Running after Baby
Hi, my name is Rhiannon and I'm a runner. I live for running. Having run for 18 years I've done 2 marathons, many half marathons and I regularly run 5-10k as part of my weekly training session. My love for running even led me to open my own running club, Happy Feet where I help runners of all abilities fall in love with hitting the streets.
I am also a busy mum and often get asked, how do I manage it with a baby? The answer to that question is because I have to!
The main reason I run is for my mental health, running keeps my mind healthy and gives me the space and time I need to be me but running hasn't always come easily to me and I have suffered some major setbacks. After I had my first baby (5 years ago) I was desperate to start running and I put my trainers back on just 4 weeks after the birth.
I'm a fitness professional so I know the rules about not exercising for the first 6 weeks and taking it easy but I felt fine, so off I went ignoring all of the advice I'd been giving out.
I felt AMAZING, it combated my tiredness, helped my mood and made me feel like me again. I quickly ramped up my training and I was running 10 miles by the time my son was 12 weeks old. I'd entered a half marathon and I wasn't stopping for anyone or anything, or so I thought.
As the miles went on however I noticed that I had pain in my pelvis, it was bearable to start with but it soon got to the point where I couldn't really walk.
After a trip to the GP and Physio it was confirmed that I had post pregnancy PGD (pelvic girdle dysfunction) and I was advised to stop running. This was caused directly by my running and not letting my body recover and not taking notice of the advice that I knew was for my own safety.
My world shattered, How would I cope being a mum with no running or really any weight bearing exercise due to the damage I'd done. The physiotherapist even said I may not be able to run again, I was devastated.
It was a massive reality shock, I stopped training and let my pelvis recover. I really worked on my core and focused on strengthening my pelvis, deep core muscles and pelvic floor.
I waited a whole year before I started running again, I was pain free and ready but I took it very slowly, starting with interval training. one minute jogging and one minute walking until I'd worked up to 5K.
My pace was slower than it had ever been but I knew that if I wanted to stay pain free that's the way I'd have to do it.
Over the next year I built up my running and got back to where I wanted to be, I completed a few halves and a Marathon.
It felt amazing to be back, then I decided it was time to have another baby.
I had planned to run right up until my due date but my body had other plans for me and around 8 weeks my pelvis started to feel loose and a little painful. The hormone 'Relaxin' increases in the body during pregnancy and cause the ligaments to stretch which was already causing my pelvis to become unstable. I was gutted again but I knew this time I had to listen to my body and stop running. Despite not running I was still on crutches from 6 months and even walking was a chore. I was desperate to get back out on the road and I definitely felt like it was affecting my mood.
After the birth of my daughter my pain quickly went and although my head was telling me it was time to get my running shoes back on I knew that my body still needed time to heal.
Is your pelvic floor ready to run?
Your pelvic floor is a massive part of your inner core and is responsible for pelvic stability, supporting your bladder, womb and your bowel. Having a baby can weaken your pelvic floor and it's really important to take care of it in the early days after having a baby and long into your child's future.Running too early after having your baby can cause your pelvic floor to become weaker and this can cause incontinence and pelvic pain. When you run the pelvic floor takes a hit every time your foot lands, this repeated over and over can cause you damage.
This impact alone may not cause you pain however if you suffer from hip, hamstring, glute or groin tightness you could be impacting the alignment of your pelvis causing issues such as lower back pain, groin pain, knee pain, pelvic pain and foot pain. If you are experiencing any signs of pelvic floor dysfunction such as pelvic pain, incontinence, bulging or feeling of heaviness down below than it really is time to leave your trainers in the box and see your doctor first. That doesn't mean no running forever just not for right now.
Many women suffer from Diastasis Recti after having a baby. This condition is where the rectus abdominis muscles in your abdomen separate during pregnancy, leaving a gap.
Most women have a small separation however this usually resolves itself within the first few weeks after birth, if the gap between your muscles is wider than 2 fingers it is considered a diastasis recti. This in turn will lead to your core becoming weakened and can also cause pelvic floor issues.
It is really important if you have this condition that you seriously consider if you are ready to run, if your core is weak when running you are likely to pull your tummy in and push your chest out.
By pulling your tummy in or gripping your abs to maintain your posture when running you will be building the pressure inside your abdomen and that is the very thing you need to avoid. You can find out how to check if you have a diastasis recti by watching our video, if you think you may have a gap its really important to speak to your doctor and certainly hang fire on the running.
Still think you are ready?
If you have had a straight forward delivery and have not experienced any complications or postnatal conditions such pelvic floor dysfunction or core weakness you can start to think about running again at around 12 weeks. This doesn't mean you will definitely be ready then you may feel ready sooner or much later but remember to trust your body. If you are breastfeeding the levels of Relaxin will remain quite high until you stop which can lead to your joints still feeling quite unstable so take it easy and be sure to scale back if you start to feel any pain.
There are a few important things to remember when thinking about postpartum running:
Start by walking with your baby in their buggy, make sure your handle is close to your hips and you aren't 'pushing the buggy' it should move with you. Start off with a nice neutral spine and when walking focus on the backward motion of your leg. As you bring your leg behind you in the backward motion squeeze your glutes (bum cheeks). Over a few weeks increase the intensity and frequency of your walks. If you experience any pain you must reduce the intensity.
Once you are ready to start running take it easy, set yourself simple targets. Jog for a minute and then walk for a minute and gradually build up the intervals over the weeks. Remember you aren't trying to break any records, you just need to go with how your body feels and not over doing it is the key.
Focus on your technique to reduce the pressure that is put through your pelvic floor and abdominals - lean slightly forward so that your weight is over the top of your heal as you land, try looking around 20ft ahead and not horizontal. Running like this will help engage your glute muscles and in turn it will stop you over using your hamstring which will add pressure to your core.
STRETCH, STRETCH, STRETCH. After your work out it is important that you stretch, if your legs get tight it will put pressure on your core. Making sure you stretch all of your leg muscles but bear in mind if you have recently had a baby or if you are breastfeeding you are more supple so try not to over extend.
TAKE IT SLOW, it took 9 months to grow your baby, it can take 9 months for your body to get back to your pre baby state. Don't push yourself too hard.
Remember it isn't safe for your baby if you to run with them before they are 6 months old, if you are considering buggy running you need to invest in a proper pushchair that is designed for running. I love running with my little girl but it does add to the intensity so even if your baby is ready to join in you may not be!
There is no one more important than you, you need to be kind to yourself and not over do your training. These moments in your baby's life are so precious and they are times that you can't get back. No matter how frustrated you may feel, you will look back on your running blues in a year's time and you'll be pleased that you listened to your body and the 'experts'
Just because your mind is ready, your body might not be but that's ok because it has given you the most beautiful gift.
My baby is now 8 months old and so far so good, by taking things slowly and stopping myself from doing too much I have made it. Some days I'm tempted to just go for it but I know I won't thank myself for it!
*You can find more information about postnatal recovery by contacting your local OneFitMama instructor*