Pregnant and postnatal women are now encouraged to exercise a little every day, with the same guidelines from the government as the rest of the population. This is fantastic; however there is now much research we should take heed of. When and how should we go about getting started?
Many Mums want to get out running within days or weeks of having a new baby. They want to get rid of ‘baby weight and excess fat gained in pregnancy’, or simply feel like they are getting fit again, and improving their stamina to be an active Mummy. In most cases this is a positive thought process, however the physiological changes to the women’s body during pregnancy and childbirth dictate that to ‘run too soon’ is unwise.
The Biomechanic changes of a pregnant and postnatal body dictate that high impact exercise is not recommended until further into the postnatal stages. Internal aspects and changes to the body such as, a weakened pelvic floor due to carrying the baby and the stress often caused to the pelvic floor during pregnancy must be strengthened before a postnatal Mum should run.
It is not uncommon for the abdominal muscles to not completely return to their pre pregnancy position without specific core exercises, therefore the core may be weakened and not strong enough to commence a running programme which could lead to further damage and complications to the body either immediately or further down the line.
Then we have the hormone relaxin which allows the ligaments and tendons to slacken and the joints to become prone to injury (during high impact exercise) as they are not supported. Relaxin remains in the body for at least 3 months in a non breast feeding Mum and up to 3 months after a breast feeding Mum has stopped lactating (feeding).
So the bottom line is- Build your foundations as a priority. Never underestimate the benefits of taking your child for a brisk walk in the buggy; and when you feel stronger and you wish to increase your workload and fitness level by running, simply follow the basic rules on when the time is right physiologically and listen to your body.
It is a good idea to get an up to date gait analysis, as your anatomy may well have changed during pregnancy and childbirth and you might require new running footwear.
Don’t despair, you WILL run again. Don’t run before you can walk. Walking and low impact exercise is highly recommended, from the early postnatal stages- Ideally under the eye of a postnatal fitness expert within a supportive class environment.
Walking can be progressed easily increasing speed & distance which in turn will improve fitness levels, increase stamina and massively improve our mood. It is also kinder to joints especially with hormones still present. Research into postnatal depression strongly confirms that exercise & outdoor environments massively reduce the risk of postnatal depression by raising the endorphin (happy hormone) surge you get from this type of exercise. So once you have a strong pelvic floor and your abdominals have recovered and closed, you are good to go.
But so many Mums want to run straight away.......
By 6-9 months most Mums are generally feeling fully recovered physically, with a Mummy routine starting to take shape. This is a great time to step up the physical activity level, especially if you have enjoyed fitness in your life pre pregnancy and have walked or exercised since the birth of your child. Prior to this many biomechanic issues may hinder your ability or enjoyment of running, and can cause immediate discomfort or long term damage, especially to the pelvis, joints and pelvic floor. We haven’t mentioned your precious cargo. It is not recommended that you run with your baby in a buggy until 6 months to ensure his/her neck and head are strong enough to withstand the motion and terrain changes. If you are running with a buggy or purchasing a running buggy, please read the small print. Not all buggies are labelled as suitable to run with so check the manufacturer’s small print. Running buggies must currently have a break, a wrist strap and a lockable front wheel. It is ideal to be able to adjust the handlebars to ensure good posture is achievable when buggy running. Most buggies sold in Europe are sold as suitable to run with once your baby is 6 or 9 months old.
Remember: “Don’t run before you can walk!” Build and restore your foundations, ensure your core and pelvic floor are strong before embarking on run training and you will then be able to run and run. Ignore the signs and you will take one run forwards and two back!!!
This lady knows what she is talking abut - Emma Redding, Buggyfit Founder retrained as a personal trainer when her son was 10 months old. She choose a course with a heavy emphasis on pre and postnatal fitness and became a member of The Guild of Postnatal Exercise Teachers doing further research into safe and effective workouts creating created the Buggyfit programs of exercise. Check out the nationwide buggyfit classes www.buggyfit.co.uk