Using a postpartum running plan to guide you as you return to running after pregnancy will help ensure a safe return. Many women accidentally increase mileage or speed too quickly, which often leads to pain, injury and setback.
Luckily, most women who were consistent runners prior to pregnancy find that their fitness comes back quickly once they start running postpartum.
When can I start running postpartum?
The key to success when using a postpartum running plan is to begin at the right time. Starting running too soon after pregnancy will quickly lead to injury. The most important thing to consider when planning your return to running postpartum is whether or not your doctor has cleared you to run.
Most women get the okay from their OB/GYN to return to normal physical activity anywhere from 6-12 weeks postpartum. This number varies depending on a variety of different factors, including whether you delivered vaginally or via C-section.
Once you are cleared to resume physical activity, you’ll still want to check to make sure your body is actually ready. Check to make sure you are not experiencing any pain, specifically pelvic or abdominal pain. In addition, check yourself to see if you are experiencing any diastasis recti, which is separation of the core muscles.
If you notice any of these red flags, be sure to spend some extra time strengthening the core and pelvic floor before beginning the postpartum running plan.
How do I return to running postpartum?
Returning to running postpartum should be a slow and gentle process. Regardless of how good your body feels or how much previous running experience you may have, it’s important to take it slow. Here are a few steps you’ll want to follow before you begin the postpartum running plan.
- Asses pelvic floor and core health
- Isolate and strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles
- Begin with regular walking
- Gradually increase time and intensity
- Resume running with run/walk intervals
- Continue core strengthening once you begin exercising
- Begin the postpartum running plan
10 Tips for Postpartum Running
Postpartum running involves patience, patience and more patience. The most frustrating part about returning to running after pregnancy is trying not to compare how it feels now to what it felt like before pregnancy. Luckily, for most women, their running fitness returns faster than they expect! Here are a few tips for a smooth transition.
The key to success, health, strength and pain-free postpartum running is taking it slow. This means that before you even begin running, you’ll want to ease back into exercise by walking.
Walking will help build an aerobic base and get your body re-acclimated to movement. Increase walking pace and distance until you feel ready to add in some short jogs.
Focus on pelvic floor strength
The most important thing to do before and during the postpartum running plan is to isolate and strengthen the pelvic floor and core. Childbirth is a traumatic even for this muscle group, and it takes some effort to restore strength and competency.
Begin some rehab exercises for diastasis recti, including kegels, well before you hope to return to running. Stay consistent with this strengthening even after you begin running to prevent pain and incompetencies as you build mileage.
Alternate running and walking
Once you’re ready to begin running, alternate intervals of running and walking. The postpartum running plan begins this way, and is designed to help increase distance in a safe way. As your body readjusts and build fitness, you’ll be able to gradually decrease the length of time for the walking intervals.
Build up slowly
It can be tempting to want to just take off and get back to running the distances you were prior to pregnancy. However, regardless of how good you might be feeling, doing so will likely lead to injury and set back.
Taking things slow is key to avoiding pain during postpartum running. Spend time at each new distance before attempting to increase, and just forget about pace for the first few months.
Use time, not distance
When you record your run, record it based on time instead of distance. Doing so helps avoid comparison and negative self-talk that might occur when you see that a mile now takes nearly twice the amount of time it used to. As you re-build your running base, head out for 45 minute runs instead of 4 mile runs.
Find a good jogging stroller
Researching and investing in a high-quality jogging stroller is well worth it for most runners. Regardless of the help you might have in your partner, having a readily available jogging stroller allows you the freedom and flexibility to make your training runs happen whenever it’s most convenient. Not to mention, it gets your kids involved too.
The treadmill is your friend
It doesn’t take most mother runners long to discover that the treadmill is very helpful for running postpartum. When you have a young baby, time is scarce and opportunities for runs are very limited. Having a treadmill at home allows you to safely run when the baby is sleeping, which is often the best and only time to do so.
Don’t ignore cross training
We all know the importance of cross training when we are trying to improve our fitness, and it becomes even more important when you are following a postpartum running plan. Returning to running after pregnancy requires a lot of effort and adjustment for your body.
Cross training helps improve your fitness without risking injury or overtraining. As your running increases, it’s important to keep cross training a priority.
Maintain appropriate calories
Postpartum running usually involves planning around nursing sessions and making sure you’re available for breastfeeding on demand. Running and breastfeeding can go hand in hand as long as you are diligent about consuming enough calories to maintain a healthy milk supply.
Your body requires extra calories for both running and breastfeeding, which means that you’ll need to consume quite a bit extra to sustain both.
Listen to your body
Regardless of what might be indicated as a workout on the postpartum running plan, the most important thing is to listen to your body. If a 30 minute run is on the schedule but you notice pain in the first 5 minutes, cut it short and end the run.
As your body adjusts, you’ll experience some ups and downs. Sometimes you’ll feel stronger than ever, and other times it might feel like your body is just off. When you’re struggling, noticing extra pain or feeling fatigued, take it easy and give yourself grace.
The Postpartum Running Plan is a free PDF that’s designed to guide you through the first 6 weeks of running after pregnancy before beginning a regular training plan. This guide will help you re-build your fitness base and allow your body to ease back into exercise after childbirth.
Postpartum Running Plan
Use this Postpartum Running Plan once you have been cleared by a doctor, have spent some time strengthening your pelvic floor, and are feeling pain free. As you ease back into running postpartum, adjust as needed and always listen to your body.
Postpartum running should be a rewarding, positive and uplifting experience. Celebrate the fact that your body just performed a true miracle by giving birth, and respect the signals it sends to you as you begin your postpartum running journey.