Although I waited to run until my 6 week postpartum appointment, I started doing some light exercises leading up to that day in order to rehab a few important areas that have been compromised during pregnancy and childbirth – my pelvic floor and my core. Running too much and too soon after birth can lead to increased damage in these areas as well as strain on other areas of the body and I want to treat my body as kindly as possible.
Some women choose to run even before their 6 week appointment but I decided to wait for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is that I really don’t want to rush my body back into intense exercise. While pregnant, I was able to continue to do all the exercise (and more) that I had done before, except for running, which I stopped doing at 33 weeks. I discovered that my body felt good spinning, doing barre, walking, hiking, and practicing yoga, but running just started to be very uncomfortable and honestly, not fun at all. I probably should have stopped even earlier than I did. Pregnancy made me realize just how hard running is on the body and although I plan to continue to run, I respect my body’s ability to run comfortably much more now.
I started taking daily walks just three days after Siena’s birth and started with short distances – the first walk was literally just around the block. Soon I was walking the one mile path near my house and sometimes adding on to that and eventually I created a three mile walking route. At three weeks postpartum I added in some light yoga (my doctor gave me the clear while in the hospital to do so given that I had continued my practice during pregnancy).
At four weeks postpartum, I began to add in pelvic floor and core exercises. I wish I had added these in earlier, but I have no regrets. One of the key components of running comfortably is having a strong core and a strong pelvic floor. I knew that these areas were severely compromised during my pregnancy and I’ve decided to take it easy with running until they are stronger. I personally have struggled with incontinence since having a vaginal birth (super awesome as it sounds!) and I really want to do anything I can to prevent it from continuing! Starting at four weeks postpartum I started focusing on doing just that with two tools: the Hab-It Pelvic Floor DVD and the Moms Into Fitness postnatal core series. I made a commitment to do each of these workouts at a minimum of three times a week, but I really try to just do them every other day.
I purchased this DVD during my pregnancy but then realized that it’s specifically meant for postpartum so I didn’t do it until now. I heard about this DVD from Sarah at Run Far Girl (great blog she wrote here about the importance of core and pelvic floor strength) who had her third child this year. She suffered from incontinence after her first child (as many, many women do!) and found the Hab-It DVD sometime afterward.
The DVD was created by Tasha Mulligan, an experienced physical therapist, sports trainer and mother of three with both personal and professional familiarity with a weak pelvic floor. She created the DVD after realizing not only how common incontinence is, but how infrequently it is talked about and rehabilitated.
The DVD comes with four different workouts of varying levels of difficulty. There is an introduction portion of the DVD which can be viewed separately. The introduction discusses the anatomy of the pelvic floor and core region and includes an overview of proper posture and alignment for the workouts. Tasha encourages you to work your way through each level of workout until you feel comfortable with it and then move on to the next. Once you’ve mastered all four workouts, you can switch them up.
One of my favorite parts of this series is that there are two versions of the workouts – one with the full, detailed explanations on form and a second “time efficient” version. So far, I’ve completed three of the workouts (out of four) and do the workouts twice with the full cues before advancing to the time efficient version. The full workouts range from 22 to 29 minutes and the time efficient ones are between 12 and 18 minutes or so. The workouts themselves aren’t just kegals (although each workout starts and ends with a set of guided kegals) – the moves are strength building for the entire core and support system for the pelvic basket. I’ve noticed a particular emphasis on glute strengthening (and those glutes have been quite sore after some of the workouts!)
I can’t recommend this DVD more. I personally would never take the time to do correct pelvic floor exercises (especially kegals!) on my own so having a coached workout is incredibly important for me. I also learned I was doing kegals wrong before this (I tried to do them during pregnancy). I love that there are time efficient versions because it’s way easier to convince myself to do the workout when it’s under 20 minutes. I’ve already noticed a difference in my pelvic floor strength (and incontinence) in the three weeks that I’ve been doing the workout (I’ve worked my way up to level 3). I plan to continue to do these exercises every other day through the end of the year. If i’m still having issues, I’ll continue even after that.
The next post in this series will focus on postpartum core strengthening to prep for postpartum running.
As always, this is solely my experience and is not medical advice. You should check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine of your own.
Have you ever done pelvic floor exercises?