Postnatal exercise – an expert guide to running after giving birth


Is running OK as a type of postnatal exercise? Athlete and coach for The Well Baz Moffat, reveals what should be considered if you are planning to run after giving birth 

Many women love to run – it gives them a buzz, a sense of freedom and something that is super-efficient in terms of time.

For these reasons it can be a really great way to workout post-natally and many mum’s are really keen to get back out running.

Athlete and coach for The Well Baz Moffat, has worked with hundreds of women in this position and had daily conversations with plenty of women keen to get back to running who just don’t know where to start or who have started and stopped because it feels ‘wrong’.

many mum’s are really keen to get back out running

Up until recently, there was very little guidance for post-natal women when it comes to postnatal exercise, but recently the first set of evidence based guidelines have been published and they’re really good.

Here’s what needs to be taken into consideration…

When did you have your baby?

Regardless of how your baby was delivered returning to running is not advised sooner than three months post-natal – there is plenty of work that can be done before this stage including low impact and pelvic floor work.

The body needs time to heal, recover and adjust which is why this time frame has been set.

There are going to be those that are capable of running sooner but the general rule is not to and if you really can’t wait then make sure you are working with a fabulous women’s health physio who can support you and your pelvic floor.

How’s your pelvic floor?

However your baby was delivered, months of pregnancy will have had an impact on your pelvic floor and it needs some care and attention.

You can start doing your exercises as soon as you feel ready after the birth and you should be staying dry by the time that you start to exercise.

If you’re not then go and see your GP or a women’s health physio for some support.

How much do you weigh?

Running has been reported to put between 1.6 to 2.5 times your body weight through your body – so obviously the heavier you are the more impact your joints and pelvic floor has to absorb and react against.

This is why it is advised to have a BMI of less than 30 before starting to run.

Postnatal exercise - an expert guide to running after giving birth knee pain

What is your general strength and fitness like?

Running is really hard; it’s not like cycling, swimming or circuits which you can do slower. Even running slowly is high impact and intense.

So before embarking on a running programme you should be reasonably fit. Walking and strength training is a great place to start, before building up to running.

How do you feel?

Running and exercise in general is a brilliant way to cope mentally with the intensity of motherhood.

However, exercise doesn’t always come with a buzz and what suited you previously may no longer tick the boxes so it’s worth having a complete reassessment of what you need now.

I know that I went to the complete alternative end of the exercise spectrum post-natally and did a lot of yoga, walking and swimming.

what suited you previously may no longer tick the boxes

I did initially go for the cross-fit, training hard option but it just felt awful and I really didn’t enjoy it.  Whereas I enjoyed everything about the restorative types of exercise.

What I’m saying is that you don’t have to be able to run….it is not a badge of honour or a fundamental human requirement at all, there are plenty of other options out there which may serve you better right now.

Other considerations

Are you breastfeeding?

If so you can still run but there are some simple things that you can do to make sure that you can run well and breastfeed beautifully.

Have a great fitting sports bra and time your feeds with your running!

Did you have a c-section?

It tends to take longer to recover from a c-section and you will have scar tissue which will impact the way your body connects.

Look into this and ideally find someone who can teach you how to release your scar.

Are you running with a buggy?

Do some research on this and find out the best buggy for you to use.

Postnatal exercise - an expert guide to running after giving birth woman with child in buggy

How are you sleeping?

Tap into your energy levels before embarking on a running programme.

Have you got a good bra?

Your breasts will change significantly post-natally and having a good bra so that you can exercise well is a must.

There is also more post-natal clothing coming onto the market to help those with diastasis healing and prolapse support.

The above is your guide to how to know if you’re running ready…

If after reading all that you think you are ready then the recommendation is to start with a graded return to run programme which is otherwise known as a couch to 5k type thing.

If you’ve made it this far then I’m sure, you’ll have worked out that there is plenty of work to do to get into shape before you get out and about.

Running is such an accessible form of exercise

The important thing is for every woman to believe that she can run if she wants to. Running is such an accessible form of exercise and works well for mums because it is so time-efficient and free.

However, there is likely to be some work to do to get you in the right place so that you can run and progress without impacting your body’s healing and recovery process.

The-Well-Baz-Moffat

Baz Moffat is The Coach for The Well, providing health, well-being and performance support for women based on the science of the female body.

Twitter: @thewellhq / Instagram: @thewell_hq

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