What To Expect When You're Returning To Running After Having a Baby

Did you know over 60 million people run for exercise each year and over 60% of them are women? After giving birth, women may notice some changes in their bodies as they try to return to their normal running routine.

Physical Therapist Dr. Ashley Tamke running in the Boston Marathon

Running can put a lot of stress on the body, most of it sent straight to your pelvic floor. In a weakened state post-partum, this stress can increase your risk of pelvic floor dysfunction, so it’s important to take the right steps for a safe return to running.

“I wasn’t expecting my return to running to feel so foreign. Going out for a run used to be so routine, but the first few weeks felt very awkward and unnatural. My stride felt very different, and my joints felt like a loose stack of Jenga blocks! It took me a couple of months to get my stride and pace back.” - Dr. Ashley Tamke PT, DPT, OCS

What Feels Different For Postpartum Runners?

Foot and Ankle Pain

It is common for feet to grow during pregnancy – even so much as changing your shoe size! This growth straightens the ligaments in your feet and decreases your arch, which affects your gait and puts extra strain on the feet, knees, hips, and spine. Loose ligaments in the ankles can also leave you feeling unstable while running. By investing in a good pair of sneakers that support your arch and grip your heel firmly, you can decrease the likelihood of pain when running.

Abdominal and Pelvic Floor Weakness

Giving birth weakens the pelvic floor, so it takes time and effort to regain your strength. Abdominal muscle and pelvic floor weakness not only impacts your core stability and endurance, but they can also lead you to experience urinary leakage or pelvic organ prolapse (dropping of the bladder or uterus) with running. Postpartum exercise is a great way to prevent pain, strengthen your core, boost energy, promote sleep, and reduce your stress. But you need to give your body time before adding this workout! That timeline looks different for everyone, but the general recommendation is about 3-6 months after giving birth.

Breast Pain

Many women will breastfeed up to 2 years postpartum. Swollen or engorged breasts are especially uncomfortable while running. Expressing your breastmilk or feeding your infant prior to a run and investing in a personally fitted sports bra can help increase your comfort while running.


Everyone knows sleeping with an infant at home is no easy task, but sleep deprivation has been shown to increase your risk of injury when exercising. We recommend sleeping for 7-9 hours each night, but if you’re waking up many times over the night, try taking daytime naps. You can also optimize your time in bed by creating a routine that involves limiting screen time, avoiding caffeine, and sleeping in a cool, comfortable environment.

You’re Ready To Restart Your Running Routine If You Can...

  • Walk for 30 minutes

  • Perform a single-leg balance for 10 seconds

  • Perform a single-leg squat with 10 repetitions on each side

  • Jog on the spot for 1 minute

  • Hop in place with 10 repetitions on each leg

  • Try a side-lying hip abduction

A great way to ease back into your old running program is to start going for walks and add a minute of jogging at a time. Our Couch To 5K program is a great way to slowly increase your speed and get your postpartum body more comfortable with such a high-impact activity.

Keep the following in mind for a safe and comfortable transition.

5 Steps To Return To Running After Having a Baby:

  1. Walk before you run. You can start walking right away after getting clearance from your doctor. When you’re able to walk for about 30 mins without pain/discomfort, you’re ready to try a run/walk.

  2. Start with short run/walk intervals on a flat, level surface. Gradually lengthen the time you run and shorten the time you walk to work up to consistently running for 30 minutes. At this point, you can transition to running.

  3. Alternate running and cross-training days. Resist the urge to run on consecutive days!

  4. Continue strengthening your core and pelvic floor.  A physical therapist can help design a program specific to you.

  5. Reduce your mileage by 30 percent every third week. This absorbs the stress and allows you to come back even stronger!

“I would give myself more grace and start more gradually. I was so eager to run again that I rushed into it. Focusing on strengthening my core and working on my balance would have better prepared me for my return to running” - Dr. Ashley Tamke PT, DPT, OCS

Even if you feel confident for a run, it is still important to make an appointment with a pelvic health physical therapist to see if your body is ready for high-impact activities and get the resources needed to gain strength and confidence while running. Contact Performance Physical Therapy at 401.726.7100 to schedule an evaluation with an experienced pelvic floor physical therapist in Rhode Island.

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