I bloody love running. I have always ran mainly because it’s free, you can do it anywhere and it makes you feel like you’ve worked out. You can’t beat that feeling you get when everything comes together and running becomes more like meditation and you totally switch off. I mean that doesn’t happen every run but when it does it’s something special.
After a night out I applied for Marathon Des Sables – you only live once right. I was so drunk I’d forgotten I’d applied until a year later (there’s a 2 year waiting list) only to get an email to say that I was in and had a year to train. This is where I really fell in love with running and the running community. Since then I have placed top 10 in Grand to Grand and second in the Themes Path Challenge 100k. I’m determined to win an ultra one day.
However, having a baby has made this dream feel very distant. The only way I can describe how my body feels is that I’m being held up by my spine a bit like a puppet. My core is non existent and you can run to the shops without using your core.
I know it’s going to be a long journey and that I need to take things slowly so that I don’t do any long term damage. I’m finding it very frustrating going for runs and not being able to do the distance or pace that I used to. I think Tom can even beat me in a 10k now and that’s just embarrassing.
You may not want to run an ultra, you may just want to run to get back into shape after having a baby and as mentioned running is free, you can do it at any time of the day and it doesn’t take long to get a good workout – so perfect for mumas who can’t commit to any gym schedule.
Before you put on your trainers be sure to read our Q&A below with Grainne Donnelly, Pelvic Health Physiotherapist, Absolute Physio & Emma Brockwell, Pelvic Health Physiotherapist, Physiomum who are the authors of the postnatal running guidelines. They share their tips on how to run post baby as this will help you start or continue your running journey safely. Good luck runner mumas.
Why is it so important that you do not return to running too soon post baby?
Pregnancy and childbirth weaken and traumatise our internal and external muscles. Running is high impact, and if our bodies are not strong enough or have not healed well, then it is probable that injuries will occur or get worse (and we are not just talking about ankle sprains or knee pain). 30% of first-time mums will experience urinary incontinence and a startling 1 in 5 first time mums complain of faecal incontinence at 1 year postnatal. At 3-6 months postnatal up to 56% of new mothers have a pelvic organ prolapse. This means that one or more of the pelvic organs (bladder, bowel or uterus) have descended downwards into the vagina to at least the vaginal opening.
Often for litigation purposes, the 6-week postnatal milestone is one that serves as a tick box confirming readiness and suitability to return to exercise, including running. The healing process, however, extends well beyond this. Research indicates that the pelvic floor can take up to 4-6 months to heal, and if you have had a c section it is likely that your abdominal muscles, still at 6-7 months are only 73-93% healed. With this in mind, this 6 week ‘milestone’ is not adequate time to presume a woman is run ready, it is simply not enough time to heal and regain strength. Therefore returning to running with guidance, rehab and more time is essential.
How will I know that I’m safe to return to start running?
To know you are ready to return to running it is recommended that you see a pelvic health physiotherapist, regardless of delivery mode. A pelvic health physiotherapist will assess your internal muscles, namely pelvic floor, abdominals and of course key running muscles, like glutes, quads, calves and hamstrings. They will run through a variety of tests that will determine if you are ready to run and advise you of how to become run ready if you need further rehabilitation. As a rule of thumb (but remember this is generalised not individualised) we do not recommend anyone run before 12 weeks post baby. Your GP can refer you a Pelvic health physiotherapist on the NHS or you can see a private pelvic health physiotherapist.
Are there any flags which mean I should stop running immediately?
Yes – if you:
Leak urine or faeces, heaviness/dragging in the pelvic area, pain with intercourse, obstructive defecation, abdominal separation (depending on severity) or low back or pelvic pain that exists before, during or after running.
– What is your top tip to returning to running?
– See a pelvic health physiotherapist
– Start your pelvic floor exercises as soon as you have had baby (ensure catheter if present is removed prior to commencing pelvic floor exercises).
– Carry out low impact exercise. Just because you can not run does not mean that you can not start getting it run ready (see our infographic which provides a progressive exercise plan – attached)
Where can I find out more information?
If you want to know more then please feel free to download our return to running postnatal guidelines. We hope these help and if you wish to see a pelvic health physiotherapist please ask your GP to refer you to a therapist within the NHS or you can self refer within the private sector. https://mailchi.mp/38feb9423b2d/returning-to-running-postnatal-guideline
Grainne & Emma are running a running workshop at this year’s Being Mum Fest (12-13 Oct, London) www.beingfest.com