How to Know You're Ready for Running After Pregnancy
If you've been to your 6-week postpartum check-up and given the all-clear, you might be eager to get back to running after pregnancy. You might be ready to get back into your favorite hobby or try to pick up a healthy habit postpartum. However, your body just went through some significant changes and might not be ready for such a heavy-duty exercise just yet. As a high-impact activity, running puts extra stress on your muscles as well as your pelvic floor. You might feel ready to get started, but you should ease into running after pregnancy, and pelvic floor therapy can help you ease back into it safely.
What Happens to Your Body Postpartum
Aside from excitement and exhaustion, there are a lot of things going on with your body after birth. For example, both C-Sections and vaginal birth cause major changes to your pelvic floor and other support muscles. The result makes running after pregnancy significantly more difficult or even harmful.
Abdominal Muscle Separation
Your core muscle, the rectus abdominis, stretches at the linea alba right down the middle of your abdomen during pregnancy, especially by the third trimester. Your growing baby puts more and more pressure on the muscles until they weaken, thin, and lengthen. For most, the muscles will heal and rejoin on their own. But for others, the healing process can be more complicated. Your abdominal muscles are one part of your core's support system that protects you during high-impact exercises like running.
Weakened Pelvic Floor
The purpose of your pelvic floor is a support system for your muscles that controls your bladder, bowels, and sexual function. The added weight of your uterus during pregnancy puts extra strain on the muscle group, causing a weak and stretched pelvic floor. It helps to think of the pelvic floor like a trampoline. With enough weight, it will start to sag. If you leave the weight on long enough, the trampoline will stretch and won't be able to bounce right back. That's exactly what your pelvic floor goes through during pregnancy, not to mention during birth. Vaginal birth puts extra strain on your pelvic floor. Those that have undergone C-Sections can still be affected.
Lowered Fitness Level
If you managed to stay active during the changes of pregnancy, I applaud you! However, there are several reasons that you might have toned down or completely stopped the physical activities you enjoy. Pregnancy is tiring, and many women experience issues that require rest. By returning to running after pregnancy full force or too soon, you might be discouraged that you can't hit the same targets you once did. This can be discouraging and make you lose interest. But I do want to encourage you that your body went through major changes over the span of 40 works. It will take time to build your body back up again. Give yourself grace. You don't want to jump into something too quick and cause more injury. Your body will tell you what it can and can't handle.
Before You Start Running
As a pelvic floor therapist, I hear from women all the time that they can't wait to get back to their favorite activity, like running after giving birth. You've passed your postpartum assessment, so why not? In reality, six weeks is simply not long enough for your pelvic floor muscles to return to normal. Even if you feel ready, those six weeks are just the beginning part of the healing process. You'll get the best results by starting slowly and working your way up to running after pregnancy.
During your physical therapy evaluation, I'll have you do several exercises. If you experience any pain or feelings of urinary incontinence, we'll know that there's still some healing left, and we have work to do! I'll ask you to do the following exercises and report any issues.
Walk casually for 30 minutes
Balance on one leg at a time
Jog in place for 1 minute
Single leg jump
All of these exercises build up to the high impact of running. If you feel any urinary incontinence, pain, or discomfort, I'll help you make a plan to get you on the road to running after pregnancy safely. Starting too soon can cause more harm than good, and my job is to prevent that from happening.
Is Pelvic Floor Therapy Right for You?
I've seen it over and over; women feel pressured to get right back to heavy exercise to lose the extra weight or regain their strength. The most important thing to remember is that you can get back there, but there's no rush! With the guiding hand of your pelvic floor therapist, you can ease back into exercise and safely return to running.
Whether your goal is returning to running after pregnancy or returning to another physical activity or sport, I'm here to help! I love helping women regain control of their bodies through information and hands-on exercises. Along with the above exercises, I'll do a thorough evaluation to assess where you are currently, then we will make a plan of action to get you where you want to be.