diastasis recti

Running after Birth: How to Safely Run with Baby

Running with baby can be a great way to get your endurance exercise on without having to carve out time away from baby.

However, there are many factors that need to be considered when running with baby to make sure you are supporting your body as it continues to heal from birth.

Factor 1

You have been cleared by your OB/Midwife to exercise. Even if you ran prior to and during pregnancy you'll want to discuss returning to exercise with your birth practitioner.

Your body just went through tremendous change, quickly. Whether you had a natural vaginal delivery, a csection, episiotomy, tearing, or other trauma your body has to heal.

Much of your tissue healing will occur in the first 6-8 weeks after delivery. But this doesn't mean you're fully healed. But it does give your birth practitioner an idea of how well your body is healing and when you may be ready to return to more rigorous exercise.

Factor 2

Be screened for a diastasis recti. Most women have some form of abdominal separation during pregnancy, which should heal on it's own over the next year after birth.

For those with a diagnosed diastasis recti, it takes more support to regain full functioning of the abdominal wall.

Running takes a lot of core activation to support your joints and pelvic organs. If your abdominal wall is not up to coordinating with the rest of your deep core to withstand the forces placed on the body, it can cause imbalance in the intra-abdominal pressure. This can lead to incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, low back or pelvic pain, or a hernia.

Factor 3

Make sure you can do a proper pelvic floor contraction.

If you have never had a pelvic floor assessment, testing what your pelvic floor awareness and control is, this is a must after birth.

It gives you a chance to deepen your understanding and awareness of the pelvic floor. Find out how pregnancy and birth affected your pelvic floor, even if you had a csection.

Your pelvic floor has to do A LOT of heavy lifting when running.

Every time your foot hits the pavement the pelvic floor contracts to protect your organs, joints and prevent any unwanted pee or poo escaping.

If you don't know how to voluntarily contract the pelvic floor, your body won't know how to do it on demand.

Leaving yourself at risk for causing [more] damage to your pelvic floor leading to incontinence and prolapse.

Factor 4

Timing your run to avoid breast issues.

When you breastfeed running can be a challenge for many reasons.

One, your breasts need more support.

Two, baby may want to eat in the middle of a run.

When breastfeeding your breast tissue is more susceptible to damage. The force placed on the breast tissue when running is tremendous and unfortunately you can't just contract your pectoral muscles to keep your breasts stable.

Side note: yes, having strong pecs will help with breast support, but typically these muscles are tight in postpartum, so don't over do the chest presses.

The best way to support your breasts is to double up your sports bar. You want to make sure there is no to very little movement of your breast tissue as you run. But also not be too squeezed that you are cutting off blood supply. This will reduce the shearing that can occur on the ligaments and milk ducts, as well as reduce friction on the nipples, while keeping proper nourishment to the tissues.

The second thing you'll want to do is time your run to just after a feeding. This reduces the size of your breasts prior to running, so less needs to be supported, but also making sure you don't get engorged while running. Avoiding the risk of blocked milk ducts and blips.

Factor 5

Start off slow [even if you ran before and during your pregnancy] and always warm up.

Warm up with some dynamic stretches like knee lifts, leg swings and arm circles.

Then begin with intervals. Walk 5 minutes to get your blood flowing then run for 1 minute. Really focus on proper form during that 1 minute versus going as fast as possible. Gage what feels right in your body [which will be different for everyone], my stride will be different than yours which will change my pace. Going too slow will also be awkward. 

Doing intervals will give you time to really tune into your body as you build your endurance and stability for longer run periods.

Then to avoid tight, achy muscles afterward. Cool down with some static stretches or rolling out your fascia.

Factor 6

Lastly, don't be a robot.

Allow your trunk to twist when you run. Just a little rotation through your spine and pelvis is necessary to run in proper form. It gets your abs and hips really working and improves your overall spine mobility.

This can be challenging when you are holding onto a stroller, so you can do one of two things [unless you figure out another safe way!].

One, hold the stroller with one hand allowing yourself the freedom of movement through the other arm. This is helpful if you have less than optimal shoulder mobility, which is common in postpartum from breastfeeding and carrying baby. There are two caveats to using one arm...you want to switch it up and it's harder to control.

You will want to change which arm holds the stroller, so you aren't always using one arm. This will ensure you are building up strength in both arms and allowing both sides of your body to be mobile.

Plus, using one arm may be harder to control the stroller, especially if you are on uneven pavement or surface.

Two, improve your shoulder mobility, so you can twist with anchored arms. Doing exercises that increase your shoulder/rib disassociation is ideal in postpartum, not only for running but for other tasks through out the day. One of my favorites is a kneading action (bending the elbows) through the arms while on all fours.

There you have it!

The major factors you should be considering before running with your baby [or running in general]!

If you've checked all these factors and feel ready to run...have fun!

If you don't know where to begin, comment below or send me a message, we'll figure it out together!

The Low Down on Diastasis Recti

Let me start by saying.... YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, mommy tummy or no.

That being said, there can be more to a mommy tummy than meets the eye.

Our bodies are amazing. They are able to stretch, contract, contort, rebound, over and over again.

As woman we are able to expand enough to grow a baby in our womb!  This takes a lot of STRETCH of the surrounding tissues.

There is a healthy amount of stretch and rebound that the body can handle. And there is an unhealthy amount of repetitive stretch or frequency of stretch positioning that puts our tissues at risk for injury.

During pregnancy our abdominal tissues go through an incredible amount of stretch.  I can't tell you how many times I thought "I can't get any bigger" but I did.  I could literally feel my tissues stretching after my daughter had a growth spurt in the womb.

This stretch is very healthy and is meant to happen to provide space for the growing baby.

However if the tissues being stretched were already under unbalanced loads prior to pregnancy, they may be at risk for injury.

This injury of the abdomen or symptom of unbalanced mechanics in our body is commonly known as Diastasis Recti (DRA) or abdominal separation.

I would like to clear a few things up about Diastasis Recti, and I'm going to channel Katy Bowman, a biomechanist who wrote a phenomenal book about DRA which gets to the heart of how I have been working with my patients for years.

DRA is typically the result of years of stress on the connective tissue of the abdominals, called the Linea Alba. Our abdominals expand and contract for gut function, respiratory function, structural support, reproductive health and much more.  It is when the abdominals are used over and over again in a posture, or are placed under unbalanced forces frequently that cause the weakest point of the abdomen, being the connective tissue to give.

Then there comes a point when the weakest point just cannot take it any more and stretches or separates past the point of natural.

We all have different widths of linea alba, which can change after pregnancy, but still be normal.

In our modern day society, for many of us these unbalanced forces are sitting in a slouched posture all day at a computer, holding our breath while performing heavy lifting or extreme dynamic exercise, or driving leaned off to one side. These are just examples, there are so many other ways we repeatedly and frequently stress our body.

What we need to take into consideration is DRA is not just an abdominal problem, but a whole body problem.  The way we sit can either help or hinder our ability to properly engage our abs. Try it...sit slouched and see where your belly goes.  Then sit upright so you feel you are sitting on top of the two bones in your bum and see what your belly does. Is it easier to contract them in one of these positions versus the other?

Our trunks are pressure chambers and when we are honoring the natural curves of our spine and neutral positioning of our joints, these chambers are stacked, all the parts insides are in place and the container (bones, muscles, skin, etc) are not distorted.

When we don't honor neutral these chambers are not stacked, the parts insides are displaced and the container has to distort.  It is when we repeatedly dishonor neutral that this becomes a problem.

Imagine a woven shirt, if you repeatedly stretch it, the fibers will eventually start to break down and the seams, being the weakest point will tear.

This is what happens with the linea alba. However, for most woman the tissue doesn't actually tear, it just gets really thin and weak.

99% of expectant women have a DRA, based on the measurable definition of abdominal separation. However, it doesn't become a problem unless the abs are pulled past an unnatural state of stretch during pregnancy and then is not addressed post birth.

Again, DRA is a symptom of unbalanced forces in the body putting strain on the connective tissue of the abs that results in back pain, pelvic pain, abdominal pain, gut & digestive issues, and pelvic floor dysfunction.

66% of women tested with DRA had at least 1 support-related pelvic floor dysfunction diagnosis.

The good news is there is a way to help correct this problem. And it doesn't mean just closing the gap or having a flat tummy.

Here's a little inside into my life...I had a DRA after my pregnancy.  I was very fit before and during pregnancy. I was doing prenatal yoga & Pilates and I ran until I was 8 months pregnant.  But I have past injuries and compensations that my body found challenging to withstand the forces placed on it.

I have worked hard to create a functioning abdominal wall again, and I still have what some would consider a separation.

BUT, my abdominal muscles all work properly, there is proper fascial tensioning in my linea alba, I can close the gap, I do not have any pelvic floor dysfunction, gut issues or pain issues.

What does this mean? By addressing the issues of unbalanced forces in my body, through bad posture, tight muscles or fascia, repetitive movement patterns and the like I put less strain on my belly.

You can too! The first step is recognizing what unbalanced forces you are creating in your body then taking the time to recalibrate how your body responds by creating healthy movement patterns!