It can sometimes be hard getting back into (or starting!) an exercise routine after the birth of your baby. However, there are many reasons why it’s essential for your physical as well as mental health. If you love running but not sure how to get back into it post-birth, Running Coach Melissa from Soul Runner is here to help get you started and have you running like Wonder Woman in no time (although she probably need to see point no 4 of Melissa’s top tips).
Getting into an exercise routine following the birth of your baby is a great idea, and yes, you guessed it, it is perfect for stress relief and gaining some energy back. Whether you take your baby in the pram with you, or if you have the option to have some time out on your own, setting a routine to get you back running is pretty straightforward with some good planning and the right approach.
First, you need to remember that the body has released lots of hormones to help relax ligaments that hold your joints in place. These hormones continue during breast feeding. This is why it is important to allow up to 6-8 weeks post-partum before commencing exercise, especially running. If you have had a caesarian it may be longer, with abdominal muscles still repairing. This being the case (and regardless of whether you continued with exercise during your pregnancy), you must check with your doctor or midwife to get the all clear to start exercising first.
Once you have the all clear, here are my top tips for getting back into running:
- Start back with some brisk walking, and see how you feel. If you have access to a gym, use the cross-trainer or elliptical machine as it has no impact. Do what you can – somewhere around 20 minutes is a fantastic start.
- Complete your session after you have breastfed: I have heard a number of women say running is best after they have breastfeed due to heaviness, as well in case there are any issues with expressing.
- Gentle, gentle. You need to rebuild and let the body adapt, just like a beginner runner does. This involves a jog/walk program, starting with 30sec jog/30sec walk x 4-5 reps. Each session you can build on the time you run & walk, or increase the sets you do. Listen to your body – if you are recovering from each session really well, increase the time or sets. If you are pretty sore, you need to maintain that level and only increase to the next level when it’s starting to feel a bit more manageable.
- Wear supportive bras. Moving comfort is important. Find a bra with an adjustable strap. You need to ensure you reduce bounce whilst exercising or it will increase ligament length. Choosing the right bra can be confusing – check out this article by Women’s Health Magazine to steer you in the right direction.
- Listen to your body. Some days you just can’t get going, or have had no sleep, so swap your run for some stretching and strength. Yoga that is specifically designed for post-childbirth is highly recommended (if you have an iPhone or iPad there are plenty of great apps available that you can do from home).
- Strength: There are a number of exercises your midwife or physiotherapist may recommend for post-childbirth. For increasing strength for running: any single leg (squats, or lunges – but avoid if you have knee issues) or dynamic exercises (planks with reach) is great to get the body ready for the loads created during running – did you know you load 5 times your body weight during footstrike and during push off?
- Stay motivated: Make some goals, grab a friend, or enter a fun run – do whatever you can to stay focused and motivated to allow you to enter into a routine. You will then start to reap the rewards. A healthy and happy woman is a healthy and happy mum.
Melissa is a Triathlete and has been competing for over 10 years in Olympic and Ironman distances. She is an accredited Athletics Australia Coach and writes a regular column for Runners World. Aside from coaching others, Melissa is in the peak of her career and has some big races in 2012. We wish you all the best Mel!
If you need more advice from Running Coach Melissa feel free to leave a comment below or contact her directly by email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit her Soul Runner Facebook page or connect by Twitter
Have you struggled to get back into exercise following your pregnancy? Or did you find it easy and have some advice to help others get started?