Hard to believe this photo was taken over 6 years ago!
A year almost to the day of my first sons birth I ran the Royal Parks half-marathon. I did it for many reasons, but the most important reason was in memory of my Mum who had died the year before, just 2 weeks after I became a mum myself for the first time. I ran it for Maggies, a cancer support charity close to my Mum's heart, and I ran it with my brother. I needed to do it for my emotional health, running clears my head and helped me process my grief. And, as my Mum had been a runner herself, it felt like she would have been cheering me on. BUT in retrospect for my physical health it wasn't the best thing I could have done. It was too soon and my postnatal body was still healing.
I started running at 3 months postnatal (WAY too soon as current guidelines are no running before 6 months Postpartum) but I had done my core strength work and pelvic floor exercises and thought I was strong. I felt fine, really good even, whilst training and during the actual race. However, 2 days after the run my back completely went. I couldn't stand up straight and had to walk around at work in the gym bent over - not a good look for a personal trainer! I chatted to the Physiotherapist at work and she told me to rest and that I had pushed myself a bit too far too soon. My back returned to normal but I didn't take the hint from my body and so carried on running regularly. That winter I had two really hacking coughs one after the other (the joy of a toddler passing on germs galore!) and an odd niggling hip pain. Then one day whilst running something didn't feel right - I had the sensation of my inside falling out and had to stop. I had never had any leaking whilst running so I hadn't worried about the possibility of giving myself a prolapse but from my reading and postnatal training I knew all about them and the symptoms. So I booked myself in asap in to see a Women’s Health Physio (WHP). After an examination she reassured me that there wasn't any sign of pelvic organ prolapse but told me some things about my core and pelvic floor that only a WHP can assess with an internal examination. In addition I had over dominant abdominal muscles & weaker deep core muscles (TVA, the important ones). She gave me some massage techniques and stretches. These simple strategies really helped and I felt I knew my body so much better after just the one visit.
Within a few weeks I fell pregnant again with baby no. 2 and that put a stop to my running as I have never felt good running in pregnancy (running in pregnancy is another blog topic to come!). After baby no.2, despite a relatively straightforward birth, I vowed to myself that I would take it easier and be kinder on my postnatal body. I wanted to let myself heal fully and only return to running when I was really ready, i.e. To practice what I preach! In the end this took me nearly a year. I tried a few runs - at 6 months post birth and then at around 9 months but it didn't feel good so I didn't push it. Instead, I focused on my foundations & getting my core and pelvic floor strong, adding in long walks and then spinning, HIIT & weight training when I felt ready. I knew I would get back to running at some point but that there wasn't any need to rush it. I could still get my cardio fix with spinning and with more low Impact cardio.
I did the Hackney Half-marathon 17 months after my 2nd was born which meant my training didn't start till a full year after he was born. Most importantly, I didn't have any of the worry that I may be doing myself more harm than good and none of the previous niggles that I had experienced running first time round.
Obviously everyone is different and everyone's body heals and recovers at different rates but I thought I’d share my own experience of running in the postnatal period. It’s important to be informed about the potential risks if you do decide to go back to running soon after having a baby. I feel I was very lucky not to do myself any permanent damage by running too much too soon. If you do choose to run remember the current guideline are no running until 6 months postnatal and I would MASSIVELY recommend you book an appointment with a Women Health Physio (WHP) so you know all the facts about your postnatal body and it’s recovery. They can assess whether you are doing your pelvic floor exercises (Kegals) correctly,
check the strength of your pelvic floor and core, check for any ab separation (diastasis recti), help if you are having leaking issues, help with hip, pelvic, back pain or painful sex and generally make sure you are ok on the inside!
To find a WHP near you visit: https://themummymot.com
In addition to seeing a WHP you can get help and advice from a properly trained Personal Trainer who specialises in postnatal women. They can guide you through a safe and effective return to exercise programme and help you get back to running.
Guidelines taken from Physio Mum website: https://physiomum.co.uk/blog
“WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT I AM NOT READY TO RUN?
• If you ever leak urine when working out • If you experience pelvic or lower back pain during or after exercise. • If you feel unstable in the core or like you’re ‘falling-out at the front’ when you perform any exercise. • If your body shakes or trembles during any move or hold. • If there is bulging, straining, protrusion or doming anywhere on or from within your abdomen or pelvic floor when you work out.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I RUN TOO EARLY OR HAVE THESE SYMPTOMS?
There is a chance that if your body is not ready for you to run then you
could suffer with the following:
• Pelvic organ prolapse • Urinary / Faecal incontinence
• Diastasis Recti (mummy tummy) • Dyspareunia ( pain during sex) • Low back pain or other musculoskeletal injures.
• If you have any of the signs mentioned above you should not run.
• If you are breast feeding, chances are your hormone levels won’t return to their normal monthly cycle. Your hormone levels affect the “laxity” of the pelvic floor so in general I do not advice any new mum to run for a minimum of 6 months and only then if you are symptom free and have had 2 periods.”