Let me start by saying I am not a running expert. I am a Woman who has done some running – including the New
York Marathon in the heady days on my 20s. I am also a Mum who did what many Mums do after having kids – I ran. It felt good to move again, to feel my heart beating and sucking in the air, to be outside and to be moving dynamically – it made me feel like ME again. With those kinda vibes you can’t dismiss running as one of the most awesome ways of moving your body!

However let’s take a moment to consider a few very key statistics, and the running vibe starts losing its sparkle……

1) Up to 80% of new runners get injured within 12 months of starting running.
2) Almost 50% of Women who have had a baby experience some kind of pelvic floor dysfunction.

It doesn’t get much better when you start factoring in that many Mums are in physically de-conditioned state when they start running again. With most carrying a little more weight plus if they opt to run with their prams on pavements then additional forces, loads & pressures are being piled on top of a body that is potentially in an already weakened state. And the reality is, these Mums are now older than they were pre kids!

I’m sounding like I am anti-running for Mums. I am not. But I am not all out pro-running for Mums either. I sit in the camp of “is it the right thing for you and your body right now?”

I started running again when my oldest was 10 months old. So, I figured I was OK. I had a bad back but don’t all Mums? My running didn’t last long – my back stopped me. I went on to discover that I had a Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) and I was unable to transfer loads effectively through my core system and my back had been taking all of that load for the last year. I had to stop and re-hab for many months.

I actually didn’t start running again until my oldest was 7 years old because I took different directions with my exercise, but also
because that first rookie return to running experience almost put me off… forever.

Now, I’m older, perhaps wiser, and looking for longevity with all my exercise, especially movements like running. This isn’t about fat-loss either – it’s about learning a skill, it’s about achieving a goal and it’s about building my fitness and strength and getting back to that wonderful feeling that only running, freely, can give.

Here is my 6-step Return to Running Guide for Mums.

1. See a Women’s Health Physio and get your pelvic floor and core unit comprehensively assessed to ensure running is right for you at the moment.

2. Work on your Weaknesses – feet, calves, legs, backs all take a pounding with running so ensure you have a strategy to gain mobility and strength alongside your running.

3. Build a Bum – one of the biggest powerhouses to assist running and to support the pelvic floor are your bum muscles – don’t leave them behind you!

4. Optimal movement – develop a walking and running style that allows the Pelvic Floor and Core to be in an optimal position to do the job they were made to do. Un-tuck your bum and ensure your glute muscles are being used effectively, drop your ribs if you tend to flare them up/open and use your diaphragm efficiently by breathing more into the belly/side/back – ideally you need to feel the breath around bra strap height.

5. Take your Time – your body needs lots of time to adjust to running again. A walk/run style of program with low training loads i.e. 2 times a week over several weeks is a good place to start. Building your aerobic capacity is a good idea at this stage – this means keeping your
heart rate lower than you think. Get your Max Aerobic Heart-Rate (180 minus your age & subtract a further 5 as you are returning to running after a time away from training) and keep your heart rate on or below this. It’s a mind-body battle initially but persevere.

6. Be Aware – learn to listen to your body and its needs. If you aren’t getting solid sleep and optimal nutrition then you need to ease off with the intensity of your training (by intensity I mean the type of training as well as how often you train). Also, if any symptoms get worse or
new niggles come up then attend to them swiftly and dial back your running.

Louise Vivieros – Womens Health Exercise Expert