Returning to Running Postnatal, Part 1

July 19, 2023

Recovery & healing after childbirth, adjusting to life with a newborn, and returning to running, is a process that’s unique for everyone. There are, however, common themes and considerations that runners need to be aware of, so they are prepared for the demands of running, and to avoid unnecessary risk to the pelvic floor, or experiencing  injury or pain. 

While time is a great healer, there’s no exact timeline for healing. The Return to running postnatal guidelines 2019 by G. Donnelly, E. Brockwell & T. Goom recommends waiting until at least 3 months postnatal before starting back. This is due largely to the fact that before 3 months, your body, and particularly your pelvic floor and abdominal wall, have not yet regained the strength or endurance needed to support your body, manage impact and avoid injury.


When you do start back, it’s important to know what it might look like if the demands are too high, so that you can make informed decisions. Be cognisant of signs and symptoms that might occur during or after running, that can mean you may require a pause or change of plan or a new strategy. These include: -Urinary and/or fecal incontinence

-Difficulty with emptying the bladder or bowel

-Sensations of dragging, pressure or bulging in the pelvic floor

-Feeling like a tampon is falling down

-The inability to retain a tampon

-Pain in the back, pelvic, knee, ankle or foot 

-Vaginal bleeding (other than menstrual bleeding)

-Pain during sex

-Experiencing anything else unusual in the body

Here are 5 things to consider before returning to running:

Pelvic floor physiotherapy. These specialist physios can provide individualised care planning, pelvic floor assessments and lifestyle advice to help make improvements to the pelvic floor function. Your maternity hospital may have returning patient appointments, so it’s a good idea to check it out. Pelvic floor physios are also available in private practices, and some health insurance policies will include this therapy in their packages. 


Strength training to help build full body strength, improve running efficiency, support the pelvic floor, improve endurance and performacne. A strength building base of 8-10 weeks before returning to running would be a great start.


Following a progressive training plan with body awareness. Variables like time, distance, speed, running gait, breath, body alignment, cadence and body tension can all be adjusted to help manage the pressure on the pelvic floor, and improve symptoms. Build up gradually from leisurely, moderately paced walks. Keep in mind that your fitness levels prior to pregnancy and birth, aren’t necessarily going to carry over to your postpartum readiness to run.


Be mindful of what else is going on in life, and be prepared to scale back at times. If life stress is high, or sleep quality is low (or non-existent, like new parent sleep often is), recovery might not be optimal. Remember that recovery is essential to preventing injury, and that progress is not linear, there will be ups and downs along the way.


Returning to running, can be a way of feeling connected with your pre-pregnancy self, your independence and a way to relieve stress. Taking your time and a little preparation will help you reach your long term goals.Maggie is a strength and fitness coach and pre and postnatal fitness specialist at Simple Strength Leixlip. She is a runner, mother of two and former nurse. 

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