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The 4 Phases of Return to Running Readiness for the Postpartum Mother

carlsbad physicaltherapy running womenshealth May 06, 2020

Many new mothers just like you identified as a runner before pregnancy and during pregnancy and are eager to get back out on the pavement. So, as a new mother how do you know if you are ready? This can be very individualized depending on your personal activity level and stage of recovery but a key point to be aware of is how you’ve prepared your body for this activity so far.

Your body has undergone some remarkable changes throughout your pregnancy and in the postpartum period. Just remember if you were returning to sport from an injury you would also gradually progress your fitness level, training and activity tolerance before jumping right back into the game. I can’t highlight enough this concept for new mothers. It’s essentially the same idea, first we must build the foundational strength and then progress for the given movement, exercise or activity to safely build strength and confidence for your future workouts and training.

Where to begin?

Most doctors at the 6 weeks postpartum appointment will give mothers the “all clear for activity”, yet most new mothers at this stage don’t exactly know what this means. In general most tolerance for daily activities and occasional walks are improving but a common fear lurks around of not wanting to injure, become symptomatic or feel “setback” if they progress too much too soon.

What to Do?

As mentioned above, it’s important to progress where you currently are and build your foundation before progressing activity and exercise such as running. Can you imagine if you tried to get your baby walking before they were even able to roll from tummy to their back? Sounds silly but it’s the same thing for trying to run before your body has the strength and movement pattern foundation and endurance to withstand the demands of running.

4 Phases of Return to Running Postpartum Readiness

Phase 1: Build Foundational Strength

Before getting too eager to return to running, the foundational strength must be in place. Breathing with awareness to the core system, core, pelvic floor and glute strengthening are vital in this stage. Here are some examples of exercises that can begin building your foundation.

Phase 2A: Walking

According to the Return to Running Postnatal Guidelines and clinical experience a walking program is a great place to start. You must be able to walk 30 minutes, pain free at a moderate pace before progressing to a light plyometric and walk/jog program.

Phase 2B: Inclines

Walking inclines allows your body to practice the appropriate posture and positioning for efficient running and building intensity. This is recommended once you’ve met the above walking tolerance recommendation. When completing inclines remember to lean into the hill for appropriate trunk position and emphasize the rotation through your hips as you push off. As you go downhill, stand tall rather than leaning backwards and continue to emphasize the rotation.

Phase 3: Exercise Progressions

Starting from an exercise from the ground to progressing into a partial standing exercise is a realistic way to prepare and train your body appropriately for the demands of your sport. Here’s an example of a graded exposure exercise progression for light plyometrics to prepare for impact.

 Phase 4: Goal Specific Training

Implementing graded return to running and goal specific training (short and long term) will direct how training and exercise will look. Are you looking to tolerate a daily run around the neighborhood or train for a half marathon? Your goals will determine your exercise progressions and training volume.

During all phases of training monitor your signs and symptoms for postnatal issues and seek guidance and coaching from a pelvic health physical therapist to optimize your training progress as well as address any potential symptoms that may arise with activity or at rest.

Key Signs and Symptoms of Pelvic Floor and/or Abdominal wall dysfunction
  • Urinary and/or fecal incontinence
  • Urinary and/or fecal urgency with difficulty to defer
  • Pelvic “pressure” or “heaviness”
  • Feeling like something is “in the way” when going to the bathroom #1 or #2
  • Reduced abdominal strength and compromised abdominal tissue (ie. Diastasis Recti, C-section scar)
  • Musculoskeletal back, hip or pelvic pain

Are you looking for more information about running and eliminating leaking?

Download our Leakproof Running Guide for the Postpartum Woman HERE!

This FREE pdf is filled with a step by step guide to get you back on the road to symptom free running with strength and confidence! We’re in your corner to provide encouragement and help you learn more about how your body can recover, heal and strengthen to build movement confidence in your life as an active mother.
Please take action and sign up for a phone consult with Inside Out’s performance PT and pelvic health specialist, Dr. Lindsey by heading to our contact page listed below. On the call we can discuss your goals, symptoms and learn details about the best customized action plan for you. We’re in your corner to provide encouragement and help you learn more about how your body can recover, heal and strengthen to build movement confidence in your fourth trimester and life beyond as a new mother.

Most people don’t know how to stay healthy and fit without getting hurt. At Inside Out Strength and Performance we provide a clear plan to get you in the best shape of your life, without getting injured, so that you can be active and confident that you’ll feel your best for years to come.

We help North County San Diego’s active adults and runners dealing with pain or injury get back to living a pain-free, strong, and confident life.

We are the Strength Docs who help active adults and runners live a strong, confident, and pain-free life. Fill out our contact form to get a clear plan and get started.


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