If I had a pound for every New Mum who had asked me when they could start running again…..well, I probably wouldn’t need to work any more.
Because it’s such a quick, easy and simple way to exercise, running has a huge appeal to new mums. You can throw your trainers on and head out of the door, plus for a lot of mums I work with it’s time to themselves that they really treasure. However, the honest answer to this is ‘how long is a piece of string’.
Every single new mum will have a different timeline, a different journey to take and potentially different challenges which will determine what they are able to do and when. What I can say for sure is that it probably shouldn’t be the first kind of exercise you do post birth! Even with a straightforward delivery and recovery and with no lasting issues every new mum should be putting in some prep work before they consider getting back to running.
However, luckily we now have some brilliant Return to Running Guidelines that we can refer to. These were produced in 2019 by 3 very well-respected professionals (Tom Goom, Grainne Donnelly and Emma Brockwell) and bring together both research and their own clinical experience to provide professionals and postnatal women with some really solid guidelines for when returning to running is, and isn’t, appropriate.
Lucky for you I’ve had a good read of the document and picked out some of the key advice and information to help you make an informed decision on when the right time will be FOR YOU.
– Musculoskeletal pain, urinary incontinence, abdominal separation and pelvic organ prolapse are prevalent among postnatal runners.
– Post baby, the pelvic floor is weak and injured and may need instruction and supervision to perform a correct pelvic floor muscle contraction.
– Consideration also needs to be given post c-section in regards to the healing of the uterine scar. In tests, uterine scar thickness could be seen to still be increasing at 6 weeks post birth, and even at 6-7 months post birth, the abdomen has only regained 73-93% of its original strength.
– High impact activity such as running is associated in a rise in abdominal pressure and therefore an increase in the risk of pelvic floor dysfunction compared to low impact exercise.
– Every new mums should be offered a pelvic health assessment with a specialist physiotherapist.
– Low impact exercise is recommended for at least the first 3 months postnatal, followed by a graded return to running at 3-6 months (at the earliest).
– However, a return to running is NOT recommended if any symptoms or signs of pelvic floor or abdominal wall dysfunction are identified prior to, or after attempting, to run. This includes any urinary or bowel related incontinence or urgency (i.e. leaking or being unable to hang on for the toilet); heaviness, pressure, bulging or dragging around the vagina; pain with intercourse; a pendular abdomen, separated abdominal muscles or decreased abdominal strength; pain around the lower back, pelvis and/or hips.
– Mums should be assessed for their ability to perform exercises such as single leg squats, jogging on the spot, hopping in place and a number of other exercises before returning to running. Further strength and functional work may be required to prepare the new mum for high impact exercise.
– When returning to running, start with a small amount (1-2 minutes) at an easy pace. You can follow an app such as Couch to 5km to help.
– Prior to returning to running, new mums should have started a programme of core strength, low impact and functional exercise.
Ultimately, every new mum will have a different post birth experience, emotionally, mentally and physically. And that does mean that each individual needs to consider their own recovery and their own needs when thinking about returning to high impact exercise. What I can say is that whatever your individual timeline, you can and will be able to return to doing the things you love. Be patient with your body and with yourself, give yourself the right time and tools to do that and always speak to a professional if you are at all unsure.
Ideally, visit a Women’s Health Physio for a full assessment post birth – I’m lucky enough to have Emma Brockwell (one of the authors of the guidelines) close to me and I refer a lot of clients her way. You can book sessions with her through the Halos Clinic in Oxted, or visit the Mummy MOT website for a specialist physio who is close to you.