Starting to run after giving birth to two kids- although gratefully not at the same time, as my sister-in-law did with her twin boys- is a strange experience. It’s like finding yourself suddenly driving a very different vehicle. You feel like saying, “There’s been a mix up, I didn’t order a station wagon, where can I upgrade to a sports model?”
It’s not just a bigger vehicle than you are used to- with an enormous trunk- it’s all the other little changes that occur during pregnancy and labour that seem to linger afterwards;
- the slightly wider, flatter feet you are running on. (That sneaky hormone “relaxin” slackens your ligaments, which combined with the extra weight, results in your arch collapsing slightly. Some women even go up a shoe size!)
- the strange laxity you feel around your pelvis.
- your clumsiness and poor spatial awareness.
- your weak and occasionally problematic pelvic floor that doesn’t handle the jarring of running well, especially under load.
- your weak abdominal muscles that, even after a natural birth, feel totally inhibited as if they have been cut through! (I tried to do a Bikini Body ab routine a few weeks after having my son. What was supposed to be a “straight leg sit up” was in fact me getting no further than lifting my head off the floor and then flailing my arms around like a turtle on its back trying to muster some momentum to perform a sit-up.)
Like I said, a different vehicle entirely!
Your body has undergone a series of fundamental changes over a period of nine months, so its important to give yourself the time you need to recover before trying to achieve your previous level of exercise. It’s highly recommended that you not perform any exercise for the first six weeks post partum (Who has the time anyway? If you are dressed by midday, you are doing well!).
When you do return to your sport it’s important to do so really gradually so as to give your body time to adjust to the new loads you are placing on it. My first set of burpees was a sum total of three. After each one my toddler kept trying to kiss me better saying, “mommy have a owie”, so you can imagine the noises I was making.
If pelvic floor issues persist longer than they should post partum, don’t hesitate to consult a Woman’s Health Physiotherapist. Hearing stories of how a woman’s quality of life can change after treatment is truly inspiring. My personal recommendation would be Sudah Maharaj at Holroyd and Goodenough (031 702 5975) but there are several others who have specialised in this area. Visit the SASP website (www.saphysio.co.za) and click “find a physio” to find one near you.
Mama on the run