Up and running schedule

Here’s how to get back on the road after the ultimate endurance event – childbirth



You just had a baby and you’re itching to hit the road again. Which is great – exercise boosts mood, gives you some much-needed (though too often undervalued) ‘me time’ and gets you out of your pyjamas. But even if you worked out during your pregnancy, you need to ease back into a running routine. After all, your body has just been through quite an ordeal – if you take on too much, too soon, you could end up injured. And the last thing you want to be doing is preparing bottles while balancing on crutches.

Watch out, in particular, for any weakening of the pelvic-floor muscles. These muscles, which sit at the bottom of the torso, support your internal organs as well as playing a role in sex, balance and posture. Almost any exercise – and running is no exception – will increase abdominal pressure, which, in turn, pushes on the pelvic-floor muscles.

Any weakening could lead to problems such as stress (urinary) incontinence – the sudden and uncontrollable need to go to the toilet. The condition affects millions of women and is common in new mothers (it also affects many female runners; see page 79 for more information). Drinking less fluid is not the answer, but a training regime such as the one here can address the problem in a few weeks. The pelvic-floor exercises strengthen the muscles and sharpen your body’s natural responses.

Follow this plan to help you resume running in a healthy way. Keep in mind that these are just guidelines. The most important thing you can do is to listen to your body. If any activity makes you feel worse the day after you do it, scale back. And consult your GP on specific questions about your body’s recovery.*If, at your six-week postpartum checkup, you are leaking any urine during running or any activity, seek a referral to a physiotherapist.

Weeks after delivery  Pelvic-floor exercises: kegels   Pelvic tilts              Cardio activity             Strength training       
1-2

Visualise the pelvic-floor muscles contracting and lifting up and in toward the chin, as if stopping a flow of urine. At first do the exercises lying on your side or your back. Start with five repetitions of five-second contractions, with five seconds of rest in between.

Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hand resting on your belly below the belly button. Gently rock your pelvis back to press your lower back to the floor. Feel for the stomach muscles to gently pull in your belly button to your spine. Hold for 10 seconds. Do one set of 10 repetitions, three times a day.

Start with slow, easy walks around the block for roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Listen to your body. If you feel wiped out the next day, scale back the amount of activity.

Don’t worry about it yet. You're probably so tired that keeping yourself upright is a strength workout in itself.
3-4

Progress to doing the exercises in various positions, such as lying on your stomach, sitting and standing. Continue doing five repetitions of five-second contractions, five seconds’ rest in-between. Do two or three sets. Then switch to doing two-second contractions with four seconds’ rest. Do one set of 10 repetitions.

Continue one set of 10 repetitions, three times a day. Try in various positions: lying on your back, on your side, sitting and standing.

Continue doing easy walking around the neighborhood for roughly 20 to 30 minutes.

Do press-ups and planks at home to build core strength. (If diastasis recti – separation of the rectis abdominal muscle – exists, do not do ab-strengthening exercises; speak to a doctor trained in treating this condition.) 

5-6

Progress to doing them during functional activities such as walking, lifting things (shopping bags, baby), moving from standing to sitting, and so on. Progress to 10 repetitions of 10-second contractions with 10 seconds rest.

Continue one set of 10 repetitions, three times a day. Then add this variation: while lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, draw your belly button in and tilt your pelvis so your back is flat on the floor. Slide one heel away from the body, keeping the heel in contact with or on the ground.
Try to straighten the knee. Return and repeat on the other side.

Increase the length and pace of your walks as you feel comfortable. Start cross-training: use an elliptical trainer (try not to stress the lower back, aim 
for a steady upper body), a bike (if comfortable) or try pool running. Start with 15 to 20 minutes, gauge how you feel the next day, increase gradually.

Continue the same exercises, adding reps (press-ups) or time (planks), and add step-ups, lunges and hamstring curls.

7-8

Progress to doing them during more activities such as climbing stairs or doing squats. Progress to three to four sets of 10 repetitions of 10-second contractions with 10 seconds’ rest in-between. Progress to three to four sets of 10 repetitions of two-second contractions, with four seconds of rest in-between.

Continue one set of 10 repetitions, three times a day. And continue doing this variation: while lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, draw your belly button in and tilt your pelvis so your back is flat on the floor. Lift one foot off the ground, lifting the knee toward the chest (thigh vertical). Return and repeat on the other side.

Start a run/walk programme. Alternate one minute of running with one minute of walking for 30 minutes. Progress to running for two minutes and walking for one minute for 30 minutes. Run-walk every other day so your body has time to recover between workouts. Cross-train on your non-run-walk days. But be sure to take at least two rest days a week. 

Continue the same exercises, adding reps or time.

8+

Continue doing them during various activities, even running. The goal is to do 80 to 100 contractions per day of combined 10-second contractions and two-second contractions.

Continue one set of 10 reps, three times a day. Continue doing this variation: lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor; draw your belly button in and tilt your pelvis so your back is flat on the floor. Lift one foot off and slide the leg away from the body without touching the ground. Try to straighten the knee. Return and repeat on other side.

If you feel ready, run for 20 minutes, every other day. Continue to listen to your body. If you feel worse the next day, scale back. Continue cross-training on off days. Be sure to take at least one weekly rest day.

Continue all exercises, adding repetitions, and progressing to more advanced versions when
you feel ready.


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