Running after a baby - Women's Running

Running after a baby

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  April 18, 2017

running after childbirth

Nine months of growing a baby can put your body under huge strain, thanks to the combination of hormonal changes, the extra weight you’ve been carrying, and your stretched muscles and ligaments. Not to mention the birth itself! The strain doesn’t end once your little one has arrived, either.

The truth is that, while early motherhood can be wonderful, it also entails a heady mix of bafflement, terror, worry and exhaustion. Exercise can be a wonderful release, helping to give you a sense of empowerment and strength – vital after weeks of wondering how on earth you’ll ever have time to shower or change out of sick-covered pyjamas in this new world. As a runner, you might be itching to get back into your running shoes, but may be unsure when and how to start. Here’s what you can do in those first six weeks…

0-6 weeks after birth

“There’s so much going on when your baby is born, so the last thing that should be on your mind is getting back in the gym or on the run,” says Jane Wake, a women’s health expert and specialist in pre- and postnatal fitness.

However, the exercises you can – and should – do soon after birth, to ensure good future health and start laying the foundations for your return to running, are pelvic floor exercises.

“Pregnancy places huge strain on the pelvic floor muscles,” says Wake. “The weight of carrying a baby, alongside hormonal changes, make you more susceptible [to problems in this area]. Giving birth not only places strain on them, but is also potentially damaging as well. Following pregnancy, a reported 30 per cent of women can’t voluntarily activate their pelvic floor.”

Pelvic floor exercises are especially important if you are planning to run after pregnancy.

“High-impact activities put extra strain on the body,” explains Wake. “The pelvic floor forms part of your inner core unit. All of the inner core muscles will have been compromised during pregnancy. Collectively, these muscles support your spine, provide balance and can help to prevent injury. It’s absolutely vital that, after birth, you go through a rehab programme that tackles strengthening these muscles first.”

Here are Wake’s top tips to perfect your pelvic floor exercises:

  • To find your pelvic floor, sit tall on your sit bones, then visualise the pelvic floor, strung from your tail bone to your pubic bone, like a hammock. 
  • Focus on drawing up from your back passage to your front passage. Draw these two points up together.
  • Pull up slowly – it’s important to breathe naturally. 
  • Try different exercises, such as squeezing up the pelvic floor as high as you can, then letting it drop down and holding it halfway, then letting it completely relax. You can do quick squeezes or slow ones. 
  • Always relax back down – a good, healthy muscle must be flexible as well as toned. 
  • Ideally, we should all be contracting the pelvic floor up to 300 times in a day! 

During your first six weeks as a new mum, a few gentle walks can be a good reintroduction to getting active once more, if you feel up to it. Bringing your baby in a sling or carrier can help the two of you bond, and the fresh air and gentle exercise will help you feel more alert, as well as boosting your endorphins (the happy hormone).

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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