We often hear new Mum’s asking “when can I return to running”. Whether they were a runner prior to pregnancy and they want to get back to their ‘running fix’, or they’re looking for a way to regain some fitness after delivery, it’s something that many want to do. However, it’s important to consider where your body is at before you take that first run – everyone is different and have different levels of fitness and technique prior to pregnancy, different pregnancy & birth experiences, and different recovery experiences and timeframes.
Remember, the body you had prior to pregnancy is different to the one you have after delivery. During pregnancy your body starts to move differently, and research has shown that the changes in trunk and pelvis motion persist, and have been seen up to 6 months later. Your body doesn’t just naturally revert to its ‘old ways’ once the baby is out, its spent 6 months learning a new way to move and will keep doing that unless it is retrained. There have been changes in posture, alignment and muscle function that make it harder to safely cope with the demands of running.
Signs that your body is struggling include pain (back pain, hip pain, knee pain, pelvic pain) and leakage. Most of us will acknowledge that pain is a reason to pull back, but many believe leaks are just a new part of life to be accepted after have had a baby and will just push on through. This couldn’t be further from the truth… and those leaks are a sign that the demands are too high for where your body is at right now. So, much like you would pull back if you felt pain while you were running, pull back if you are leaking.
Your body needs a gradual reintroduction to manage the impact associated with running, and to readjust technique so that your core has the best possible chance of working well. Modify your run so that your body is able to complete it without the warning signs of leakage or pain – you could shorten the distance, make it a fast walk instead to decrease the impact, or try short intervals of running with walking interspersed.
If these things are failing, then it may be time to consult with a women’s health physiotherapist who can teach you how to activate your pelvic floor, and the best alignment to allow your pelvic floor and core to work well while running. And bonus! With all of this new improved running technique and core support, most will actually improve their running times and endurance!
Blog written by Julie Atkin, Senior Women’s Health Physiotherapist, Member of Women’s, Men’s and Pelvic Health Group, Australian Physiotherapy Association.