Running After Pregnancy: 6 Things to Consider

Credit: Andrew Tanglao via Unsplash

Thinking of starting up running again after your pregnancy? Shakira Akabusi, founder of StrongLikeMum, talks us through her top tips for getting back into running postpartum.

You’ve made it through the three trimesters and welcomed your new arrival, congratulations! It’s common for women to experience a range of emotions in the early postnatal period and perhaps you’re looking to reconnect with parts of your life that make you feel like yourself again. Getting back into running after pregnancy can be a great way to start.

We all know that exercise is a great past-time, it’s numerous health benefits, alongside the instant mood-boost, is fantastic. Additionally, for many mothers, engaging in fitness can be an opportunity to balance exercise and some well needed alone time.

However, for those of us looking to get back into sports after giving birth, it’s important that we don’t just hit the ground running.

A lot happens during pregnancy and the pressure on your pelvic floor and core muscles develop as the trimesters move on. Moreover, the shift in your centre of gravity undoubtably puts strains on other areas of your body. Getting back into running and other sports is a process and we must be careful not to engage too quickly in high impact exercise, as this can lead to injury.

Here are 5 tips to safely getting up and running again postpartum

shakira-akabusi-health-fitnessTake your time: When can you start running after pregnancy?

As with many things for pre and postnatal women, the answer isn’t as straight forward as giving a timeline. A lot depends on your pre-pregnancy fitness level, the labour and birth process and postnatal recovery.

Personally, I always advise my clients to wait until their 6-8 week check before engaging in any impact exercise, however The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) recommends that, ‘if pregnancy and delivery are uncomplicated, a mild exercise programme consisting of walking and pelvic floor exercises may begin immediately’.

Dr. Octavia Cannon, president of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists and co-owner of Arboretum Obstetrics and Gynecology has said that “jogging is reasonable after 2–4 weeks, but [you] should check with [your] doctor first. If the [you had] a cesarean section, [you] should take it more slowly. [You] can start with walking and work [your] way up; nothing heavy, prolonged or strenuous without first checking with [your] doctor.”

However, Dr Cannon also mentions that any exercise more strenuous then a light jog, should wait until the 6-8 week check. At this time your GP can assess your recovery and clear you for further exercise.

Focus on your core

For all new mums, establishing a strong and stable pelvic floor and core is crucial before building up to any higher intensity activities. Exercises such as ‘Superman’ and ‘The Bridge’ are great to begin with. It’s important to not only focus on your abdominals, the complete core consists of Pelvic floor muscles, glutes, abdominals, hip stabilisers, and lower back muscles. All these areas should be considered when exercising after pregnancy.

Consider your pre-pregnancy fitness levels

In order to know how much exercise is appropriate for you postpartum, you must also contemplate your pre pregnancy fitness level.

For some women, pregnancy or postpartum is the first time they are engaging in fitness, in which case, low impact exercise such as light walking is enough intensity at first. Those with experience running however may be able to start before their 6-8 week check. What’s important is to remember that the immediate postnatal period is not the time to try something new. Re-establishing a fitness routine post-labour is a process and shouldn’t be rushed.

Understand the hormone changes in your body

Before working out postpartum it’s important to understand the role of the hormone Relaxin. Produced around the second week of pregnancy, the role of Relaxin is to soften the ligaments around the pelvis, preparing the body for labour. However, the effects of this hormone cannot be isolated to one area, meaning the stability of all joints throughout the body will be compromised during pregnancy. Postnatally, Relaxin can remain in your system for up to 5 months and for breastfeeding mothers even longer. As such it’s important to be aware of working within a comfortable range with all exercises, in particular weight lift an stretching, as your joint stability will be compromised.

Credit: Andrew Tanglao via Unsplash

Stay hydrated

Making sure you stay hydrated is always important, regardless of activity level, however this is particularly important for breastfeeding women. Although studies have shown that exercise has no negative impact on breastmilk supply, it is important to consume enough fluids in order to sustain the supply when engaging in exercise that may cause you to sweat. Equally, having young children can be a busy time for any parent, so keeping your fluid intake up is crucial if you’re rushing around. Water is often referred to as the missing nutrient and can easily be forgotten on a busy day. Try to consume fluids before feeling thirsty as this is a sign you body may already be in deficit.

Work on strengthening exercises

There are many health benefits to weight-training during and after pregnancy, I’d always advise combining any running programme with some strength exercises. It doesn’t need to be heavy weights or hours spent in the gym. Simple body-weight exercises are a great way to start. By incorporating strength training into your programme your muscles will be able to perform for longer before becoming fatigued, alongside improving technique and creating a stable core.

In short, when considering sports postnatally, it’s important that we build up slowly and sustainably. Exercise can be a great release for new mothers and assist with achieving physical goals as well as positive mental health.

However, we must take our time and set realistic bench-marks when looking to regain a high fitness level. In a world where coffee is instant and broadband super fast we are perhaps not used to a slower pace, however postpartum fitness is certainly a time to pause, assess and progress.

Perhaps we should take a leaf out of a baby’s book here, and take it back to one step at a time.

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