You’ve had your precious wee baby. You’ve survived the first weeks or months, and you’re starting to think about getting back to some of the things you did before your baby arrived.
For fitness enthusiasts, “When can I start running again?” is one of the first questions our Women’s Health Physios get asked.
It’s not that you want to rush back, and you certainly want to do it safely. But you are desperate for that feeling of freedom and energy you get after a good run. And you feel like a return to running is just one of the significant moments that say, “Yes, I am returning to normal”.
The problem with giving a general timeline for return to running is that it doesn’t address the underlying question you really want to be answered-. The real question is, “When is it safe for ME to return to running?”.
Because everyone’s bodies, birth and recovery are different, there is a wide range of time frames. What is suitable for the athlete who ran until 30 weeks pregnant and has a child that sleeps through the night will be very different from the mother who had to stop running when 6 weeks pregnant due to morning sickness and now has a reflux baby who never sleeps.
So what are some Key Factors that will determine When YOU Can Run After Baby?
1. Your Running History Before and During Pregnancy
The Mum, who has run since she was a teenager and stayed fit and active throughout her pregnancy, is well conditioned for an earlier return to running.
If you only ever went for an occasional run before getting pregnant and have been mostly inactive during and after pregnancy, you will require a much longer and dedicated conditioning program to safely return to running
2. Your Delivery and Recovery
You only need to visit a Mum’s group to hear how different everyone’s birth story is. It goes without saying that if you have had a traumatic delivery with injury to the pelvic floor, you will need a longer recovery time than someone who had a less traumatic delivery.
3. Your Current Sleep Patterns
One of the greatest challenges of being a new mum is balancing your needs with the needs of your baby. If you previously used running for mental health, then exercise may be essential for managing the daily stress of motherhood.
However, sometimes we have to accept that how this looks may be different to before baby. If you are getting limited sleep, then high energy exercise might give you an initial endorphin high, but over time, additional physical stress comes at a cost.
If you are limited on sleep, consider switching high intensity or longer exercise sessions with a short walk and a nap. And try to remember that this phase shall soon pass.
4. Your Exercise and “Rehab” After Pregnancy
It has always baffled me why people think that because pregnancy and birth are “natural”, the recovery process will simply happen naturally. An athlete would not expect to return to full training after a “down-period” without a significant reconditioning phase.
New mums need to give themselves the same level of patience and commitment to restoring their strength and form before resuming the activities they did before pregnancy.
If you are a new or not-so-new mum who wants to regain some physical fitness and confidence, find a health and exercise professional who understands the physical and mental challenges of being a mum. And commit to a period of reconditioning exercise such as strength or Pilates before attempting high-intensity exercise.