One of the most common questions pregnant and postpartum women ask is, “When can I safely start exercising again after my baby is born? How do I build my body back up and lose the baby weight?” For those mothers that love running, the question is often how to start running after pregnancy.
It’s a difficult question to answer and there is no one right answer that fits everyone. There are the common recommendations that you should wait for at least six weeks after a vaginal birth or ten weeks after a C-Section before you get into heavy exercises like running. However, in reality, there’s a lot more to consider then how many weeks postpartum you are.
Some women really are ready to exercise heavily before that six or ten week mark. Others aren’t ready 4-5 months later. Often you might hear that if a certain type of exercise is too hard or really straining you, then you should keep doing it until your body is strong enough to withstand it.
This should not be the approach taken after pregnancy. Pushing yourself to do exercises you aren’t ready for, will not help you get stronger and, in many cases, it can actually cause quite a bit of damage. It can weaken you and tear your core apart resulting in the postpartum pooch we’ve all dreaded
What are the Risks of Premature Heavy Exercise After Pregnancy?
Diastasis Recti: Most of you probably haven’t heard of this. I didn’t know what it was myself until it happened to me during and after my third pregnancy.
Diastasis Recti is a condition in which your core abdominal muscles split apart during your pregnancy and fail to come back together on their own after your baby is born. You literally have a gap between your abdominals that your insides poke out through. If you look at this picture here, you’ll see it gives your stomach kind of a football appearance.
No amount of running and intense exercise will fix this. It’ll actually make it so much worse. Those suffering from diastasis recti after a baby have a very weak core that leads to poor posture, a weak back, and the dreaded postpartum pooch. In any pregnancy that follows it can also cause Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction.
Recovering from DR is possible, but it will require diligent focused exercises that are designed to heal this condition.
Uterine Prolapse is a condition in which a woman’s pelvic floor muscles become so stretched and weakened that they can no longer support the uterus. As a result, it slips down into the vagina and, in some cases, protrudes out of it.
This condition can also lead to the prolapse of some of your other pelvic organs as well. It can lead to a prolapsed bladder or cause the rectum to bulge into the vagina. This, in turn, makes bowel movements difficult and painful.
A common sign/result of these conditions is incontinence. However, even if you don’t have either of them, but your pelvic floor is still weak from pregnancy, running can cause you to leak urine.
I’ll never forget the first time I ran after Conner was born, I was ten weeks postpartum, I didn’t have either of the conditions above, but, as soon as I started running, I could feel my insides flopping around, the pain in my stomach was intense, and I had a little incontinence.
I hadn’t properly built back up so my body would be strong enough for the running. I thought I just needed to give my body time and, once I’d done that, I’d be ready. Boy was I wrong.
How to Prepare for Running After a Baby
The best way to prepare for running after a baby is to start rebuilding your core and your pelvic floor as soon as possible after your baby is born. When I say you need to rebuild your core, I don’t mean the typical abdominal exercises like crunches and sit ups that most of us might think of.
You need to build your inner abdominals before you can build your outer ones. No matter how strong an exterior frame/structure is, if the interior frame/muscles are weak and broken, it’ll collapse in on itself and break down.
The great thing is, you don’t need to wait much time, if any, before doing these exercises. In most cases, you can start the same week your little one was born even if you had a C-section. You will need to take it slow and listen to your body, but you can and should start these exercises right away.
That 6-10 weeks of recovery that doctors recommend after a baby, should be spent doing these exercises at least every other day. For myself, I found that what worked the best was doing these exercises every other day for at least half an hour and on the days I didn’t do them, I walked briskly for at least half an hour.
Some postpartum mothers may need this light exercise routine for 3-4 months after their baby is born, but, if you stick with it, you should be able to safely ease back into jogging, then running before you know it.
How Do You Run With a Newborn?
When you get to the point where you’re ready to run again after having your baby, a dilemma often comes up of what you are supposed to do with your little one while you run. You can’t just leave him/her home while you run and there isn’t always somebody available to watch over them while you’re gone.
One option you might consider is running while you push your baby in a stroller in front of you. This is an unbelievable full body workout! If you think running does a whole lot for you and makes you feel great, I urge you to try this! It works your arms, back, legs, core and every part of your body better than just about any exercise I’ve tried.
Another option, if you can’t run with the stroller or the weather isn’t suitable, is to run on an in-home treadmill. If your home has limited space like mine, there are some great folding treadmills that I know you’ll love! I’ve had my own for over a year now and I love it! Be careful when choosing one though because there are a lot of low quality treadmills that may not last more than a couple months.
When you give your body the time it really needs to build back up, your workouts and runs will be infinitely more satisfying and will help you to get into the shape you’re looking for. I know you can do it and I wish you and your family all the best!
What do you think about these guidelines for running after pregnancy? How did you prepare your body for running after your baby was born?
Let me know by leaving a comment below!