Signs you should get moving

There are many stages after the birth of a baby: returning from the hospital, taking photos with the family, the first night of sleep (hallelujah!).

Milestones aren’t just for your new little one; the standard postpartum check-in with your OB-GYN, which usually takes place about six to eight weeks after delivery, is also a turning point for moms. During this visit, your doctor will check on your physical and emotional recovery and will likely perform a pelvic exam to make sure you are healing properly (like making sure your uterus is shrinking to its pre-pregnancy size). Hopefully, they’ll allow you to have sex and exercise.

This is a big deal for many new moms, especially if you’re a runner eager to start racking up the miles again. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your body is back to its pre-baby habits and ready for action.

When I started jogging a few months after giving birth to my second son, my hip flexors were very weak and sore. Climbing the neighborhood hill that I climb all the time felt like a totally new experience – and one I was trying with jelly hips.

For the whole two miles I was out there on the road, I kept wondering, Is this feeling normal? Even though my OB said it was all clear… is it Actually Okay?

“Every body goes through unique challenges during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum,” says Susie Crossland-Dwyer, ultramarathoner, Pilates instructor and founder of Studio S in Cincinnati, who gave birth to her son in 2021 and did a lot of well-tuned cross-training as she regained her mileage. “Having a professional assess your body and what it needs is crucial to returning to any type of movement practice.”

To help you figure out if you need a little more TLC when you get back to your running routine, even if your doctor has given the go-ahead, we’ve called in the experts for advice. They cover how to adapt to the signs that you’re ready for more movement, when to call it back, plus a handful of workout tips to focus on so you come back stronger than ever.

Signs you’re ready to start running again

Clearing your OB might seem like a big deal, but it’s really only the first step in getting back to exercising if you want to run without soreness or aches. Before you run a few miles, you also need to check a few other boxes: First, make sure you can run the same distance you want to run without any issues, says Andrea Yarbrough, DPT, orthopedic and pelvic floor expert with HOPE Physicians in Florida. It is also a good sign if you have no or very little pain after walking.

From there, another good indicator that you’re ready to run is whether you can do interval training comfortably. We’re not necessarily talking about speedwork, but rather alternating 1 minute of walking with 30 seconds of running and going up from there. And if you do weight training to support your cardio and you do it painlessly, you can probably go for a run knowing you’re ready.

Signs you need more prep work first

Still pee when you laugh or sneeze? Yes, it’s very common when you’re pregnant, but afterwards it can also be a warning sign that your pelvic floor muscles have been damaged or weakened and need extra attention. Other signs that these muscles need work include constipation, excess gas, or pain during sex, Yarbrough says. And if you don’t address pelvic floor pain or weakness before demanding more of your body through exercise, chances are it will only make the problem worse.

“These issues don’t usually resolve on their own or over time, and I’ve seen them cause other issues in the body, even issues like TMJ pain in the jaw, patterns of abnormal gait and poor balance,” says Yarbrough. A pelvic floor physical therapist can help address these issues by performing a full body assessment to identify muscle weakness or imbalances, then developing a plan with massage, mobility exercises, and strength movements.

Other sneaky feelings to watch out for: central fatigue, back pain, and pain or swelling around scars (from a C-section or vaginal tear). Feel one of them and you should cross-train to put up with your miles – and maybe just take it easy too. “Whenever I had these symptoms, I would reduce the number of running days per week, cut back on a run, or just rest,” says Crossland-Dwyer.

What to focus on in your workouts

Don’t worry: we don’t give you extra homework to try to fit into your already hectic, sleep-deprived schedule. A few simple additions and tweaks to your routine are enough to make your mileage comfortable. Yarbrough recommends focusing on things like deep breathing, single-leg balance, and glute strength. Try these three techniques whenever you have a few minutes to spare.

Do diaphragmatic breathing

“This practice doesn’t need to take extra time out of your day and is very effective in restoring the right amount of intra-abdominal pressure,” says Crossland-Dwyer. “Furthermore, since the pelvic floor and the diaphragm work together, healing occurs in tandem.”

To do this, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, just below your ribs. Inhale slowly, letting your belly rise as you inhale (your chest should stay still). Then slowly let your belly collapse as you exhale. Continue for five to 10 minutes.

Bonus: “It’s such an easy tool to use in the early postpartum period when life seems overwhelming,” says Crossland-Dwyer, who loved the technique so much to calm her nerves that she continues to do so at near bedtime. a year after giving birth to her son.

Strengthen your movements on one side only

Add moves like single-leg glute bridges and side planks to your workouts, suggests Yarbrough. These work the deep muscles and improve your stability, which will help you stay strong during the lateral motion of running.

Focusing on these strength exercises can also help protect your body from injury as they fight imbalances. This can help protect your muscles, joints and ligaments as you add more impact.

Walk before you run

Crossland-Dwyer says she was looking forward to returning to running after the birth: “I was in no rush to run long or fast, but I missed the joy, sweat and fatigue of a run.” But to start, she committed to walking 30 to 60 minutes a day to rebuild her stamina before adding the impact of running. And then, once she started running again, she continued to take frequent breaks for walks.

The good news is that walking is something you can probably start just weeks after your baby is born. The good news is that you can take baby in the stroller and immediately prepare for your return to the race.

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