You just had a baby! Congrats! You go to your 6-week post-delivery check up and get “all cleared” to resume exercise. Ready to reclaim your pre-baby body, you lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement for a run. Halfway around the block you start to feel something is “not quite the same down there” and realize you are in fact leaking pee. Holy sh*t. You feel a combination of surprise, frustration and anxiety that this is a normal part of motherhood you must now learn to deal with.
This is a story told by thousands of moms around the world. But it doesn’t need to be that way.
In dealing with the scenario described above, most women do one of two things:
- Throw on a panty liner and keep running – leaking be damned.
- Hold back tears, walk home feeling disempowered and weak, and avoid exercise of all kinds for the next 3 months or more.
There’s a much better option than either of those choices, and it offers better results for your fitness, mental health AND pelvic floor. It starts with learning how to restore your core, right after you give birth. There is NO need to wait until 6-weeks post delivery. In fact, most of your body’s natural spontaneous healing happens in the first 8-weeks after birth. Use this time to practice diaphragmatic breathing, gentle postural realignment exercises and pelvic floor lifts and releases (dynamic kegels). The problem is that most women in our medical system are not educated about the importance of this kind of post-baby self-care. They wait to do any exercise for 6-8 weeks, missing the best window during which to harness their body’s natural healing capacity. Furthermore, they get the ‘okay’ from their physician to resume exercise often without having an internal exam to test pelvic floor function. That’s kind of the equivalent to getting knee surgery, doing no rehab whatsoever for almost 2-months and then being told to just “resume your normal fitness activity.” Makes. No. Sense.
I am not an expert runner, so for more tips on returning to running after having a baby, I turned to Janie Sheppard, running coach, registered Kinesiologist and recent new mom herself. She’s part of The Runner’s Academy in Toronto that offers sport specific training and comprehensive programs to improve running gait and rehabilitate injury. I went to their facility and had my running gait analyzed on video – fascinating stuff! I’m a “prancer” (surprise surprise) Janie was able to correct my form in literally just 10 minutes of drills.
Here’s a short interview I did with Janie on the topic of returning to running after giving birth:
1) What is the number one mistake you see in postpartum women returning back to running after having a baby?
The number one mistake I see in postpartum women attempting to return back to running is not allowing sufficient recovery and jumping back in to early! Depending on the situation of course, we often recommend waiting at least 4 months before returning to running and even then, we recommend not returning to full bodyweight running. That’s where our Anti-Gravity Treadmill comes in (seen below)! It’s a great tool to ease back into 100% bodyweight running!
2) What are your top three tips to help new moms get back to running and avoid pelvic floor problems? Can leaking be avoided?
First really embrace the 6-week recovery time after baby comes and don’t try to do too much! Focus on pelvic floor restoration. This is hard especially for athletic type personalities, but it really is the best in the long run for your pelvic floor! Let it heal!
Second, be really mindful of your posture in the first weeks with baby. The changes that your body goes through; first growing that baby, and then suddenly having that baby exit your body, then add in the constant carrying/cuddling, and often breastfeeding and your posture/core is like “whaaaat”? Use pillows and use other people and use good chairs! This will help keep the pelvic floor in decent alignment.
Finally, rehab! Give yourself the gift of rehab with the right exercises and usually a pelvic floor internal assessment! Find the right instructor/therapist to help with these things!
Spend the time to do these three things and you are putting yourself in the optimal position to get back to running safely and with ideally no leaking!
3) What was it like as a recent new mom and Kinesiologist/Trainer experiencing postpartum running for the first time?
Well….you don’t know what you don’t know! It was a learning experience for me too! I hope that I can now help other moms (new or experienced!) to understand the best methods of returning to an active lifestyle and feel good about the choices they make! The biggest thing to accept is: there is no rush! We all know that being injured really sidelines you and so building back up properly will give you the best chance at avoiding injury later on when you really want to be active with your kids!
Be good to yourself!