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5 Top Tips For Your Postnatal Return To Running

After I had given birth to Max, returning to exercise was definitely not the first thing on my mind. But when I was ready I realised I really didn’t know much at all about when or how to safely get back into running. Over the past year I’ve learned so much more about how to treat my postpartum body so I really hope these tips will help you too.

1. Give yourself time

According to the latest return to running guidelines, it is recommended to wait at least 12 weeks after giving birth, whether you had a vaginal birth or a caesarean, to allow your body time to heal and recover from the experience. Your body goes through so many changes during pregnancy, and although there seems to still be a lot of pressure put on mums by society to ‘bounce back’, it’s really important to remember that while pregnancy and birth are relatively short phases in our lives, postnatal is forever. Personally, I ended up taking over a year off running. I stopped within my first trimester of pregnancy and didn’t restart until Max was about nine months old due to a loss of confidence and becoming a first time mum during a global pandemic. You don’t have to rush back into it if you are not ready - and it certainly doesn’t make you any less of a runner.

Ready for my first postpartum run

2. Don’t compare

When you do decide you are ready to lace up your trainers again, then it’s time to drop the Strava ego and allow yourself to go back to basics. Starting with a programme such as Couch to 5k or Run30 is a great way to test the waters and build your base back up steadily. It can be hard not to compare yourself to others, or even to your pre-pregnancy self, but by taking it slowly and being mindful about how your body reacts as you build up first more endurance followed by more intensity, you will be much more likely to see increases in your fitness and lower your chance of injury. Lots of people suggest resetting your watch when you begin your postpartum running comeback, so that you can celebrate the little wins and all the PBPBs (post baby personal bests)!

Celebrating my first 20 minute run after having Max

3. Invest in the right kit

You deserve to feel comfortable and supported in the kit you wear throughout your running journey, and it’s likely that your post baby body doesn’t feel quite the same way in your pre-pregnancy running gear. Remind yourself to celebrate the fact that your body grew a human, even if it doesn’t look or feel the way you remember. There is no need to force yourself back into those clothes, especially as there are so many brands developing right now which specialise in pre and postnatal activewear. My favourite is Natal Active. Their leggings and shorts are so supportive and can be worn high or low waisted, and they also sell super soft breastfeeding sports bras, which were a game changer for me. Use the code UPHILLRUNNER for 10% off.

Summer running in Natal Active bra and shorts

Although it’s not really kit, I couldn’t not mention my running buggy. It has given me so much more freedom on my running comeback and has allowed me to share my passion with my son from such an early age. To read my full review, click here.

4. Don’t neglect your pelvic floor

When I was pregnant I felt like I was constantly being reminded to do my pelvic floor exercises multiple times a day, but once I had had the baby, my focus drifted quickly and I forgot all about them. Especially when preparing for a high impact sport like running, it is so important to keep these exercises in your routine. The NHS Squeezy app can help jog your memory, and these simple exercises are also among the first things you can do to begin your return to running postnatally. If you feel any discomfort, leaking or heaviness while you are running, it’s important to focus on rebuilding that strength before continuing. Although I never saw one myself during lockdown, I would absolutely recommend booking an appointment with a women’s health physio, often referred to as a Mummy MOT. They can spot problems we might not notice ourselves and give expert advice to find solutions to enable us to get back to the running we love.

Settling into motherhood

5. Enjoy it!

If running (or any form of exercise) ends up becoming just one of the chores on the To Do List that you are struggling to tick off, then perhaps it’s time to question whether you are ready. Motherhood is time consuming and overwhelming at times, so if you are just running because you (or society) think you should, then there is nothing wrong with pressing pause. You are still a runner. Instead, try to view running as time for yourself, as a way to help you remember you are still you as well as ‘mum’.

Smiles all round

If you are still unsure about whether it’s the right time for you to return to running after having a baby, I would recommend reading Gemma Oates’ recent blog post on her website The Runner Physio (click here to read). You can also read more about my own postpartum running journey here.

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