Hey Mamas! Ready to run after baby arrives? Although the current guidelines suggest that returning to activity post-partum is safe 6 weeks after natural delivery and 8 weeks after cesarean section, here are some things to consider before jumping back into your running program:
- How’s your core? Pregnancy can wreak havoc on our core musculature. Current studies suggest that post-partum women experience decreased gluteal strength and decreased core activation. Running mechanics are highly dependent on proper core stabilization and without the necessary strength in core muscles during running, your chance of injury can skyrocket leaving you unable to continue a running program. Core strengthening exercises are important for every runner, however, they may be even more important for the post-partum mama prior to beginning a running program.
- Do you have running experience? Although running may seem like a great way to lose weight and improve physical wellbeing after baby it may not be the best activity to begin with. Due to high impacts and the repetitive nature of running, it also has a very high incidence of injury and people with less experience are more likely to become injured. Excess weight and decreased core stabilization post-partum can increase joint stress and risk of injury. Low impact activity such as walking, swimming, or cycling may be more appropriate to lose weight and improve aerobic capacity prior to beginning a running program.
- Are you experiencing stress incontinence? Stress incontinence is an involuntary leaking of urine that may occur with coughing, sneezing, or impact activity such as running. This is not normal and is an indication of core weakness specifically in the pelvic floor muscles. Stress incontinence should be addressed by a physical therapist or an appropriate medical provider prior to initiating a running program.
- Are you nursing? Nursing mamas have extra energy requirements for milk production. If you are ready to begin your running program post-partum, consider eating a few more healthy snacks during the day to ensure adequate caloric intake to compensate for the extra energy required for running and nursing. And hydrate! Nursing requires a tremendous amount of fluid intake and sweating during running can compromise hydration. Make sure you drink lots of water before and after any running activity to avoid dehydration or decreased milk production.
Exercise is a great way to reduce post-partum depression and running may be a good option for some mamas. If you are unsure if you are physically ready for running, consult a physical therapist for a running evaluation to see what you can do to reduce your risk of injury so that you can run happy and healthy!
Megan Peach, DPT of Excel Physical Therapy in Bozeman and Manhattan, Montana is an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
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