How to return to exercise safely after having a baby

By Wendy, Running coach

Many mums look to return to their old exercise patterns after having a baby in order to feel themselves again or fit back into old clothes. I definitely fell into both of these camps. If you can even remember the feel-good buzz you get after high impact exercise, you may be looking forward to a hit of it to offset the tiredness of parenthood.

But wait… things may not be as they seem! Your body has changed hugely in the past year or so and one of the most important things to consider when returning to running is how well your pelvic floor muscles are working. Running is a high impact exercise and your pelvic floor muscles will have to contract thousands of times over a 30-minute run.

I would recommend that every new mum sees a Women’s Health physio. In France, its standard practice. It’s a great investment and you can get a referral from your doctor on the NHS if you ask.

Women’s Health Physio, Sarah Crosby, shared her advice.

It is a good idea to start some lower impact exercise after having a baby before you begin running. Here are some suggestions and rough timelines to consider:

0-6 weeks: Begin pelvic floor muscle exercises as soon as possible after the birth of your baby, no matter the type of delivery that you had. As soon as you are able, start gentle walking and build up gradually to start conditioning your body to exercise.

6-12 weeks: You can begin doing some resistance-type exercises or bodyweight exercises, such as squats and lunges, as long as you are symptom free! Incorporate your pelvic floor exercises into your resistance exercises. Pilates is a great option that can also benefit long-term health.

12 weeks +: You may feel ready to start running but many women don’t yet, so please listen to your body! If you are breastfeeding, then you will still be producing relaxin and these hormones can make it more challenging to return to running, as your tissues may still be more lax. Some women prefer to wait until they stop breastfeeding before they begin running.

As a running coach, I suggest returning to running with a run/walk program. I recommend a structure like Couch to 5k (there is a free NHS app), which builds up gradually over 8 weeks giving your body time to adjust to the impact and build cardio fitness.

Your feet can change (and often grow!) when you go through pregnancy, so consider if your old trainers are still suitable. You may need a more supportive shoe or a wider fitting. Any local independent running shop can give you great advice.

Do not feel you have to wear two sports bras! Invest in a decent sports bra that can support you during activity and will last. There are some feeding or maternity versions. Check out Boobydoo.co.uk for options.

And finally, running with your little one in the buggy is a great option for multitasking, but they need to be 6 months and be in a suitable buggy. More info on that at runningbuggies.com.