If I had a penny for every time I got asked this question….Although actually I’d be even richer if I had a penny for every time a new mum turned up at class and proudly told me they’d been for their first run. Before taking one look at my polite smile and their poor faces dropping when they realised I’m not as enthusiastic about this news as they are.
I often wonder if those mums wish they’d never said anything so they can carry on regardless and in a state of blissful unawareness. It’s not that I want to be a doom monger. It’s just that running too soon has caused too many mums too many issues.
I just can’t nod and smile and not say anything because then I just wouldn’t be doing my job properly.
So, what exactly is the deal with new mums and running? Well, the fact is, however great you feel at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, your body is recovering. Your body is more sensitive and vulnerable. Which means that jumping straight back to running can have unpleasant and sometimes painful consequences.
Think of postnatal rehab as recover from an injury or operation. After something like that your first foray back into exercise wouldn’t be a run would it? Particularly if you’d been out of action for a few months. Instead you would likely see a physio or other therapist. You would get treatment, do some gentle exercises at home and gradually build yourself up.
And returning to fitness after a baby should be no different. After pregnancy your body will have changed. Your posture will likely be different. You may have a few niggly aches and pains. Your tummy and pelvic floor may not be as strong. Your body’s support systems (particularly if you are still breastfeeding) won’t be providing the same level of support.
And all of that can lead more readily to injury, leaking, abdominal separation, pelvic organ prolapse, back ache, knee pain and more. Which could stop you in your tracks for months.
So, be kind, treat your body with respect, and before you lace up those trainers get into a rehab mindset first. Start with the pelvic floor, strengthen your glutes, work on posture, strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the tight muscles. Whatever you do TAKE YOUR TIME.
So is there ultimately a definitive answer as to how long this should take? Not really, because we’re all different, but here are some guidelines:
- Ideally wait until at least 6 months after the birth to start running.
- If you’re breastfeeding, however, don’t go back to running for at least a few weeks after you’ve stopped breastfeeding.
- And only start at these points if you’ve already done some foundational work on your pelvic floor and core.
- If you are experiencing any of the following at any point, see your doctor, Womens Health Physio or a specialist trainer first: heaviness or dragging around the vagina; leaking of urine (even a very small amount); abdominal separation; any pain or discomfort in any part of the body; pain or tightness in or around the hips and/or pelvis.
Ultimately, running can be a great exercise for mums because its quick, easy and gets you out of the house. BUT do proceed with caution, build a great foundation and make the most of all of the other exercises you can do in the meantime.
If you want to find out more, check out my Returning to Running video here.
And for some ideas on great glute exercises that will support your running at any stage, check out this video here.