As many of you know I started running 3 weeks postpartum after I was given a clearance from my OBGYN. I struggled a lot when I was pregnant wondering how I would know when I was ready to run again postpartum. There is that constant question so many postpartum women ask – how soon is too soon?
My first run postpartum was only 1 mile and then I took several days off before running again. If you look up when others started running again you get a VERY wide variety of answers. I read of women who didn’t run for 6 months, who ran at 6 weeks, and even some who ran 5-10 days after delivery.
I will admit that a big reasons I was looking into it was that I had set a stretch goal of running the Boston Marathon in April. I didn’t want to come back too soon and risk injury but I also wanted enough time to properly train so that I would go into Boston feeling prepared.
I never had a plan on when I would run again before giving birth. Even the week after I figured I would never run again. I definietly was not going to be one of those women that ran 5-10 days after birth. I was too tired, sore, and not anywhere near recovered. In fact I could think of nothing better than to simply sit at home, snuggle my baby, and rest when I could. Running was so far from my mind.
Somehow miraculously after 2-3 weeks, I started to feel like me again. I was getting a little tired of being inside too much, aside from a few walks, and I started getting the itch to run again. At first, I thought 3 weeks was too soon. Originally it seemed like I would want to take the full 6 weeks, but I started to feel like me again and was missing it. I spoke with my OBGYN and when she gave me the clear, I was a bit surprised but excited.
My first run wasn’t amazing but it also didn’t feel bad. The biggest thing I noticed was the weakness in my pelvic floor and core and knew I would have to focus on those areas to be able to run consistently and stay healthy. It took me several weeks to get to the point where I was running consistently but by 6 weeks I was running 4 days a week.
So enough about me, lets get back to the original question at hand – How soon is too soon to run postpartum?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a direct answer but there are several different things to look at before making the decision.
Discuss with Your Doctor – This is at the top of the list because I believe it to be the most important. Your doctor knows the most about your delivery. They understand what you went through, how difficult it was, and if there were any complications. My doctor was supportive of me running again because while I did require stitches they were healing fine, I didn’t have any other complications, and I was extremely active throughout my pregnancy. Discuss with your doctor before you start running again.
Type of Birth/Complications – The type of birth you had will also be a factor in determining when you should run again. Things such as a c-section, vaginal birth, tearing, episiotomy, or other complications may change when your body is ready to run again. These all play into why there isn’t one blanket answer for the question.
Listening to Your Body – As runners we are very in tune with our bodies. We often know when something is wrong before there are any other symptoms. No matter when you start back it is important to listen to your body and make sure that it is responding well. Does it mean you are going to feel 100% the first run back postpartum? Probably not. However; listening to your body is essential to coming back healthy and strong. If you feel you are doing too much – take time off. A day or two (or week) extra off is not going to kill you. It’s better to be healthy.
Activity During Pregnancy – We all have different pregnancies and therefor do different types of activity during pregnancy. If you are someone who had to stop all activity due to pregnancy complications in the first trimester then it may be beneficial to take longer coming back. Even though I stopped running at 36 weeks, I still stayed active and ran throughout a majority of my entire pregnancy which I do think has helped when returning to running postpartum (as well as during labor and delivery).
There isn’t a magic number that can tell you when to start running again. No matter where you look at who you talk to everyone will have a different opinion and everyones experience coming back to running postpartum will be different. Its essential to take care of yourself, listen to your body, and realize it’s all a process. It may take a while but you will feel like you again eventually.
I try to start each day out without any expectations right now. I have a training plan but realize that it may have to change depending on how my body feels. The most important thing is that I listen to my body and if it needs to stop, I stop. Life with a new baby and running can often get a little crazy, so for me having no expectations is the best way to approach each day.