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Returning to running post pregnancy – the first steps

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

Like a lot of people, I was advised by the midwives when I left hospital to wait until my six week check up before I started any intense exercise.

In my last post I talked about walking and exercises for my pelvic floor and abdominal separation, which I started about a week after my daughter was born. I also mentioned that I didn’t really feel like running for most of that six weeks, in large part due to blood loss during delivery.

It didn’t take long though until the desire to run started creeping in. I had been attempting to rebuild my fitness by including hills in my walks, which definitely got the heart rate up. After a few weeks of pushing the pram up all the hills in my area, I started to want to push myself a bit harder.

As I got closer to the magic six week mark, my concerns about blood loss had subsided and I was feeling pretty good. I actually felt like I probably could have run, but managed to resist the urge for the most part.

These are the steps I took to get ready to start back running:

  1. Made appointments with GP and physio.

  2. Two small trial runs in the couple of days before my six week check ups. These were at a very light pace and I ran for one minute, walked or rested for two minutes, and repeated five times. It did feel a bit weird after a having a break and I could definitely feel the drop in fitness. But I didn’t have any discomfort and it meant I had some info about how I was feeling for the physio.

  3. GP appointment for my six week check up, everything had healed well and I was given the ok to run from a medical perspective. I did need a blood test to check my iron levels as they were low when I left the hospital due to the blood loss. But I hadn’t noticed any symptoms of low iron so I didn’t give it much thought.

  4. Physio appointment to check my pelvic floor and general strength. The physio helped me refine the pelvic floor exercises I had been doing to better isolate the muscles, which was extremely helpful. She gave me a set of strength exercises to do to start rebuilding some of what I lost during pregnancy. We also discussed the short runs I had done, and she suggested continuing with the format I had been doing, then building it up to either longer intervals or longer total time running.

I ended up doing both. Over the next two weeks, my runs were:

  1. 1min run/1 min walk for 3km

  2. Laps around the block (approx 4 minutes) with a short standing recovery for 20 minutes

  3. 3km easy run

  4. parkrun – first 2km walking with pram, last 3km easy run

  5. 30 minute easy run x 3

I walked on all the non running days, aiming for a total of 50km total for the week.

In that time, I had three more physio appointments to continue to assess my pelvic floor and build up the strength work. The strength exercises included core work to help with the separation (which was mild) and glute, hamstring and calf exercises to get my body ready to increase the running load again. Even though I did continue running through pregnancy, the load and intensity were not the same, and I want to make sure I come back injury free!

The last thing that happened in the very early stages of starting back running was that I found out my iron levels were very low. This wasn’t really a surprise due to the blood loss I had during delivery, but I wasn’t feeling particularly tired or run down (well, I am tired, but I’ve got a young baby! I thought it was normal).

They offered me tablets or an iron infusion, I opted for the infusion because it works faster and I thought it would help with running. I had been finding it harder than usual, but again I put it down to fitness and having had a baby.

The doctor did advise caution when running with such low iron. Since I had already started, was generally feeling okay and was taking it pretty easy I decided to keep going and look forward to it hopefully becoming a bit easier!

Image of me running parkrun after giving birth
My first (part) parkrun back after giving birth

Read about running during weeks nine and ten postpartum here.

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