When can I return to running after a baby?
Running can be so therapeutic, freeing, and easily accessible after having a baby. But, running can be a very physically demanding form of cardio. Quite honestly, we need strength before we hit the open road. After pregnancy the pelvic floor is still recovering from delivery and being pregnant in general. With increased ligament laxity and body changes we are at an increased risk of injury. Moving slowly through the rehab process, working with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, and integrating a strength training program will is a great way to get started.
A few things to consider before you lace up your running shoes:
- How long have you been running? Thinking here about how your body has adapted to the demands of running.
- Did you run throughout pregnancy? If yes, how long? If you did not, how long has it been since you’ve run? In some cases perhaps it has been 10+ months since running has been a regular part of your routine.
- What does your strength training / rehab routine look like? This is where a Postpartum Coach can help guide you.
Strength Testing for Running
I love these three tests for testing baseline strength learned via Sarah Duvall needed for impact/running reintroduction.
1. Single Leg Squat: running is a single leg dynamic activity. Even a small single leg squat is important before moving to running.
– What happens with the foot and arch? Ideally we can maintain nice arch strength vs collapsing in.
– Hip Drop: Can you complete a single leg squat without the hip dropping in? (Glute medius needs some love).
– Knees: Does a knee collapse in?
– Look for a sitting back / length through the Glutes vs Knees jutting forward
– Endurance: Aim for 10-15+ reps
2. Single Leg Calf Raise: Great for assessing foot and arch strength. The feet are our foundation and what happens at the ground impacts what happens at our hips, and up the chain.
– Can you complete a single leg calf raise without losing balance, falling to the outside of your foot, falling forward, or feeling excessive tightness on the front side of your leg?
This exercise is still very challenging for me. It’s OK to use the wall for support here as you get started.
3. Standing hip abductions: Assessing Glute medius strength. These can be performed side lying or standing.
– Focus on building that Glute medius and Glute max strength for running. There are a ton of exercises to pull from for building Glute medius strength, but this was also one I worked on in Physical Therapy too. Experiment with foot position to ensure you feel this on the outside hip and side booty versus the frontside of the leg.
Give these three a try and let me know what you find out.
Looking for more? Check out the Return to Running Postnatal Guidelines for a full list.