Five Considerations for your Postpartum Running Journey

Written by: Janie Sheppard, Reg. Kinesiologist

Running is a great way to get your heart pumping, muscles working and it’s a cheap way to get exercise; but running can be hard on the postpartum body.

To start, let’s hopefully all agree that running is NOT like walking.  During walking, there is a double leg stance phase (where both feet are on the ground) swinging into a single leg stance and back into a double leg stance.  Running, however, is a single leg stance into a period of having no feet on the ground and then landing into a single leg stance on the other foot…back into the air, and …repeat!  Therefore, running can be compared to jumping from one foot to the other repeatedly.  Having made this comparison, I hope that we also agree that running is definitely an activity that involves impact, power and exertion!

So, here are some considerations when thinking about getting back to running, or getting into running for the first time after having your sweet little baby!

#5 – Be mindful of your Posture and Breath.   If there is any ONE thing that you can do, I hope this can be it!  Being mindful about your posture after pregnancy can be very helpful and very beneficial to your healing and to getting strong again!  Antony Lo, a Physio expert in the field of Women’s Health says “spread the load”.  He is often speaking about heavy lifting and movements involving weight; however, I love this expression for posture too!  When you are standing, where is you weight?  Where is your tension?  Where is your heaviness (if you have any).  By spreading the load: using your whole foot to bear weight (not just your heels), using both feet to bear weight (not just one foot), not hanging out on one hip, not pushing your pelvis forward (I see this a lot), and a big one: not rounding your shoulders and letting the head go forward (can also happen easily with breastfeeding).  You can “spread the load” and really allow more of your body to share in the postural efforts of holding you up against gravity if you just pay attention from time to time.  Julie Weibe; Physiotherapist says “Blow before you go”; meaning exhale just prior to moving.  Although sometimes it can be AS YOU GO, consciously using your breath to manage pressures in your core can really help you to tap into your strength and inner stability so that you move well when it comes to incorporating more weights and more movements as you recover from pregnancy.   These are the easiest and cheapest things that you can implement into your life immediately!

#4 – Get the glutes strong!!!!  Lots of sitting prenatal and post natal (especially with first baby) can lead to under-active or weak glutes. With strong glutes we can help keep the back strong, pelvic floor strong and help maintain a strong connection between upper and lower body through the core .  Running is also a glute dominant activity and you will get more power out of your stride when you can connect the proper hip mechanics.

#3 – Get specific with your strength plan. When you feel sufficiently rested (if that’s a real thing once you have kids?), recovered and rehabbed from pregnancy,  and labour/delivery, you can start to get a little more specific with movements that will start to mimic the demands of running.  Examples are; single leg exercises, pelvic and core stability, single and double leg hops and jumps, run drills, etc.

Video gait analysis can give more indication where strength/power is needed for better load management.  Managing load well during higher impact exercises (like running) is one of the things that will make you more resilient to future injury!

#2 – Seek out the assessment and advice of a pelvic floor physiotherapist.  Often times,  a simple assessment should give a lot of information to empower you to build function, strength and confidence in how you move.  Let them educate you about what they are looking at and evaluating, like the strength of your pelvic floor, or your ability (or inability) to actually release tension in that area.  If you have specific pelvic health needs, address those first!

#1 – Be compassionate towards yourself!  Do what feels good for you, not what you see others doing. The current recommendation from leaders in the field is to try to wait 4-6months before really envisioning yourself flying down the streets or trails. This timeline comes from clinical opinion peppered with some evidence based research.  Do what feels good physically, but also mentally.  It’s good to set goals for physical training, but be sure to manage your own expectations.  Too much, too soon can be a recipe for potential injury down the road, but if getting out there makes you a calmer and happier person, think about laying down the groundwork through strength, mobility and pelvic health, then fly away!