Returning (or starting) running after having a baby is as individual as the birth experience itself, as evidenced by the numerous replies we received on our Facebook page after posting mother runner Erin’s question about post-partum exercise. Of course Erin would be getting the official OK from her OB, but she acknowledged at two weeks post-partum that she was eager to get the go-ahead, and was curious how other mother runners eased back into, or discovered, an active lifestyle.
Sage BTDT advice from the tribe included:
If it’s your first time… Keep in mind just how much running and exercise, if at all, you did pre-baby: “I wasn’t a runner beforehand,” says Katherine B. “I’d say take it slow. Get a nice jogging stroller.” Taking walks, building up to a slow run, and generally taking it easy for a while seems to be a good bet for many mother runners.
It may take a while (a long while), and that’s totally fine. “While some people leave the hospital in their running shoes, for others it takes months for certain things to go back in place,” says Monica F., who admits to not finding a regular running routine until three years after her baby was born. Melisa B. found it took her “about eight months to run and not hurt.” Christy R. says she started running at four weeks, but started “VERY gently.” She waited until six weeks to get “a solid, good three-plus mile run in. Just listen to your body. If you hurt at all, slow down a little.” Angela S. says her return to running was slower the second time around. “It has taken a lot longer—as in seven months—for my hips, knees, and feet to recover from a grueling pregnancy,” she says.
Or it could be much sooner. Angela M. offered this: “If you’ve been running (or exercising) during your pregnancy and had a normal, non-surgical birth, 6 weeks seems to be the magic number.” Jen S. says she was back walking fairly quickly and running again by two weeks post-partum. “I think a lot depends on how much you ran while pregnant,” she says. “I ran throughout and it was super easy to jump back into it.”
If you had a C-section… Katie K. waited about 9 weeks after having her C-section. Karen S., meanwhile, waited 7 weeks. “I was a new runner. But I started super, super slow,” Karen says. “And I always pumped before going out so I didn’t have tenderness.”
Nursing may affect your running … Several mother runners mentioned nursing and breast tenderness as reasons for postponing a full-on return to hitting the pavement. Says Belle K.: “After I quit nursing—seven months—and my boobs felt ‘normal,’ really closer to nine months, I did run-walk with a two minute run/two minute walk and then worked my way up, but only for like 20-25 minutes at first.” If you are breastfeeding, adds Angela R., be gentle with your body. “It is already working SO hard. Women need to be gentle and take it slow after baby.” And when you do run (and if you’re breastfeeding), Jami T. believes hydration—and rest—is incredibly important.
No matter how long it takes your body to feel up for a run, remember that you will eventually be back on the roads and trails, and signing on for races. Angela S., who took seven months to rest and recover after baby #2, started with walking and worked up to running a half-marathon. “It was slower than normal,” she says, “But I’ve ramped it up from there.”
When did you return to running post-baby? What tips would you offer mother runners who are anxious to start exercising again?