Note: I am not a licensed physical therapist or physician. The exercises provided in this post are simply exercise I have done to help strengthen my weak pelvic floor when beginning to run again postpartum. If you feel you are suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction or diastasis recti please seek out a licensed physical therapist.
The most common question I get these days is about when I started running again postpartum. The truth is everyone is different when it comes to postpartum running; however, one thing that remains consistent across the board when running again postpartum is: You cannot fully train or run consistently again until you strengthen your pelvic floor.
What is your pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is found in both men and and women and supports the ligaments, connective tissues, and muscles of the bladder, rectum, uterus, and vagina.
How can a weak pelvic floor affect your running?
The pelvic floor works like a cushion for any pressure that is coming towards the pelvis. When we are running the impact from each stride puts pressure on the pelvis. Overtime that excess pressure can cause the pelvic floor muscles to begin to weaken and give way.
The added pressure from pregnancy and delivery can add even more stress on the pelvic floor. When beginning to run again postpartum your pelvic floor is weak so it is a necessity for women to work to strengthen this area prior to resuming your running routine.
When can you start doing pelvic floor exercises?
It is recommended that you wait until you get clearance from your Doctor to resume exercising, which is typically around 6 weeks. Pelvic floor exercises are a great thing you can add in prior to getting clearance. The exercises are low impact and can be done as soon as you feel up to it.
I would not recommend starting them immediately however; give yourself some time to recover from the stress and exhaustion of delivery and your new family. Once you begin to feel recovered and no longer in pain, then you can begin pelvic floor exercises.
Now that we know a little bit more about the pelvic floor and its importance to postpartum running – what do we do strengthen it?
I’m sure you’ve heard the importance of kegles both during pregnancy and after. They are great at helping to strengthen the pelvic floor. On top of kegles here are 4 simple exercises I did to help regain strength in my pelvic floor:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Engage your pelvis, inhale, and lift your hips up off the floor. Hold here for 10-15 seconds and then lower your hips back down. Repeat 10-15 times.
They key for this exercise is to make sure you are engaging your pelvic floor the entire time.
Lie on your back with your knee bents and your feet flat on the floor hip width apart (same as the bridge). Take a deep breath and exhale. As you exhale engage your pelvic muscles and pull your stomach in towards the floor. At the same time slide one foot out until it is parallel to the floor. Bring the leg back in and repeat with the opposite leg. Repeat 10-15 times on each leg.
Stand with your back against a wall with your feet hip width apart. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, lower yourself into a 90 degree squat against the wall. Make sure you are engaging your pelvic floor muscles and pulling your stomach in towards your spine. Hold this for 20 seconds and scoot yourself back up the wall. Repeat another 8-10 times.
Continue repeating this exercise and increase the amount of time you hold the wall sit working your way up to 60 seconds.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Raise your legs up until they are parallel to the floor. Engage your pelvic floor muscles and pull your stomach towards you spine. As you do this lower one heel, tap it to the floor, and then bring it back up. Repeat 15 times with each leg.
Bonus: Breathing practice to help strengthen the pelvic floor.
Want a simple technique you can do quickly if you don’t have time to go through a strength routine?
Start by lying down on your back, your head supported, and your knees bent. Place one hand on your upper abdomen and the other on your chest.
Breathe in slowly so that you can feel your belly rise underneath your hand. Breathe out by letting your rib cage fall back to resting position. You want your chest to remain as still as possible during this breathing exercise. This is also known as “belly breathing.”
Your pelvic floor is something that shouldn’t be overlooked when beginning the journey to run again postpartum. In the beginning it can feel very hard and frustrating, but focusing on simple exercises and strengthening techniques will get you back to feeling more like yourself!
Don’t neglect your pelvic floor!