The changes our bodies go through during childbirth are nothing short of amazing, but it takes time to heal after childbirth before jumping back into running and exercise. Here are our tips for running postpartum, how to adjust to a new workout schedule, and who should avoid running after birth.
Giving birth can be such a stressful but amazing thing!
It is truly amazing the changes our bodies go through as we carry a child (or multiple children) through pregnancy and childbirth. As a mother of two, I’m still amazed at what my body went through and recovered from after delivering both of my kids.
Between our ligaments stretching, our abdominal muscles often separating, our posture changing, and our feet spreading and swelling, exercise during and after pregnancy looks much different for us during those times.
While it takes a while for our bodies to get back to normal after having kids (and not just weight-wise), getting back into a routine of running can happen again! It just takes time and patience to get back into a good routine as your body heals.
We’re going to talk about when you can start running again, tips for starting back into running postpartum, and who should avoid running after pregnancy.
When can you start running after birth?
A woman’s body goes through some pretty intense changes during childbirth that leave wounds that take time to heal properly.
Whether you have a c-section or vaginal birth, your uterus will be left with a wound about the size of a dinner plate that will often take a full 4-6 weeks to heal.
During that time of healing, there is still a risk of hemorrhaging if that wound has not completely healed before a woman begins strenuous activity again. This is why listening to your doctor about returning to running after pregnancy is so important!
In general, doctors will release patients without complications or other health issues to full activity after about 6 weeks recovery time. The uterus generally has completely healed and gotten back down to it’s normal size by this time.
But since it can actually take much longer than 6 weeks for your pelvic floor to fully recover (from vaginal childbirth especially), some people recommend not returning to running for 12 weeks to prevent prolapse.
Ultimately, you should visit with your physician about when it’s a good time to return to running postpartum based on your personal health history.
At the very least, do not return to running after pregnancy for at least 6 weeks, and possibly 12 weeks if you feel that your pelvic floor is not up the challenge of high impact activity at the 6 week mark.
Tips For Running Postpartum
When you’re finally released by your doctor to get back to running and regular exercise, you’ll still need to keep in mind that you won’t be able to just jump right back in to your old routine yet.
While your body has already done most of its healing in 6 weeks, your exercise capacity has taken a bit of a hit due to the physical ordeal of childbirth and reduced activity in that 6 weeks of healing time.
If you’ve been running throughout your pregnancy, getting back into running will be easier. But if you haven’t been able to run while you were pregnant, then it might take a little while longer to get back into it.
But that’s okay! Give your body time and space to adjust to the changes your body has gone through.
Here are some tips for postpartum running:
Give yourself permission to start running again slowly
It’s easy to beat yourself up about not being able to run as fast or as far as you did before, but remember to put aside the negative self talk and embrace where you’re at right now.
Remind yourself that it’s okay to start slowly and increase as you feel comfortable. This might mean running on a treadmill at first, reducing your speed, running on softer surfaces, or avoiding hills for a while.
Starting again slowly and building up gradually will also mean you’ll have less muscle soreness and reduced risk of injury. Plus it will help your mental health to have a lighter exercise stress load during a time that is usually high stress from hormone changes.
Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor
Even if you had a c-section and didn’t have a vaginal birth, chances are your pelvic floor was still impacted by pregnancy and needs attention and improved strength.
Since it can take up to 6 months for your pelvic floor to get back to normal after the physical trauma of a vaginal birth, it’s important to take your time getting back into heavy weight lifting or high impact exercise like running and get your doctor’s clearance.
In general, doctors recommend that before you begin running postpartum, you should be able to hold a pelvic floor contraction for 10 seconds.
It is generally considered safe to start pelvic floor exercises right after childbirth, but again make sure that you check with your doctor if you’ve had complications. When you do pelvic floor exercises, stop if you feel pain and don’t try to push through the pain. Listen to your body.
Here are some pelvic floor exercises that you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor as it heals.
- Kegel exercises (both slow and quick contractions)
- Deep abdominal muscles (birddogs, dead bugs, seated core contractions)
Once you have recovered after 6 weeks, you can add these types of exercises into your routine to continue strengthening the muscles surrounding your pelvic floor:
- Continue with your kegel exercises
- Deep abdominal muscles (stomach vacuum, plank, etc.)
- Strengthen and stretch adductor muscles (froggers, inner thigh leg lifts, adductor machine, etc.)
- Strengthen and stretch glute muscles (bridges, single leg RDLs, band walks, clams, etc.)
Start with walking
If you haven’t made it to that 6 week mark yet of being released for full exercise, you should be able to start walking as long as you’re cleared by your doctor to do so and you’re in good general health.
Even if you can’t lift weights yet or run before the 6 weeks of healing is done, you can still get back into the routine of daily movement by taking walks and doing gentle stretches that are also doctor approved.
Taking time to walk can also increase circulation to promote healing and reduce postpartum depression, but only if you’re not overdoing it. Depending on any complications you may have had, speak with your doctor about when it’s okay to start walking.
When you become a new mom, things change a lot: your schedule, lack of sleep, your body, … pretty much everything.
Because things are always changing with a new baby at home, it’s always a good idea to keep your running postpartum or exercise schedule flexible to fit your changes.
That might mean working out at home for a little bit even if you’re used to doing classes at the gym, or skipping a day of running if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. If you can’t do a full workout that you’d like, do a short workout instead.
Focus on your whole health first and your running schedule second until your body has completely recovered. Full recovery from childbirth can take up to 6 months, so be prepared to stay flexible for a while.
Adjust your exercises and schedule as you go. This will help reduce additional stress in your life and make it easier to stick to regular activity that fits your life.
Listen to your body
Listening to your body is imperative during this time!
Some discomfort is normal after you begin to get back to regular activities, but if you feel real pain, stop the exercise that you’re doing and don’t try to “push through the pain”.
Your body is still healing up, so make sure that you are caring for it and giving yourself plenty of time and room to heal by listening to your body and not ignoring pain signals while running postpartum.
Other considerations For Running Postpartum
Here are a few of our other tips for postpartum running:
- You might need new shoes: your shoe size may change since your feet can swell and your ligaments relax in your feet (check out our guide to choosing new running shoes!).
- Get an extra supportive sports bra, especially if you’re nursing.
- If you’re breastfeeding, use nursing pads in your sports bra to soak up surprise leaks.
- Give yourself time to adjust to running with a jogging stroller if you’re new to using one.
- Stay very well hydrated, especially if you’re breastfeeding!
- Fuel quickly and properly after your workouts, particularly if you’re breastfeeding.
- Don’t jump into signing up for any races! Wait until you’ve re-established your running baseline before signing up for that half marathon or full marathon.
Who Should Avoid Running After Childbirth?
Depending on your personal health history, here are some reasons (contraindications) for women not to participate in running after childbirth:
- Diastasis recti
- Abdominal hernia
- Postpartum preeclampsia
- Bleeding disorders
- Uterine infection
- C-section incision infection
- Kidney or bladder infection
- Severe postpartum depression
- Other health conditions diagnosed by your doctor that require rest and modified activity
Please remember this post is for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Always talk to your doctor about whether you’re read to restart running or start a new exercise program.