do it from your front door, it costs nothing, and is a great way of blasting away those stresses… and it can even be done with baby in tow (is this ringing some bells…??)! What’s more, it’s low impact and pelvic floor friendly!
Participating in a structured and personalised pelvic floor-friendly programme from a postnatal fitness specialist, such as BodyResults Motherhood’s Postnatal Core Rebuild Course, is the safest way to ensure that what you’re doing is not only beneficial, but also won’t put you at risk of developing problems or make any existing symptoms worse.
While it may be tempting to jump into those running shoes as soon as you can following birth, take your time. Respect what your body has done (grown a baby), what it has been through (birthed a baby) and give it time to recover, rebuild and strengthen. While it may feel like time is ticking to get your body back following pregnancy, just remember, you still have the same body you did before…you have one body. Look after that body, because it’s better to take the time to get it to the right place, rather than trying to rush things and having to go through a long, hard journey of trying to repair the damage you may do from jumping to it too soon.
If you would like to find out more about this subject then join myself and a women’s health physiotherapist at 8pm on Wednesday 3rd April at Epsom Methodist Church for our “returning to running following birth” event, more details and tickets can be found www.bodyresults.co.uk/rmr.