I’m regularly asked this question and whilst the answer to that will depend entirely on the woman, there are some helpful physio guidelines* that I thought I’d share with you to help you make that decision.
Before I do though, these facts give some importance context:
- Running increases risk of pelvic floor dysfunction by 4.59 times so it’s essential that your core and pelvic floor is up to the challenge.
- Abdominal fascia takes c. 6-7 months to regain its original tensile strength post c-section. At 6 weeks post birth it’s only at 50-60%.
- Low impact exercises are recommended for everyone for the first 3 months post birth. And returning to running from 3-6m at the earliest. Risk of complications increases if a woman is breast-feeding, has existing pelvic floor conditions, is obese or has scarring in c-section or perineum.
- The baseline measurement for “acceptable” pelvic floor muscle endurance in a standing position is
- 10 fast reps
- 8-12 reps of 6-8 secs max voluntary contraction and
- 60s sub max 30-50% contraction
So if you’re running already or looking to get back to it (starting more couch to 5k than straight in with a 10k run!), ask yourself if you can:
- walk 30 mins
- single leg balance for 10 secs on each leg
- single leg squat for 10 reps on each side
- jog for 1 min on the spot
- 10 forward bounds
- 10 hops on each leg
- 10 reps single leg running man
…with no pain, heaviness or incontinence.
It’s also recommended (but not essential) that a woman have the strength to do 20 reps of:
- Single leg calf raise
- Single leg bridge
- Single leg sit to stand
- Side lying abduction
…failure doesn’t mean you can’t run, but does mean that you need to work on strength as running is a single leg activity.
And finally, for women with a diastasis, “they fail load transfer if they dome/sink, laterally shift their trunk or have significant rib flare on:
- Active straight leg raise to 30 degreees
- Resisted trunk rotation
- Chin to chest”
(* Credit: Goom, Donnelly & Brockwell, ‘Returning to running postnatal – guidelines for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population’, March 2019)