Running during Pregnancy and Postpartum

As you know, I am a Mom of 3 boys close in age.  Each pregnancy has been a different learning experience, especially as an active woman.  My postpartum experience has been the most interesting and is the reason I am led into this current journey of educating/advocating and training proper pre/post-natal fitness to women.  I LOVE running, and I mean long hard trail running.  I know some of you will instantly think I am crazy for saying this but it is my escape and stress relief that works for me.  Everyone has their own fitness journey and so take a read of mine and what I learned from it while mixing in 3 boys along the way.

So let’s start from just before I got pregnant with my first son…… I was super active, I really just got into the whole fitness and nutrition approach.  I was young enough to get in good shape quick but old enough that I need to put some effort into it (I am not even close to those days anymore ;P).  I was newly married and in the best shape of my life and then I got pregnant. I knew NOTHING about pregnancy or postpartum exercise.  I had no close women to help guide me but I thought it would be fine, it’s part of life, no big deal.  So I kept running and continued to do what I usually did and then once my belly got bigger I just ran and did some at home dvds. I thought by going for slow runs I was being smart by not pushing it.  After delivering my first son I returned to running 5 weeks postpartum.  It didn’t feel right so the following week I had my 6 weeks doctor’s appointment and my doctor said everything looks to be healing and you are ok to return to everything.  I was a bit shocked but was excited to be told I can go back to my normal routine!  I started running every day.  I started to notice I couldn’t hold my pee as long anymore so I literally planned my runs around bathroom breaks.  I would even limit my water intake until after my runs.  My poor sister always came running with me because she was my look out while I was peeing in the bush.  I couldn’t even last 30 minutes without having to use the washroom.  I ran my 1st half marathon and got a great time but had to almost dehydrate myself before the run so I wouldn’t have to stop.  Shortly after that run I got pregnant with my 2nd boy.

During my 2nd pregnancy I ran a 5k race at 35 weeks pregnant.  I felt great and had no issues.  I returned to running at 8 weeks postpartum and noticed the similar issues after my 1st but just thought that was life and how it was going to be now.  I ended up running a trail race at 4 months postpartum.  I felt great the whole race until the end were I ended up leaking urine the last 1km of the race.  I ended up placing first in my age group and instead of being happy I was frustrated and annoyed that my body was failing me.  I was healthy fit and thought I was doing the right thing but still ended up with this issue.  Not only that but the next day I ended up with a painful pubis symphysis and couldn’t walk without pain for over a week.  I had enough so finally decided to go to a women’s health physio (luckily I have a few friends that told me about women’s physios since I had no idea they existed).  I learned a lot about my body and started to do my own research on how I could exercise smartly and return to running.

Surprise pregnant again. This time around I was committed to doing things differently and with the education I earned over the past year I knew I could continue to exercise, I just had to go about it a different way.  I signed up to do remote coaching with Briana Battles.  She is a great strength and conditioning coach based out of the U.S. who specialized in pre and post-natal women.  She understood the athletic mindset and how some women need and want more then low intensity exercises.  She recommended I don’t run after the 1st trimester unless I was working with a women’s physio who was okay with it. I agreed. I followed a great strength training and condition program that allowed me to workout at my level while setting me up to avoid more issues postpartum.  This time postpartum I started core pelvic floor exercises at 2 weeks postpartum.  Then slowly increasing walks.  At 4 weeks postpartum I started strength training on my own and with Kaye Burrows from Core Love Fitness. Then at about 8 weeks postpartum I started doing hill walks on my treadmill to get started.  I increased to slow stair walks. Once my body felt good I increase it to do short 15-30 seconds hill/incline intervals.  I am now 6 months postpartum and I do hill intervals once a week and just started to incorporate 1 steady state run in a week.  I have had no incontinence issues or pubic bone pain. I know I have not had any issues this time around because I have been very deliberate with my strength training, core training, walks and now runs. I feel strong and just as fit as I did the last 2 pregnancies, just this time my pelvic floor and core also feel strong.

**I learned when returning to running the slow way is the fast way!**

 I feel better this time around by giving my body time to heal and progress my movements over time.  I will continue to assess where I am with running and progress myself as I feel fit.  Being able to run uninjured for many of years to come is way more important to me than being able to run every day for this short postpartum time.

·         What worked for me may not work for you! Everyone is different and needs to be assessed individually.  There is no single right program for anyone. Seeing a professional can help you get your own guidelines to safely return to running.

·         If you are not a runner then there are many forms of exercise to do besides running!  I do not think you have to be a runner unless you really love it. But most moms do run after their children at some point so learning a few strategies for when you do have to chase your children could be helpful.

 

**Stress incontinence is very common, but not normal and doesn’t have to be accepted.**

 

Tips/Guidance for pregnancy and postpartum running

-          See a women’s health physio!!

-          Running after your 1st trimester isn’t recommended unless you are working with a women’s health physio

-          Continue to maintain strength training throughout your entire pregnancy and postpartum based on individual abilities

-          When returning to running start slow with hill walks- then hill sprints-flat sprints- then slow steady state running

-          Incline walking or running gets your bum untucked and you are forced into more of a lean ski jump position so your ribs are stacked over your hips.

-          Focus on breathing not holding your breath

-          Don’t hold your abs or oblique’s- relax your belly

-          Sprints should start at 10s-15s and then add time to them slowly

-          Progress overtime

-          Always stop if you are feeling symptoms/leaking or have pain

 

**Please go see a women’s health physio!!**