Postnatal exercise: When can I start to run after having a baby? - Women's Running

Postnatal exercise: When can I start to run after having a baby?

Author: Juliet McGrattan

Read Time:   |  January 11, 2022

Our resident medical expert Dr Juliet McGrattan explores postnatal exercise and when we can get back to running after having a baby

The short answer to when you can run after having a baby is when you’re ready. Before you give birth you may have a clear idea of when and how you want to return to running, and you may even have a race in mind. The reality, however, can be very different. Don’t put expectations upon yourself. For some women, they’re keen to get back in their trainers as quickly as possible, especially if they weren’t able to run during pregnancy. When you know the benefits that running can give you, especially in terms of boosting mental health and wellbeing, you can feel desperate to get back to it. Other women surprise themselves by having absolutely no interest in running for many months after their baby is born, perhaps through fatigue, lack of time or just simply no desire to run. All of these feelings are fine, normal and valid. You won’t know how you will feel until the time comes.

Check out these top tips for postnatal running from fitness expert Nicole Chapman.

Still expecting? Here’s Sophie Power’s guide to pregnant running.

What’s crucial is to prepare your body for running. Your baby has been bouncing around on your pelvic floor for nine months and your body has changed. Regardless of whether you had a vaginal or Caesarean delivery, you need to strengthen your pelvic floor and core muscles before you even contemplate running. If you don’t do this, you risk problems in years to come including urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. Recent expert guidelines for returning to running after having a baby advise you should wait at least 12 weeks. This is far beyond the previous ‘after your six-week check’ advice. From day one after giving birth, the guidelines advise starting with pelvic floor exercises and gentle core exercises such as a simple pelvic tilt. Walking can be done early and gradually built up but hold off other low impact exercise until four to six weeks. Gradually increase the intensity of your low impact exercise, pelvic floor and strength work and if you feel ready, start a gradual return to running after 12 weeks.

Following a 5K programme is an ideal way to return to running after having a baby: this one builds up over a 10-week period and is nice and gentle. It helps you to do it safely and progressively but it’s still important to be flexible, take rests and repeat weeks when you need to. Take your time and only do what you feel comfortable with. You could also take on our beginner’s training plan, which is designed to get you running 15 minutes non-stop in 4 weeks, if you want to take things really slowly.

Twelve weeks of rest seems like a long time but it’s better to let your body heal, regenerate and strengthen before you add the high impact stress of running. If running is a big factor in how you manage your mental health, make sure you find other replacements while you’re rehabilitating after giving birth. Whether it’s a quiet walk in the park for some headspace or power walking with friends and their prams, exercise can help to boost your mood and prevent postnatal depression.

Like a good friend, running won’t care if you’ve ignored it for a while: it will always be there waiting for you.

Juliet McGrattan

Health expert, author, keen runner and busy mum

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