Outdoor Advocacy

Marathon Mom: Running Postpartum

marathonmomDear Audra,

I am currently 8 months pregnant with my first child, and have had a hard time with having to give up running. It became too uncomfortable to run around 5 ½ months, and I’ve missed it so much since then. I am curious how soon after having the baby I can realistically expect to start running again? If I had my druthers, I’d be out there a few days afterward, but I know that’s probably not realistic.


Running for Two


Dear Running for Two,

Nothing reminds you just how much you love running like something that prevents you from doing it.  Still, if you’re going to get sidelined, at least it for the joyous occasion of becoming a mother rather than because of an injury or illness.

That being said, I completely empathize with what you’re feeling. I went through it with my first pregnancy as well. I will answer your question professionally – what a doctor or midwife would likely suggest to you – and then I’ll tell you what I did (since, of course, those two things don’t synch up).

First, a medical professional who specializes in treating pregnancy and postpartum women will typically recommend waiting at least until your 6-week postpartum appointment to consider exercise as intense as running. Childbirth is a traumatic experience for your body to endure, and deserves the respect of a proper recovery period. At the 6-week postpartum appointment, your physical healing with be assessed, and your care provider could tell you at that point if it seems your body is ready for a slow re-introduction to running or that you’d be far wiser to hold off another couple of weeks.

Some of the factors affecting how quickly you can bounce back to running after delivery include: your health prior to pregnancy, your health and activity level throughout pregnancy, whether – and how much – your tore during delivery, whether – and how much – your abdominal walls separated during pregnancy, and if there were any additional complications during delivery. All things considered, an average window for returning to high impact sports (just consider how jarring running actually is on your body), is a large window of 6-12 weeks.

That being said, I was as eager as you to return to my pre-mom passion, and against all advice, I started running at 4 1/2 weeks postpartum. I started with 1-mile that I walked about half of. The next day, I did 2-miles. By my 6-week appointment, I had run about 4-5 times already, and up to three miles.  I did compensate by running much slower than my previous ‘normal’ pace, and when the pain became quite intense, I would walk. That’s right. I had pain. In my baby-having areas. In the honesty of hindsight, I had too much pain. I should have listened to my body’s queues and waited another week or two before trying again. As a consequence, I peed my pants every time I ran until my daughter was 8 months old.  How’s that for motivation to be realistic with yourself?

I share my own experience not to scare you (or make you laugh), but simply to explain that I really do understand your eagerness to return, yet – from one kindred running spirit to another – please respect and listen to your body and health care provider. Although waiting another week or two to get started running again may feel like torture, in the big picture, it will only aid your return to the trails. Trying running too soon could cause unnecessary side-effects or even sideline you weeks longer.

Best of luck in your last month of pregnancy, and please do indulge yourself postpartum with spending the extra time healing and bonding with your beautiful new child.

Audra Rundle