Return to Running Postpartum
Updated: Aug 20, 2022
So you want to get back into running after having a baby? That’s great! However, maybe you don’t know how to go about this. Maybe you haven’t run in over 6 months and don’t know if it's safe to jump right back into it. Maybe you still have pain, discomfort or leaking with walking and jumping and can’t imagine even attempting to go and run. Or maybe you tried going on a run and it did not feel good at all. These are all very common experiences to have and it is normal to be frustrated or confused. You may have been told “after 6 weeks you can return to exercise” however not given any other guidelines. The good news is that there is much more research out there now than there used to be about returning to run after giving birth.
I am here to explain some of these findings in order to assist you in this process of getting back to that mileage!
First off, one thing that the protocol suggests is waiting until 12 weeks postpartum to return to running. The research has shown that this has been the most successful in letting your body heal and giving you time to get stronger in order to return to running. Is this a hard and fast rule? Definitely not. I have seen people ready to run again before this as well as weeks after this. However, this should give you a rough idea of what to expect and give you the space to work on your strength so you don’t feel rushed or disappointed if you don’t feel ready at that 6 week checkup when you are “cleared for exercise”.
Where to start:
For some people, 3 months can seem like a very long time to wait. However, this does not mean that this is the only thing you can do during this time. You can certainly get back into exercising. In fact, I recommend it! I suggest using this time to get stronger and start building back up those muscles that may have been neglected for many months.
One of the best ways to prepare for running is walking! You should be able to walk for 30 minutes without experiencing pelvic pain, low back pain or leaking. You should also have adequate pelvic floor strength in standing (this is where seeing a PT is recommended in order to assess this, especially if you experience any leaking).
How to Test if You’re Ready:
In addition to walking tolerance and pelvic floor strength, there are additional activities and exercises to test in order to assess readiness to run.
Lower body strength can be assessed by performing the following exercises (20 reps of each recommended):
Single leg sit to stands
Single leg bridging
Single leg heel raises
Leg raises to the side
Additional tests should also be done to measure your ability to tolerate load and impact such as:
Single leg squat 10x
Single leg running man 10x
Jumping in place 10x
Running in place 1 minute
Forward bounds 10x
Single leg balance 10 seconds
If you can do all of these, then try some easy running intervals (jog 30 seconds, walk 1 minute, 4 or 5 times) and gradually progress from there.
If it is before the 3 month mark and you can do all of these with no problem, it is possible you may be ready to start running. Again, everyone is different and some people fall on either side of this spectrum. If you are eager to try, follow the same advice as above and start off with a running interval.
Even if some of these may be difficult for you, it is still possible you are ready to go back to running. This should just serve as a way for you to see the bigger picture and what you might want to focus on to have the easiest return to running as possible.
For many of you, it may take some time building back up to the mileage you used to run, and that is okay! It always takes work to build up running tolerance, and continuing to work on strength training during this process will help your body adapt and become more resilient.
If you have any issues or questions about the process, it is always recommended to see a Physical Therapist to help assess you personally.
Goom, T. Donnelly, G. Brockwell, E., (March 2019). Return to running postnatal- guidelines for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population.