Running is a very popular “go-to” activity for a lot of new moms. I can see why. No equipment, meditative (at least for me), makes you sweat, releases endorphins and changes your brain for the better. Unfortunately, you are not ready for it after your 6-week postpartum clearance. You need to train for it. Why can’t we just jump into it? Running is a high impact activity, and the muscular changes you went through during pregnancy will not disappear immediately after delivery. It’s part of the healing process and will take some time.
How do alignment and physiological changes during pregnancy, affect running after delivery?
Your alignment changes during pregnancy. Your abdominals are stretched out, hip flexors tight, pelvis – especially sacroiliac joint, becomes wider and ligaments lax due to the hormone Relaxin. These changes make your pelvis less stable. Muscles are not able to work as efficiently as before. Because you add an extra load to the front of your body – growing uterus and baby, things can often become uncomfortable. A lot of normally “unused” muscles are taking over the work for the ones that the body “normally” uses that cannot efficiently handle carrying your growing uterus and baby. This state does not immediately change after pregnancy. It takes months (and work) to align your body and regain core stability and pelvic strength. When you are cleared for exercise at your 6-week appointment, you are cleared to address and fix these issues first. High impact activities, like running, are not advised in the early postpartum period. If you try ‘jumping back in’ to your pre-pregnancy running or high-impact routine (or are just starting one) too soon, you will likely end up with injuries that originate from hip and pelvis due to the instabilities mentioned, that were created during pregnancy. It is not only muscular changes, but also cardiovascular changes that you need to consider. Studies that measured cardiovascular efficiency and strength in postpartum women, concluded that: “Relative to pre-pregnancy performance, fitness and strength declined in the early postpartum period, but improved by week 27, postpartum.” http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/15870638 That’s almost 5 months postpartum, when your body starts feeling normal.
When is it safe to resume?
There is no specific time frame for when you can start running again, it’s determined on a case-by-case basis. To help determine if you’re ready, test yourself for diastasis (abdominal separation), check for symptoms of your pelvic floor (perineal or pelvic pain, and urinary incontinence), and test your core with safe postpartum exercises. Check your diaphragmatic breathing pattern. Remember that some physiological changes from pregnancy take up to 12 weeks postpartum to get back to normal. You also need to make sure you do ‘running specific’ training. If you’ve regained your core strength, have no pelvic floor issues, and have been cleared by your doctor, you can start your running routine.
Checklist for Postpartum Runners:
Running can be great for you and you can obtain the most optimal benefits by doing it safely – so, HAVE FUN!