Post Partum Fitness Essentials: Want to return to running after having a baby? Read this first.
Running has been a mainstay in my life since my teenage years. From 2.4km to Cross-Country 3.5km trail runs, I was inspired by my eldest sister to take part in 21km and 42km marathons Since 17years old. Running was an instinctive sport for me once I started working, since it’s a solo event that I didn’t need another partner to complete the activity with.
During the second trimester of my first pregnancy, I continued to hit the gym for simple workouts using the stationary bike, rowing machine and treadmill for brisk walking and light jog. Hence going back to my running routines were a no-brainer for me, since I have been running all my life, right?
However, after the birth of my first child, I was taken aback by the physical changes that nobody, nobody at all, told me about. My posture, abdomen, hips and pelvic floor strength absolutely changed. I tried going back to running after 6weeks post-partum, and immediately felt the difference in the control of my pelvic floor strength, and the difficulty engaging my core to run fast enough.
Pregnancy and Labour is no chicken-feat
Our bodies goes through tremendous adaptations throughout pregnancy and labour. For a person who has a simple knee surgery, a minimum of 3-6 months of rehab is warranted before returning to sport. For mothers, how should we expect our bodies to spring back to youthful days in a snap of a finger? The struggles of all runners: We just tend to put on our shoes and run, without conditioning our bodies to do so.
For mums who are keen to start running again, here are some essential muscle groups that are important to train before going back to running:
The muscles in the front of our thighs are the largest contributor to braking and supporting our body weight during running.
Upon contact with the ground, the muscles at the back of our thighs need powerful contraction to push us forwards.
These muscles that support the ankle appears to be important for propulsion and supporting the body weight during running.
Hips, groin and buttocks
(Gluteus maximus and medius, inner thighs, pelvic floor muscles)
These muscle groups around our pelvis work the hardest after the foot hits the ground, to stabilize our trunk and knees
The pelvic floor muscles, that forms the base of the pelvis, holds the rest of the organs up. After the labour and pregnancy, our pelvic floor muscles often need some work before returning to impact sports such as running.
Arms and Trunk
Arms did not contribute to propulsion or support, but the momentum of the arms counterbalanced the momentum of the legs via the trunk of the body. This means the stability of the trunk (ribs and abdominals) has to be strong, for more efficient force transfer between arms and legs.
When do I know if I am not ready for a run?
If you have any forms of incontinence (urine or bowel leaking), heaviness feeling in the vagina with impact activities, have an assessment by a pelvic floor physiotherapist before starting your exercises.
Having a bulging abdomen months after your baby is born is also not normal, and we recommend you to have yourself checked for Diastasis Recti of the Abdominal by our physiotherapist. The presence of any joint pain- commonly reported joints such as knee pain, pelvis or lower back pain, needs to be resolved prior to returning to running. Our physiotherapist will be able to assist you back to running, or refer you to a pelvic floor physiotherapist if necessary.
A pre-run exercise period is essential to prepare your post-partum body to get to a baseline of core stability, so that you will minimise any possible injury due to muscular-skeletal changes after having a baby.
Before you hit the roads, be sure your body is ready for the run! Read our 3-Part series of Core Stability after Pregnancy to know how you can prepare yourself for running!
Samuel R. Hammer, Ajay Seth and Scott L. Delp
Muscle contributions to propulsion and support during running
Journal Biomech 2010 vol. 43(14), pp. 2709-2716