Before we get started, please note that this is the same recommendation that I would give to everyone. Yes, even someone that ran marathons prior to pregnancy and continued to workout regularly during pregnancy.
You aren’t exempt from following the process. The only thing that may change is the pace at which you progress through this process.
So first of all, there is not a specific time frame. Current guidelines1 don’t recommend returning to impact sports like running prior to 3 months postpartum, but that doesn’t mean you are ready to pickup running at that point or that you can’t necessarily be ready before then.
You have to earn the movements.
No that doesn’t mean you have to burn calories, eat certain foods, or earn your right to exercise. It means that you have to put in the work and build the foundations before you can progress. You aren’t exempt from certain steps in the process.
This is the process we use to return to impact (including running) in FIT for Women Plus:
- Pelvic floor connection – Learn to connect with your pelvic floor. Learn your tendencies. Do you bear down when you lift? Do you hold tension? Do you need to build uniform pelvic floor strength?
- Mobility and end range movement – Find your end range movement where you can still CONTROL your body, especially your pelvis position. Work to increase that end range and further that control. The adductor rock back is a mobility favorite.
- Balance – Running requires a lot of back and forth on one leg. The goal with balance work is to gain stability in the unilateral position and not shift your weight to one side or the other and have a major shift in pelvis position. We love the single leg deadlift for strength and balance.
- Strength – Runners NEED strength training programs. With a postpartum strength program, you should work on strength in all planes of motion. Do unilateral work, side to side lateral movements, overhead, go backwards, go forwards. Literally move in all the ways.
- Impact drills – Running is high impact. You need to build up to that impact and check in with your body as you do so. I’ll usually have clients start out with banded ski jumps without the toes leaving the ground and progress all the way to movements like box jumps, jump squats, and lateral hops.
When it is time to add in running, examine your form.
A very slight forward lean will help lessen the impact on your pelvic floor as you work to build up your time and distance. A great way to start this is to run on a slight incline.
Running tempo can also have a large impact on your pelvic floor and potential symptoms. Typically a slightly higher tempo will have you with quicker feet, softer landings, and less pelvic floor strain. Because of this, we usually have postpartum clients practice short sprints prior to introducing jogging.
Whether you want to get back to running races or running short distances in your group fitness class, slowing down and trusting the process can help you get the most out of your long term athletic goals.