How soon can I resume running after baby? Do I need to modify anything? Will running affect my breast milk? (The answer to that one is no!) Here are a few guidelines to safely ease back into running after baby.
Stabilize from the inside out
When your doctor clears you to resume physical activity after delivery, the vital first step is to restore strength to the deep abdominal muscles and pelvis so you can prevent injury and run pain-free with sound alignment. While I was in Wisconsin last week, I met with Dr. Bryan Heiderscheit, a professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation who directs the running clinic at University of Wisconsin – Madison. His research, reported by Gretchen Reynolds of the NY Times (link to the full article and link to my summary), validates the core principles of The Dia Method. Dr. Heiderscheit emphasizes the importance of strengthening both the deep abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor muscles before you resume running after baby to avoid injury post-pregnancy.
Wondering how to do that? Begin with the 10 Minutes Flat™ workout in the postnatal system, and be sure to perform a Kegel with every core compression. When you’ve strengthened your transverse abdominis and you’re no longer leaking when you cough, sneeze or laugh, you’re ready to ease into a brief (15-20 minute) run/walk or a light jog.
Start with a shortened stride
During your first jaunt, focus on breathing as described below and keep your stride shorter than normal to avoid excessive hip movement. If that feels good, gradually lengthen your stride over the next few runs until you reach your full, natural range of motion. If you feel pain anywhere or significant bladder pressure while running, stop. Suspend running for a few weeks as you continue to strengthen your deep core muscles with core compressions and Kegel exercises. Then give it another try, and remember to incorporate proper breathing.
To protect your back and stabilize your pelvis while running, draw your abs to the spine and perform a Kegel with each exhalation. Breathing correctly is vital to prevent injury! If abs + Kegels = too much to think about, focus on drawing your navel up and in as you exhale (a Kegel usually happens automatically when you do that). Allow the belly to soften and relax with each inhalation.
Tame your tatas
Invest in a high quality, maximum support sports bra – or consider doubling up and wearing two sports bras while running. This is especially important for breastfeeding moms! Bonus tip: you’ll find running far more comfortable if you time your workouts shortly after feeding your baby to avoid bouncing engorged breasts. Ouch!
Start slow, increase the workload gradually, and listen to your body. By taking time to strengthen your deep core muscles, you’ll spare yourself a host of potential injuries that would undoubtedly hinder your return to tip top running condition. Before you know it, you’ll feel like yourself again in the way that only a good, hard run can make you feel.