A couple of weeks ago we dove into why 6 weeks postpartum is too early to be “cleared” for everything, including exercise. If you missed it, check it out and return to this blog. There is a recovery process to postpartum healing, and it is often a year long process – or more for some people.
Although it is best to rehab beyond 6 weeks, it does not mean that you can’t be active. In fact, it means quite the opposite. We want to establish an early foundation and continue building on that with progressive overloading week-by-week to get stronger, feel confident in functional movements, and test out which variables work for you. Remember being in sports (or other activity) as a kid, you practiced, ran drills, and worked with a team to get the W. This concept is the same postpartum.
So if running is your thing or you want to take it up because it’s free, simple, and you can take your kid along, what steps should you take to get back on the 5K train?
Ideally, you have given yourself at least 12 weeks before lacing up the running shoes for a jog. 12 weeks allows for greater tissue healing, muscle length to come closer to normal, strength and coordination to develop, and endurance to improve. Your mind will likely be ready before your body is, and that is okay. Using that energy through a rehab program will prevent coming out of the gate too fast, too soon.
It is quite likely that you are experiencing symptoms such as incontinence, pelvic pain, pressure or heaviness, weakness in the core, doming or coning in the abdomen. These are all signs that your body is still working to recover. However, you do not have to be symptom free to start running, BUT, finding a pace/time/distance that keeps symptoms minimal and not worse is BEST. Best case scenario, you are able to see a pelvic floor physical therapist to control and reduce these symptoms in a program that is suited to you and your goals. If not, there are many PTs who are offering virtual sessions or even self-paced online programs that can help you tackle symptoms.
Now, to train for running, start with strength, balance, impact, and endurance. Not only will your body be primed for running before you even start, but your runs will feel better and easier too. Strength training involves progressive loading of your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, and core to help support your body through each stride from your head to your toes. Balance is important for controlling the repetitive landing on one foot, and can be trained with various challenges while standing on one leg. Running has 5-20x more forces on various parts of the body compared to walking due to the impact. By starting with bouncing, hopping, jumping, and other high intensity exercises, your body will gradually get used to the extra forces and is less susceptible to issues down the road. Lastly, running requires endurance – both cardiovascular and muscular – to complete a jog around the neighborhood or compete in the next marathon. Getting through 30+ minutes of walking is a great place to start, and a walk/jog program can take you from there to 30+ minutes of running without stopping.
The emphasis on all of these factors will vary depending on the individual and their goals. If you have athletic goals of any degree after childbirth, work with a pelvic floor physical therapist to keep your long-term health in mind and prevent any symptoms from taking over your exercise routine – over even worse your quality of life. Contact us today to get started on your postpartum goals!