I’ve written before about pregnancy and running here, but was recently asked about running after baby—basically how soon can a new mom get back to running after labor and delivery?
While a pretty simple question, it actually takes two steps—the first question is, am I ready to begin postpartum exercise? And then the second, when cleared to exercise, am I ready to begin running?
For the first question, Dr. James Clapp, one of the leading researchers on pre and postnatal exercise has a basic answer. A new mom is safe to exercise so long as she does not have pain, bleeding or an infection. We’d also add that all women should be cleared by their doctor- this usually happens at the six week postpartum appointment.
The second question (when can I run?) is actually just as simple. A new mom is safe to run as long as she is able to lift and hold her pelvic floor. Basically, a new mom can run as far and as long as she is able to perform a Kegel exercise. This is because the pelvic floor is the base of the “core box” (abs, lower back and pelvic floor)—all muscles that need to be strong in order to run. The pelvic floor is usually the weakest after labor, so you want to be sure that muscle is able to hold out over the duration of the run. New moms should engage and lift the pelvic floor (a basic Kegel) and only run for as long as they are able to keep the pelvic floor engaged.
In practice, lift your pelvic floor and run. When you can’t hold it any longer….walk…. and then start again, reengaging your pelvic floor. Work your way up to longer distances and remember to engage your core abdominal muscles as well by breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
Running right after pregnancy should primarily focus on rebuilding your core strength. The stronger your core and pelvic floor, the quicker your recovery will be, and you’ll see a faster return to your pre-pregnancy weight and running pace.