Returning to Running Postnatally

How to get back to running after childbirth



Runners just want to run! We understand that many new Mums want to get back out there and feel like themselves again. It’s efficient. It’s a great way to get some fresh air, have ‘me time’ and feel that runner’s high. We hear you…

However, there are specific return to running guidelines, published by British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2019, that outline certain milestones (that focus on strength, endurance and form) we want women to be able to achieve before commencing a gradual running program such as the couch to 5km app. 

In order to be run-ready, your body needs adequate time to heal and regain strength. We are all familiar with the importance of injury recovery and rehabilitation after a sporting injury. We wouldn’t consider an athlete returning to football or netball following an ACL injury until they have progressed through their rehabilitation and were ‘match ready’. We need to apply this same principle to return to exercise postnatally and give the same level of consideration for recovery that we do for sports injuries. 

It is recommended that women do not return to running until at least 12 weeks postpartum. The 6-week milestone is one that serves as a tick box confirming readiness and suitability to return to an exercise class or sporting activity. The healing process, however, extends well beyond this. Recovery time for the tissues is understood to be between 4-6 months (Shek et al.2010, Stær-Jensen et al. 2015)​, well beyond the traditional concept of full recovery by the 6-week postnatal check. Soft tissue is only about 50-75% healed at 6 weeks. 

So what can you do for the first 12 weeks to get back on the road?

There are so many things you can do in the early period postnatally that don’t involve running, but will be all beneficial in getting you back to pounding the pavement in no time – potentially even stronger than before!

  • Book a postnatal assessment with a Physiotherapist specialising in this area. During this appointment your Physio will go through a thorough assessment of your movement and strength (including abdominal and pelvic floor muscles) and discuss a plan to help reach your goals. 
  • Walking can be started as soon as comfortable after giving birth (and the catheter has been removed). Start when you feel up to it and gradually build up your distance. 
  • Commence abdominal and pelvic floor exercises as guided by your physiotherapist. The aim of the pelvic floor exercises is to help regain awareness of the pelvic floor and facilitate the activation and relaxation of these muscles. It is normal to have reduced sensation around this area, so it can take some time to build up. No one size fits all, so these should be tailored to your needs.
  • Low impact strength training (in the absence of any complications/contraindications) should begin with body weight exercises first and progress to weights when ready. Your physio can guide you to ensure good technique that doesn’t place additional strain on abdominal separation.

running after childbirth

This diagram shows a typical progression of exercise during the early postpartum period. Following a structured approach will help optimise recovery no matter the type of delivery while reducing the risk of adverse outcomes.  With this in mind remember everyone is different! If you are looking to return to running postnatally, book in for a more individualised assessment to ensure a safe and smooth return to the activities you love!

The physios at All for One offer postnatal assessments, where we can help guide you through a program or returning to exercise (Hello Mums & Bubs Pilates classes!). We also offer specific return to running assessments, where we can discuss the return to running guidelines, screen for readiness and prescribe any additional exercises to help achieve your goal.


Click here to book a Physio consult at Yarraville

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