Getting back into or taking up running postpartum might seem like a daunting task. The key is to ensure your body is READY when your head is. Jump in too quickly and we could get seriously hurt — not ideal when we’re trying to care for a tiny human.
We’ve consulted Pelvic Floor, Pilates & Sports Physiotherapist, Diane Rizzardo, to compile a list of top tips to make the transition back to running postpartum easy and fun! Keep reading for 5 tips on how to start running postpartum.
1. Get medical clearance to start running postpartum.
Whether you’ve had a cesarean section or vaginal birth, getting the go-ahead from your care team is essential. You’ll want to consult your primary care provider/ OBGYN/ Midwife and pelvic floor physio to ensure you’re ready to add running to your fitness routine postpartum. Remember, there is important healing going on that you can’t see but that your healthcare providers can test for, such as changes in your center of gravity/ balance, strength and flexibility.
A “return-to-run” screening should occur so you’re not at risk of developing a new injury or aggravating an old one. This screening may include hopping on one foot, standing with your eyes closed, squats, jogging in place etc. Usually, it takes around three months postpartum for people to pass their return-to-run screening and safely return to running.
If your pelvic floor physio feels you’re ready to start running but you’re still experiencing some urinary leakage, Uresta can be the perfect temporary solution. Think of Uresta like an ankle brace when you’re returning to soccer practice after spraining your ankle – you can use Uresta to support your healing and put pressure on the urethra to prevent stress urinary incontinence when exercising. Uresta may or may not be a long-term solution for you, but it’s worth conversing with your pelvic floor physio or primary care provider.
2. When returning to running postpartum, start gradually and listen to your body.
Use a return to running program, but also prepare to be flexible. These instructions might sound contradictory, but let us explain. Following a gradual return to running program can help you reach your one-mile, 5 km, half-marathon or ultra-marathon goals. But whatever program you choose, be sure to allow some flexibility if you’ve slept poorly, had difficulty nourishing your body, or need a day off. You should never feel pressure to get a run in while going through your healing process.
Your return to running program should also start with a run/walk component, as you need time for your tendons and other tissues to get used to the increased loading of running. If you start a run and notice that you feel low energy or are getting a new ache or pain, you should either slow your pace, stop or move to a run/ walk program instead of trying to push through disc
If you need any recommendations on return to running programs, feel free to reach out to Diane at Elevate Women’s Health.
3. Try running uphill to protect your pelvic floor.
You might notice that running downhill causes you to feel the need to pee or places lots of stress or heaviness through your abdominals or lower back, especially if you have a diastasis recti or had a cesarean section. This is because when running downhill, gravity is working to pull you down and forward.
To alleviate these pressures, try running uphill instead. You’ll gain strength by working your glutes and quads going uphill, and it places your pelvis in a position that puts more emphasis on the back of your pelvic floor, where you have bigger muscles to provide support and take the pressure off your bladder.
4. Use equipment to support running postpartum.
a. Try Uresta if you’re experiencing Bladder Leaks.
If you notice bladder leaks at any point throughout our return to running program, try Uresta. When inserted, Uresta puts gentle pressure on your urethra to stop the flow of urine when exercising. You also should work with a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist – specifically, one who isn’t just teaching you how to do Kegels. You may need to learn to relax your pelvic floor muscles before you can teach them to tighten or engage. Learn more – 5 Habits to Improve Your Pelvic Floor Health.
b. Try a maternity sports bra or extra-supportive sports bra.
Whether breastfeeding or not, your breasts have undergone significant changes from pregnancy to postpartum. Go to a store where you can get properly fitted with a supportive sports bra. You’ve most likely changed sizes, and having proper support for your chest will improve your running form and prevent compensatory injuries. At Uresta, we love After9’s nursing and regular sports bras.
c. Try running with a jogging stroller.
If you’re running with a stroller, be sure you get a running-specific stroller. Running-specific strollers will ensure your and your baby’s safety as they have a streamlined design with a comfortable child’s seat and a high-quality braking system. Keep the stroller close to you, and remember you can’t run with your baby until they have good neck and head control, typically around six months old.
5. Remember to stay hydrate and nourish your postpartum body.
You might notice your thirst or hunger needs are different postpartum. Be sure to pack a snack and drink lots of water, especially during and after exercising. Ensuring you stay hydrated and your blood sugar levels are stable will make you feel better while you get back to your regular activity levels.
Yes, this might mean you need to take some extra bathroom breaks but trust us, it’s worth it. And if you’re using Uresta for support to stop bladder leaks, you can pee without having to take it out!
Remember, everybody and every postpartum experience is different. If running doesn’t feel good for your body, even after trying the tips above, try a lower-impact form of cardio such as the elliptical, stationary/ spin bike, swimming or power walking until you can progress safely back up to running. There are many ways to stay active, and trying something new may open you up to a new activity you’ll learn to love!
About Diane Rizzardo
Diane is a Pelvic Floor, Pilates & Sports Physiotherapist based in Burnaby, BC. Diane strongly believes that Physiotherapy should encompass both prehabilitation and rehabilitation to provide everyone the best opportunity to participate in their daily life as well as all of their active endeavors.
Diane combines Clinical Pilates, Orthopedic and Neurological principles and treatment techniques in order to assist clients to get back to full activity participation following an injury and strives to empower clients with the tools to stop injuries from reoccurring.
Having had injuries herself after a career as a varsity soccer player, she appreciates first hand how physiotherapy can have a significant role in a client’s rehabilitation.