Returning to Running Postnatally

Returning to Running Postnatally

Running is a popular and convenient form of physical activity that many women wish to return to after having their baby. However, pregnancy places significant pressure on our bodies and tissue healing postnatally can take up to 4 to 6 months. It is important to focus on building core strength in the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles prior to returning to running. Running is physically demanding and involves an increase in intra-abdominal pressure as well as load transmission of up to 2.5times your body weight up through each leg and into your pelvis. If your body is not ready for the demands of the additional impact and load from running, you may experience one or more of the following:

  • Urinary leakage
  • Leaking from your bowel
  • Urinary or faecal urgency, making it difficult to hold on
  • A feeling of vaginal dragging, heaviness or sensation of ‘something coming down’ underneath
  • Pain at the front, back or inside your pelvis

If you are experiencing any of these issues, it is recommended you see a specialised Women’s health physiotherapist who will carry out a pelvic floor, low back and abdominal wall check prior to providing you with an individualised rehabilitation programme prior to returning to running.

Return to running postnatally is NOT recommended before 3 months postnatal. Low impact exercise is recommended instead up to this time eg walking briskly, cycling, swimming, pilates or yoga.

The new International ‘Returning to running postnatal’ guidelines (Goom, Donnelly and Brockwell 2019) recommend that you should be able to perform the following exercises with good control and without the symptoms listed above before starting running.

  • Walking 30 minutes
  • Single leg balance 10 seconds
  • Single leg squat 10 repetitions each side
  • Jog on the spot 1 minute
  • Forward bounds 10 repetitions
  • Hop in place 10 repetitions each leg
  • Single leg ‘running man’: opposite arm and hip flexion/extension (bent knee) 10 repetitions each side


In addition:

  • Single leg calf raise x20 reps each side
  • Single leg sit to stand x20 reps each side
  • Single leg ‘shoulder bridge’ x20 reps
  • Side lying leg lifts x20 reps each side

Once you are ready to return to running it is advisable to start gently eg with a ‘couch to 5k’ App and build speed and distance slowly.

If you are breastfeeding, it is advisable to feed your baby prior to exercise or to pump milk for use later, as enlarged breasts will cause discomfort during high impact activity. A supportive, well-fitting sports bra is also recommended. It is of note that moderate to vigorous exercise has not been shown to affect the quality or supply of your breast milk. You will also need to increase your water intake to stay hydrated when exercising.

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