Kirsten is one of our Masters Physiotherapists, a certified Health Coach, Crossfit coach and mum of 2 girls. In this blog she’ll take you through some of the considerations for returning to running or high intensity exercise after having a baby….
Getting back to or even just starting a new exercise routine after having a baby can be one of the best things we can do for ourselves as mums. There are loads of reasons why we want to do this and each of us will have our own priorities - physical health, mental health, body composition, social connection and even just feeling a little but like your “old self” are all things I hear often and can certainly relate to with my own journey into motherhood. Unfortunately there is also a mind boggling amount of information out there about what you should or shouldn’t be doing - add in sleep deprivation, hormonal fluctuations and the general adjustment to life with a baby - it's all too easy to feel overwhelmed.
So in this blog I’m really hoping to simplify that and give you some guidance around what choices you could be making for yourself when it comes to returning to exercise, particularly higher impact exercise like running, F45, gym classes or sport.
Firstly, It’s really important to take the time to connect with why you want to do it. I really want you to separate this from why you think you “should'' do it. Yes there are a few things that are really important to do when we’re recovering from birth, but in my experience, as a new mum, we’re already struggling to keep up on the escalator of expectations moving at double speed - some of these are our own expectations and then there’s those of society and people around us. Ask yourself if you really want to go back to running/gym/sport now or are you’re doing it because you think you should be at that point by now?
Before having kids I would definitely have told you that my exercise was for physical health, body aesthetics, and keeping up with how I thought I “should” look and how fit I “should” be, especially given that I was a Physio and a CrossFit coach. Since the addition of my 2 girls to my life over the past 5 years, I’ve realised that I placed an extraordinary amount of pressure on myself to get back to all that. Not that those reasons were wrong in any way but more that I could have been kinder to myself over time and given myself some credit for what I was actually achieving. Also know that your reasons for exercising can change over time and that’s absolutely fine too. These days I find that the benefits I get for my mental wellbeing from exercise far outweigh anything else.
On the topic of expectations let’s take a quick look at the reality of what many women are experiencing in the pregnancy and postpartum period. There are many things that are more common than we think:
Now whilst those stats aren’t exactly sunshine and rainbows the good news is that there are simple steps we can take to improve them with a huge component being the advice and support a mother has during this time. Luckily for you that’s a massive part of what we do at AP, so let’s take a look at some of that advice..
So it’s time to consider if you are ready to return to exercise at the level you’re aiming for. There are a few key factors that come into this decision and whilst some health providers might say that you’re cleared for exercise from 6 weeks postpartum this doesn’t mean you can jump straight back in. In reality the healing process continues long past this time. When we consider other musculoskeletal injuries or post surgical rehab protocols (like a knee or shoulder for example) we are often working with clients for several months prior to them returning to exercise and sport so we need to be thinking the same way after having a baby.
Ideally we would love it if every new mum had access to a postnatal check with a qualified Pelvic Health Physiotherapist so if you can afford it then this really is your best first step.
Let’s take a look at the key screening questions you want to ask yourself about your pelvic health:
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, we would really encourage you to book an appointment with one of our Women's Health team to ensure you get the appropriate assessment and treatment before progressing on your exercise journey.
If you answered “no” then that’s great. A few other things you might want to consider:
So if you’ve got to a place where you can honestly say that you have no pelvic symptoms, you’ve been building up your walking gradually, you’ve done the boring basic strength work and you think you’re eating and sleeping well enough, then congrats you’re likely ready to ramp things up to the next level with your exercise! Continue to build up gradually and allow yourself the chance to rest and recover as you move through the different phases of your child’s first few years! If at anytime you experience symptoms or need advice then we’re here.
If you feel like you have more questions than answers….or you may be wondering how some of these factors apply to you individually then we’re here to help and we have a range of services available:
Book in for a complimentary phone consultation to have quick chat with one of our team about your situation.
If you’re experiencing any pelvic symptoms - book in for a consultation with one of our Womens Health physiotherapists.
If you’re not experiencing any symptoms and are looking for strengthening advice and testing for return to sport readiness then book in for a Post Natal Return to running assessment with Kirsten.