Running After Pregnancy
Setting my intentions to get back to running in a healthy way.
By: Janie Sheppard Reg.Kin, CSCS
These days there is a lot of pressure; or at least for many, a SENSE of pressure to get our “body back” after having a baby. Where I work (see shirt in picture above), the urge and excitement to get back into running and logging some race stats is very real! But I am here to urge new moms to wait!
This time the final weeks of my pregnancy were during the end of September, beginning of October when the temperatures are favourable and the trees are just starting to show signs of Fall. This is my absolute favourite season to be running. This year however, I simply allowed myself to be excited to be back to running by NEXT Fall!
The word “fitness” has a different meaning to everyone and everyone will have a different reason for getting their fitness back. I am not an elite athlete who needs to get back to a certain level of fitness for competition as soon as possible, so MY priorities will be different than those women. However, understanding your motivation for getting active again is a very important part of this process! Remember that; your body is an amazing body that grew a beautiful baby (or two or three +) over the span of 9-10 months and that you need to rest and rehabilitate yourself, much like after an injury or surgery, in order to resume your regular daily activities and especially the extra sports and recreational activities!
Rushing back too soon.
Some women have the advantage of “bouncing back” quickly in terms of regaining their pre-baby strength, size and energy. This may be due to different variables such as; age, pre-natal activities, health, how much help you have when baby comes and access to other resources, and of course how much rest and reassurance you give yourself to heal! But even those lucky few should be careful and think about allowing the body the time it deserves to heal.
Strength Training during pregnancy can bring about many benefits for your postpartum healing!
We often call the first three months after delivery the “fourth trimester” as now the baby is born, but they have just entered the world and want to remain close to their mom or primary caregiver. They want to be warm and be fed and they need to sleep. New moms should almost “indulge” in the same exact things! Be warm (helps with healing), get rest (if you can), and be fed (get people to make you food,….again…if you can!). Of course there are small movement based things that you can be doing in the first 3 months after your baby comes that will help your rehabilitation along! Such things like; being very mindful of posture, breathing exercises, some gentle stretching or mobility work (because it’s a lot of sitting with baby) and, depending how you feel…some walking. I also highly encourage women to be assessed by a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist (actually during pregnancy) but that’s a whole other subject!! However, they can definitely help you navigate the journey of getting back to being physically active.
Getting back to pre-baby daily activities and exercise before your body is ready can be a setup for severe disappointment down the road. After the birth of my first son, I went back to soccer too soon and suffered through some mild pelvic floor issues and some minor lower extremity injuries. Luckily I had access to the resources I needed and quickly realized my mistakes. Since then I have spent much time educating myself through the help of various experts in the field (Bellies.Inc, Julie Wiebe, PT, and Chana Ross; Pelvic Floor PT), my colleagues, and self realization.
The Antigravity Treadmill is a great tool to reintroduce the load and impact of running!
Now I tell my new moms that they should really expect to wait about 6 months (sometimes more, rarely less!!) to get back to running, or similarly strenuous activities especially involving impact. I even recommend that they run at a lower body weight before resuming “full bodyweight” running! How? That would be where our Antigravity Treadmill comes in. Used avidly by many professional athletes and recreational athletes alike, it is a great tool to expose your body to running again in a more gentle way.
This would be combined with rehabilitative strength training, modifications to your running technique to manage loading more effectively and, hopefully, strategies recommended by your Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist!
I truly believe that building back up in this way will not only set us up for success with our postpartum journeys, but will give us tools that will be useful for the rest of your pursuit of a healthy life! This time around I will be taking a different approach to returning to running and taking my own advice to heart!
Stay tuned and Happy Running!