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Return to Running After Baby

I have been an avid fitness runner for 14 years. During both of my pregnancies I stopped running the first time because I was overcautious, and the second time because it caused bleeding at 14 weeks. We runners tend to be hyperactive A-type personalities who are a bit obsessive about the sport. We can’t wait to get back to running after baby!
Mom running with strollerRecovering from my first pregnancy I hit the streets again after 6 weeks. I remember my hips killing me but I trained through it. I shudder to think of the state of my postnatal body returning to the sport before it was ready, but still I trained up to my first half marathon at 3 years postpartum.

After my second pregnancy I started running again at 5 weeks. While rehabbing my diastasis I trained for a half marathon which I ran at 5 months postpartum because that’s how I roll. I strength trained all through my pregnancy. I am a strong fitness machine-not.
I suffered compounded stress incontinence. I was ok to cough or sneeze; I was ok while running. However if I coughed or sneezed WHILE running I leaked. My injured pelvic floor was taking a pounding and it was getting progressively worse.

My thorax rotation was locked. Breastfeeding is hard on the upper back and the tension can reduce the range of motion through the thoracic spine. The ribs are often displaced from the structural impact of supporting a growing baby. Compounding that with the chest gripping I had from the aggressive intra-abdominal exercises to rehab my diastasis recti, I was locked up. After long runs I was sore through my chest and it ached.

My hips were sore and felt loose. My pelvic stability control was inadequate, I had the compensatory strength to offset it, but I was a bit of a hot damn mess really. I was running and I was back in my happy place. Smart? No. Happy? Yes. As a trainer I want you to be happy! I want you to exercise, love it, and get back to your old self BUT am I telling you to do what I did?

Absolutely not. The injury of pregnancy and delivery is no joke and requires postnatal attention in a dedicated way. Take my advice and train smart.

1. Regain your pelvic stability control before returning to running!
It is imperative that you strengthen your pelvic floor and core to prior to running postnatally. If you do not you will almost invariably bring on or exacerbate core issues such as incontinence and persistent diastasis recti. In order for the core to effectively support and disperse the impact of running it must be strong and functional. This may require weeks or months and is the groundwork on pelvic floor strengthening, diastasis recti rehab and strengthening of glutes, specifically the glute medius.

2. Train up slowly and follow a program.
Your return to running postnatally is a slow and steady process. Follow a dedicated program and ramp it up slowly! 2:1’s (run:walk) is a great place to begin with a frequency of 3x week. Each week we add 1 minute to the run segment working up to 10:1’s just like we did as beginners. Keep that marathon brain reigned in! You are in recovery!

3. Gas in the can!
This was my postnatal mantra. At the end of a run if you feel like you can go farther DON’T! Keep “gas in the can” as an investment in ramping it up safely and effectively. By the 3rd run of a given week you will invariably feel like you can go farther. Please do not.

4. Monitor worsening symptoms!
If symptoms of incontinence, pubic symphysis or other pelvic floor conditions worsen, it is imperative to take a step back. You must continue to steadily strength train for core as you progress your running.

5. Work with a trainer in order to achieve the above.
A knowledgeable pre and postnatal specialist with running expertise is your single best investment in success. This will provide you with the structure of a running program supported by a dedicated and specific strength routine. You will also have accountability to the restrictions of the comprehensive program and ongoing monitoring of both progress and warning signs that you are pushing beyond what you can support. A trainer will also help you with form correction to reduce the risk of injury. Looking back I could have used the leash myself!

Let me help you return to running after baby safely and effectively. We can all use the outside influence to keep our manic running brains from overdoing it too early, exacerbating symptoms or worst case scenario resulting in serious injury. In this case, we won’t be running anymore anyway. Train smart and train to be running for life!

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