Updated: May 9
It’s a common misconception that because your GP or obstetrician does a 6-week check after you have your baby, that you should be fully recovered from the pregnancy and birth at 6 weeks post-partum. But that’s not the case! Growing and then delivering a baby, no matter the method, is an enormous challenge to your body. Then add on the demands of looking after the newborn and it can easily be many months, or an entire year, before some women are feeling “back to normal”.
In the early weeks post-partum, it’s appropriate to start with low impact activities such as walking, stretching, and pelvic floor exercises, or gentle body weight exercises. Running is a high impact activity due to the repetitive landing and jolting forces associated with it. For most women, the earliest running would be recommended is 3 months post-partum. This is to give the connective tissue, abdomen and pelvic floor adequate time to recover. However, for some women this will still be too early.
It’s important to listen to your body, consult with your GP or women’s health physio for guidance on how to start exercising safely, particularly if you have any of the following:
Incontinence of any kind
Feelings of urgency to rush to the bathroom
Feelings of bulging, pressure, heaviness in the pelvic region
Pain in the pelvis or lower back
Pain with intercourse
Bleeding that’s not associated with your menstrual cycle
Previous pelvic floor problems or prior conditions that are likely to flare up
If everything’s feeling pretty good, and you think you may be ready to get back into running, some little tests you can do at home to check if you are ready:
Jog on the spot for 1 minute
Hop on 1 leg 10 times, and the other leg 10 times
Single leg “running-man” actions, with slight twists of the pelvis
If you can do these activities without any pain, leakage, or pressure / feelings of heaviness in the pelvic area, then you should be OK to start getting back into running.
It is recommended that you have built up your walking to 30 minutes before attempting running. When it comes to starting your running program, doing an interval style run (alternating between walking and jogging) is the best way for your body to adapt. You can use an audio download, such as “Couch to 5K”, to help you build up your running capacity over a number of weeks.
If you start running and notice you have any of the abovementioned symptoms, that is a sign to back it off and consult your GP or women’s health physio. Even if you aren’t having problems, and just want to make sure you are on the right track and aren’t doing any damage, your healthcare provider can always give you an assessment and help guide you.