Running After Childbirth – Should You do it?
Childbirth can be stressful both physically and mentally. According to the British National Health System (NHS – named the best healthcare system in the world) there are permanent and non-permanent changes to your body after childbirth. Some permanent changes include stretch marks. We will however focus on changes that are in your control, such as having a tighter abdomen and going back to running.
You can start exercising soon after childbirth
If you had a natural birth you can start exercising as soon as you feel capable. If you`re not sure about it you can discuss it with your doctor. However you don`t have to go to extreme options and can start with some light activity such as:
- Pelvic exercises
- Deep abdominal exercises
There are many references towards deep abdominal exercises after child birth. This isometric option can easily be done by laying down on a flat surface and pulling your stomach inward retreating it as far as possible. This can be done for 20 seconds or more for a few sets.
Some increased daily activity should also be considered. Some small changes such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking instead of taking the car can speed up your body recovery. Physical activity will not only help you muscles but you mind also.
There are countless studies showing that exercising is one of the best options for you mental health and with so many post-natal depressions around you should consider increasing your activity levels.
Back pain can stop you from doing these basic exercises
Back pain is very common with new mums. It can be difficult to execute even the above mentioned easy exercises. To relieve back pain consider:
- Keeping a good, straight back posture throughout the day
- Change the diapers on a raised surface so you`re not bending; remember not to leave you baby unattended to prevent any falling accidents
- Further avoid bending by squatting instead of bending with house chores
- Lift with your knees not your back
- Maintain a good posture and support your lower back when feeding your baby
Is running a good idea?
If you`ve been through a C-section you should know that recovery will take longer. You need to wait from 6 to 8 weeks before doing any light exercise. You can go on short walks though. If however you had a natural birth and had good activity levels before childbirth and have gone through the light exercises mentioned above you can start thinking about running.
At least at first, running will not be what it was before, at least for most women. Your body has been through changes and even your posture is different. Your articulations are weaker and your hormones are different also. Make sure you take it slow and consider small steps to help you get running again.
Get off Facebook and Instagram
Seeing other runners taking selfies and enjoying their morning jogs or high-fiving people at marathons can be demoralizing. Here you are, barely walking straight when all other runners seems to have the time of their lives.
Help yourself mentally and forget about Facebook or Instagram for a while and go for a walk. You can increase walking distance every time so you feel you are progressing.
Visit your physiotherapist
You are now in the position of starting light running again. From 12 to 16 weeks after childbirth you can visit your physiotherapist to test your overall fitness recovery. Check your core strength and see if your abdominal muscles are ready to go.
Start moderate running
You can go for a light run a few times per week. Make sure you don`t force yourself and don`t plan for any milestones. Listen to your body and check for any signs like incontinence.
To make things more interesting you can take your baby with you. This would be beneficial to mums who have to improve their overall balance and using a stroller can help with fixing it. It will also boost your energy and relieve some of the stress accumulated within the last months. Remember you`ve been pregnant for months and it could take the same amount of time to fully recover.
Keep an eye on nutrition
This is not talked about enough. When it comes to running again after childbirth you need to make sure your body is getting everything it needs to fully recover. Here are some tips to make sure you are on the right path:
- Eat smaller meals. You can have up to 6 small meals per day considering you are breastfeeding. Instead over-eating with 2 or 3 meals per day you will start to feel better and lighter eating smaller meals more often.
- Eat a broad range of foods. Protein, carbs and vitamins should be on your agenda. Try staying out longer after a running session to increase your Vitamin D absorption.
- Drink plenty of water and avoid any soft drinks or alcohol.
12 weeks after childbirth should put you in the position to be able to run again. You can prepare for this with light exercises keeping an eye on back pain. You also need to look for signs such as incontinence or bleeding. These are signs that your body is still healing and you need to back off for a while.
Make sure you are resting sufficiently and that you have a balanced diet. And remember no to be hard on yourself. Your first priority is to recover and your body will tell you when it is ready to run again.