4-Step System For Strong Running After Pregnancy

“When can I start running again postpartum?”

This is one of the most common questions I get about postpartum exercise.

The most important thing to know about this topic is that you don’t simply reach a certain length of time postpartum and then magically become able to run safely again.

“When can I start running again postpartum?” requires a longer answer than simply saying ______ months after you’ve had a baby.

(By the way, we’re definitely talking MONTHS, not weeks here…)

Postpartum is a recovery process. Your core and pelvic floor health are incredibly important and the early months postpartum are key to ensuring a well functioning core + floor that has good tone, strength, and endurance.

If you want to run:

  • WITHOUT: injury, risking or increasing pelvic organ prolapse symptoms, incontinence, knee + pelvis + back pain.
  • WITH: strength, no pain, no pelvic floor symptoms during or following your runs, no knee + pelvis + back pain, and for years to come…

…you’ll want to take heed of the following guidelines for returning to running postpartum.

Checks and balances need to be met along the way that give us an idea if your body is ready to handle that type of exercise, or that intensity of workout.

(Definitely not after that 6-week check-up when your doctor cleared you for all exercise. Please.)

Postnatal bodies require rehabilitation to ensure the core and pelvic floor are functioning and supporting the body well. Just in daily life. Not to mention, under the stress that running holds.

Please be patient with your return to running (and lifting all the heavy things) again, because it has the potential to significantly impact your short-term recovery and long-term health.

 

 

Timeline to Return to Running: 4-6 Months Postpartum (…Maybe)

Generally speaking, if I have a client who LOVES running and wants to return to running, I advise they wait until (AT LEAST) the 4-6 months postpartum mark to begin.

To be totally honest, I prefer to see the return to running closer to the 6-months postpartum mark for run-lovers. 4 months tends to be quite early.

Further, if a client is breastfeeding, I’m not likely to recommend they return to regular running this early postpartum.

This tends to be a more realistic time-frame when we consider:

  • Life with a newborn
  • How the core and floor are healing
  • Whether mom is breastfeeding
  • The foundation of full-body muscular strength that is re-built
  • How labour and delivery progressed
  • 6-7 hours of sleep at night (sleep deprivation is real and affects our physical abilities, recovery from exercise, the response of stress from exercise, etc.)

FYI: I know some pelvic floor/women’s health physiotherapists who recommend waiting a year and potentially longer for breastfeeding moms because hormonal factors could affect tissue quality.

Bodyweight Squat End

If you are later than the 4-6 months postpartum mark and want to begin running, I recommend you do at least 12 weeks of consistent postnatal-specific strength training, preferably 2–3 days per week, and still meet the guidelines below before starting to run (this is an example of the full-body strength training workouts I recommend).

*DISCLAIMER #1: To meet this 4-6 months guideline, you’ve been following my guidelines for core + floor restoration exercises and postnatal-specific strength training from months 0-3 postpartum. See here.

Checklist: How To Know If You’re Ready to Start Running Postpartum

1). You have developed a solid base of strength and endurance in the core and pelvic floor (no incontinence, good tone in the muscles, no prolapse/well managed prolapse, no heaviness/pressure/tightness in the pelvic floor)

2). You are using effective breathing techniques and form to lift your baby, lift weights, and to run

3). You have been doing consistent, specific postnatal strength training workouts (2-3 sessions per week) for at least 12 weeks

4). Your diastasis recti is well healed with good tension and density in the linea alba

5). You have had an internal assessment by a pelvic floor physio and they have cleared you for running

6). No pelvic or low back pain (especially no increased pain after running or exercise)

Enough disclaimers for you? 😉 I just want you to feel great with your return to running and to not be in a perpetual cycle of too much/too soon – injury – rehab – repeat.

4-Step System: The Process To Progress Back Into Running

Whether you’re 4-6 months postpartum or 4-6 years postpartum, I like to start the return to running with in the following manner:

  • THE BASICS: test incline walking before you sprint, then test short sprints before you run for long periods.

1). Incline Walking Intervals or Steady State:

  • Outdoor up and down a hill, or indoor on a treadmill
  • Ensure you have been doing lots of flat ground walking before jumping into inclines
  • Cue yourself to lean forward slightly on the uphill portion, and to not lean backwards on the downhill. This focuses on getting the upper body stacked over the lower body – your ribcage over top of your pelvis (important for how your core and pelvic floor responds to stress)
  • This will give you the cardiovascular response (the burn) you might be craving if you’re a runner, but in a safer manner
  • It also provides a great stimulus to the backside of the body (glutes, hamstring muscles)

Incline Walking 37 weeks pregnant

Incline walking intervals are one of my favourite exercise recommendations for pregnancy and postpartum. 

2). Incline Running (Sprint) Intervals: 

  • Outdoor up and down a hill, or indoor on a treadmill
  • These are especially forgiving for the body on grassy hills, if available
  • The sprint time typically starts around 10–15 seconds (30 seconds max once you’ve progressed), followed by walking slowly down the hill, or stepping to the sides of the treadmill and resting to full recovery before repeating (this is key!)
  • A sprint is simply a fast (relative to YOU) running pace. This is why the time is very short
  • Rest for 2-4x as long as you sprint for (example: sprint for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds).

3). Flat Running (Sprint) Intervals:

  • Outdoor on grass or ground, or indoor on a treadmill
  • These are especially forgiving for the body on grass, if available
  • The sprint time typically starts around 10–15 seconds (30 seconds max once you’ve progressed), followed by walking slowly, or stepping to the sides of the treadmill and resting to full recovery before repeating (this is key!)
  • A sprint is simply a fast (relative to YOU) running pace. This is why the time is very short
  • Rest for 2-4x as long as you sprint for (example: sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 60 seconds).

4). Longer, Steady State Running

  • If short intervals have been feeling good (NO PAIN, no “is this normal/not normal in my body?” feelings), then longer steady state running might be right for you
  • You can slowly increase your interval of running time longer, as long as it continues to feel good on your body
  • Still walk when you need to within your running time

Screenshot this for a quick guide to summarize a strong and safe return to postpartum running:

6 Steps to Running Postpartum

Good luck!

Jess