Author: Meg Henderson
“Running after baby” can mean different things to different moms. For me, I have stayed reasonably active through running since college. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a hardcore runner who trains for long distance races. I’d call myself a “fair weather” runner; using it as an outlet for stress relief and to allow me to eat what I want! So when I tried to return to running my standard 2-3 miles post-son #2, I was shocked and frustrated at my lack of progress. I couldn’t ever seem to get past the 1.5 mile mark before I’d be running to the nearest restroom. My doctor advised me that this was normal after having two babies and that it would improve with time.
Things naturally improved as I returned to work full time and really didn’t have time to run, ie. I was WORN OUT. On the bright side, I no longer leaked when I sneezed and was able to run 2 miles every now and then without a problem. I didn’t start having symptoms again until my “baby”, who is now a full-blown 27lb toddler, started to become a danger to himself and I was having to lift and carry him around All. The. Time. I had left my full-time job to start my own practice and decided what I needed most was some “me” time. I turned to running again for stress relief and to get back in shape. I was feeling pretty good as I plugged along, gradually increasing mileage until I was able to run a 5K (slowly!) without stopping.
I realized I was starting to feel my pelvic floor symptoms again, and finally decided to let go of my pride as an experienced orthopedic therapist and seek help from a PT who specializes in pelvic floor physical therapy.
After my initial evaluation, I learned what I already knew—that my body was a really good cheater! I was able to run, lift, and be an active mom all the while with pelvic floor, hip, and core weakness. No wonder I was having back pain, hip pain, and experiencing prolapse symptoms. She reinforced that I was performing my pelvic floor contraction correctly, but that I was not ready to run. My body was still too weak and didn’t have the stability it needed to support my joints and internal organs. As disheartening as this sounds, it really was eye opening for me to put forth all of my efforts now into retraining my pelvic floor and increasing my core strength so that I could run again.
Now for a little anatomy lesson. Your pelvic floor is basically a sling of muscles that supports your internal organs and gives your pelvis stability. As a post-partum woman, especially one that has delivered babies vaginally, these muscles endure various levels of soft-tissue injury. They have possibly torn, may have been repaired surgically, and are weak! It takes weeks, possible even months, to regain their strength just like any other muscle injury. Most women know they should be doing Kegels, whether they are pregnant, postpartum, or menopausal. What they don’t know, is if they are doing them correctly. 1 in 4 women are unable to perform a correct pelvic floor contraction. This is where physical therapy can help!
You are meant to have a strong, resilient, and responsive pelvic floor. Yes, even if you have had a baby! Physical therapy can retrain the muscles of the pelvic floor to ensure they are firing correctly and improve their strength and endurance in conjunction with the deep abdominals. This specialized training makes sure you have the proper strategies in place, before returning to higher impact activities which require more strength and stability. It would be like going out for a run without first lacing up your shoes. They’re probably going to fall off at some point!
Stay tuned for updates on my journey back to running. That’s all for now…the only running I’m going to be doing in the next few weeks is “after” my baby!