Return to run time frame: is there such a thing? The most common duration we hear for return to exercise is 6 weeks post-partum. But in reality, it all depends! Running is a high impact activity, meaning it involves a lot of force being transmitted through your bones, muscles, and joints. During pregnancy, our bodies go through a lot of changes including weight gain, increased laxity in our ligaments making our joints more susceptible and a shift in our center of gravity. Our muscles need to help absorb the impact of running but they typically aren’t as strong immediately post-partum, so if we don’t take the necessary time to build our strength back up, we end up putting more stress on our bones and joints. In addition, the changes that happen in our bodies during pregnancy tend to lead to an altered stride which can also increase the risk of injury.
Another factor to consider is breastfeeding. While you breastfeed, a hormone called relaxin stays in your system for the duration of the time you are nursing. This results in more laxity throughout your ligaments, which is why it’s even more important to have the proper strength to avoid over-stressing your bones.
Most women can return to running post-partum after taking time to heal and strengthen the appropriate muscles first. However, the following are absolute (but temporary) contraindications to running post-partum: prolapse grade 2+, stress incontinence, diastasis recti (>2 cm), SI, pubic symphysis or sciatic pain. These issues must be, and can be, resolved before you safely initiate running!
How can physical therapists help? Most importantly, if you are experiencing ANY of these problems listed above we can treat these issues effectively and get you back on track to pursue your return to running goals! If you don’t have any contraindications and you just want to determine your readiness for return to running, we can evaluate some key elements to assure you that your body is ready. To do this we look at the following areas: abdominal and hip strength, hip mobility and control, jumping mechanics, and more.
In conclusion, remember two things. First and foremost, every body and pregnancy/post-partum journey is different so make sure YOU take action for yourself to make sure YOU are ready. Second: it’s important to start back slowly. This is not the time to increase mileage or stride for big running gains. Focus on rebuilding your foundation and ease into running volume and intensity.
Email Jenna Mielke, our women's pelvic health physical therapist directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call either of the two phone numbers below to arrange a free consult in person or through telehealth!
1. Sarah Canney. "New Guidelines for Postpartum Runners Blog"
2. Women's Running Magazine: "A Postpartum Running Guide for New & Experienced Moms"
3. Expecting and Empowered: "Postpartum Running"