Postpartum Running: A Guide to Running Again After Giving Birth

Want to run after having a baby? Learn how to tell when you’re ready and physical therapist’s tips for postpartum running.

Published Date: Apr 11, 2024

Postpartum Running: A Guide to Running Again After Giving Birth

Want to run after having a baby? Learn how to tell when you’re ready and physical therapist’s tips for postpartum running.

Published Date: Apr 11, 2024

Postpartum Running: A Guide to Running Again After Giving Birth

Want to run after having a baby? Learn how to tell when you’re ready and physical therapist’s tips for postpartum running.

Published Date: Apr 11, 2024

Postpartum Running: A Guide to Running Again After Giving Birth

Want to run after having a baby? Learn how to tell when you’re ready and physical therapist’s tips for postpartum running.

Published Date: Apr 11, 2024
Table of Contents

Running does your mind and body a lot of good. Research shows it — and maybe you’ve felt it. After growing a baby for the better part of 40 weeks, you might be eager to get back at it. Or maybe you’re looking to start a new running practice after welcoming your little one. With time (and patience), you can resume postpartum running. But time is key.

Let’s be real: pregnancy and childbirth can put a lot of strain on your body. Muscles and ligaments in your pelvic floor can stretch and weaken. Your abdominal muscles lengthen (and separate, in some cases), and your joints become looser and less stable. Your body needs time to heal and recover before you lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement.

Whether you were a runner before having a baby, ran all the way through your pregnancy, or are looking for a new way to improve your fitness, read on to learn when you can start, how to know you’re ready, and strategies to help you get running postpartum safely.

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Our Hinge Health Experts

Gwen Smith, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Smith is a Hinge Health physical therapist with over 6 years of experience and certified in pelvic floor physical therapy.
Tamara Grisales, MD
Expert Physician in Urogynecology and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Grisales is a board-certified urogynecologist and surgeon and oversees the Women's Pelvic Health program at Hinge Health.
Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT
Pelvic Health Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Daroski is a pelvic health physical therapist who provides clinical expertise for the Hinge Health Women's Pelvic Health Program.

When Can You Start Running Postpartum?

The short answer: It depends. There’s no one-size-fits-all timeline because postpartum recovery is different for everyone. Your exercise routine (from pre-pregnancy to present), how you delivered (vaginal or cesarean section), whether you’re breastfeeding, and even your emotional well-being can all factor into how soon you’ll be ready to ease into postpartum running.

First, you need clearance from your ob-gyn — that rule applies to everyone. In general, you should wait about 12 weeks after giving birth before beginning high-impact exercises like running. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit idle. “In fact, your readiness to run can depend on the work you do in those first three months postpartum to help strengthen your pelvic floor and improve your core stability,” says Gwen Smith, PT, DPT, a Hinge Health pelvic floor physical therapist.

Signs It’s Too Soon to Run After Having a Baby

Exercising postpartum too intensely before you’re ready can increase your risk for injury and cause stress. “Plus, your pelvic floor might not be healed, which could lead to symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, like leaking,” explains Dr. Smith.

Your ob-gyn or PT may suggest you wait longer than 12 weeks postpartum to begin a running program if you have: 

Postpartum Running Readiness Test

To help gauge your preparedness to run, try this self-test. If you can complete the entire series comfortably and without pain, leaking, or worsening symptoms, you may be ready to begin easing into a running program. (Always check with your healthcare provider before you start.)

  • Walking: 30 minutes

  • Single leg balance: 10 seconds each leg

  • Single leg squat: 10 reps each leg (without support)

  • Jog in place: 1 minute

  • Single leg hop, in place: 10 reps each leg

  • Single leg heel raises: 20 reps each leg

  • Forward bound (jump forward, land on one leg): 10 reps each leg

How to Start a Postpartum Running Program

Getting back into running (or starting for the first time) after giving birth is a process that can take time. Some tips to help you start postpartum running safely:

  • Walk first. You know that saying: you’ve got to learn to walk before you run. Take it literally here: “Start with a low-impact walking program and look for any upticks in symptoms,” says Dr. Smith. Not only will walking help build endurance, but research shows it can help maintain a healthy weight, boost energy, and reduce anxiety, among a host of other benefits.

  • Ramp up gradually. You want to ease into running — no sprints, no marathons. For example, you might start with 30 seconds of running, followed by four or five minutes of walking, suggests Dr. Smith. Repeat this interval four or five times. Each week, gradually extend your running intervals until you progress to running for 15 minutes straight. Then, you can slowly add more time from there. A PT can help you create a training plan that is safe and appropriate for you.

  • Use your symptoms as a guide.  Assess how you feel after each interval. Are you fatigued? How’s your breathing? Are you experiencing pelvic floor symptoms? If you are able to run for several minutes before starting to leak pee, for example, run up to that threshold and then do a walking interval and repeat, gradually extending your running intervals, says Dr. Smith. “And try not to feel discouraged,” she adds. “It doesn’t mean you’ll never run again without leaking, only that your body is telling you that you still have some areas of weakness.”

You can also consider other factors that affect the degree of leakage: time of day, fluid intake, etc. Once you notice patterns in your symptoms, you can use that to help guide your workouts.

  • Keep your pelvic floor healthy. Strengthening and coordinating your pelvic floor muscles with diaphragmatic breathing, kegels, and other pelvic floor exercises can help make your running experience more comfortable. Cross-training with other non-running activities can also help build core strength, reduce pain, and prevent injuries. A physical therapist can help you develop a postnatal workout that works for you.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy for Postpartum Running

Pelvic floor physical therapy can help you get ready to run after giving birth. A physical therapist (PT) can recommend exercises that strengthen the muscles in your hips, legs, pelvic floor, and core that support healthy running. 

Pelvic floor physical therapy is a comprehensive treatment that also includes education and behavioral and lifestyle strategies. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT who specializes in pelvic health via telehealth/video visit.

Best Exercises to Prepare for Postpartum Running

Get 100+ similar exercises for free

  • Lateral Wall Push
  • Bridge March
  • Lunges
  • Single Leg Calf Raise

PT Tip: Let Your Body to Rest and Heal Before You Run

“Don't rush back into running — it’s not doing your pelvic floor any favors,” says Dr. Smith. “We understand the itch to get back to your usual activity as quickly as possible. But it is so important to give yourself some grace and time to heal. Know that with time and a little attention to strengthening and maintenance, you’ll be able to run with confidence and great pelvic health.”

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have pelvic pain or symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, you can get the relief you've been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Blyholder, L., Chumanov, E., Carr, K., & Heiderscheit, B. (2017). Exercise Behaviors and Health Conditions of Runners After Childbirth. Sports Health, 9(1), 45–51. doi:10.1177/1941738116673605

  2. Exercise After Pregnancy. (2022). Www.acog.org. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-after-pregnancy

  3. Groom, T., Donnelly, G., & Brockwell, E. (2019, March). (PDF) Returning to running postnatal – guidelines for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335928424_Returning_to_running_postnatal_-_guidelines_for_medical_health_and_fitness_professionals_managing_this_population

  4. Horsager-Boehrer, R. (2021, May). Postpartum exercise: When it’s safe to start running and lifting after pregnancy | Your Pregnancy Matters | UT Southwestern Medical Center. Utswmed.org. https://utswmed.org/medblog/workouts-after-pregnancy/

  5. Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. (2020, April). Www.acog.org. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2020/04/physical-activity-and-exercise-during-pregnancy-and-the-postpartum-period

  6. Selman, R., Early, K., Battles, B., Seidenburg, M., Wendel, E., & Westerlund, S. (2022). Maximizing Recovery in the Postpartum Period: A Timeline for Rehabilitation from Pregnancy through Return to Sport. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 17(6), 1170–1183. doi:10.26603/001c.37863