1. Consider what exercise you did before and during pregnancy
It will be easier for someone to return to running if they always ran prior to pregnancy and did some running during their pregnancy, compared to someone has never run before.
2. Do your pelvic floor exercises
The pelvic floor consists of muscles and ligaments that support your pelvic organs. The ligaments become relaxed due to pregnancy hormones. It is important to give the ligaments time to return to pre-pregnancy tightness. A general rule is to wait three months post birth. If your pelvic floor is strong you may want to return to running earlier. You should be confident with performing 10 repetitions of 10 second holds in a standing position (against gravity).
3. Strengthen your glutes to support your hips and pelvis
During pregnancy your joints are able to move more easily due to the hormones that are released. Some women may experience lower back, SIJ or pubic symphysis pain. When returning to running it is important to be able to stabilise through your pelvis and hips to prevent putting extra pressure on the joints. Glute strengthening exercises will help with this and will also assist you in becoming a more efficient runner.
4. Gradually build up distance and speed
After you give birth, you are able to start walking straight away. Once you feel confident in your pelvic floor, start with some run/walk intervals. This will build up your tolerance to running and increase your cardiovascular fitness. As your fitness increases, you can continue to increase the running time and decrease the walking time.
5. Get a running assessment
If you return to running and start to experience pain a physiotherapist will be able to video your running style and give you tips and exercises to improve your running technique.
6. Watch for signs of prolapse
Pregnancy and childbirth increase your risk of pelvic organ prolapse. As you increase your running watch for leaking or if you experience a heavy dragging sensation. This is a sign you have progressed too quickly. You will need to focus on pelvic floor exercises and reduce the pressure on your pelvic floor. If symptoms of leaking or heavy sensations continue, see a women’s health physiotherapist to make sure you are doing your exercises correctly and get an individualised exercise program.