When the days get longer and signs of spring are in the air, my mind starts to drift toward running, biking and hiking activities. Living in Calgary, we are very fortunate to have access to amazing spaces to enjoy sports and recreation! Spring is the season many of my pregnant and postpartum patients get the itch to move more as well. I often get asked at this time of year about expectations for getting back to activities like running races and mountain biking.
Personally, I remember spending my own early post-partum months pretty much hibernating after my first child was born in the depths of December. By the time spring rolled around, I was eager to get out and get going with my little one in tow. However, like many of my patients, I soon realized that my body was not quite as ready to go as my brain was! I was quickly frustrated by my perceived lack of physical readiness.
When I stepped back and thought about it though - it made total sense! I wouldn’t expect someone recovering from an ACL repair to immediately return to running, or a pianist with a wrist fracture to perform a full concerto successfully without going through a progressive rehab program. So why should I expect my body to “bounce back” without hesitation after giving birth? Postpartum bodies have usually gone through huge changes in shape and size throughout the 9 months of pregnancy and women often have to make modifications to their activities or activity levels to adjust for this. Their bodies then have to prepare for and go through labour and delivery. If a c-section is a part of that delivery, it can add another layer of potential complications to recovery.
So how CAN you begin to prepare yourself for returning to running, cycling, hiking or any other sport?
- Go slow! Especially early in the postpartum period. Listen to your body. Stay hydrated, take rests. Gentle pelvic floor muscle contractions, followed by muscle relaxation will help improve blood flow to and reconnect awareness of the pelvic floor muscles.
- Walk before you run! Build cardio endurance! Can you walk 30 minutes to an hour comfortably?
- Try to incorporate squats, lunges, calf raises into your daily routine. Build the capacity to perform full body movements!
- Ease back into your activity. Start with shorter distances or easier terrain. Set up a strategy for success!
- Gradually increase distance, duration, speed or intensity as things feel easier.
- Wear a supportive sports bra! Your body will thank you!
If you feel pain, experience vaginal heaviness or incontinence, or need some help customizing a rehabilitation plan - seek professional help. Pelvic physiotherapists have specialized training to ensure your muscles and joints are ready for higher intensity activities, that you have the physical capacity to perform your activity of choice and guide you with strategies to get you back to full function successfully.
These tips should be helpful for any mom looking to get started but, as always, every woman’s journey will be different depending on her pregnancy, delivery and current goals. Seek out one of our Pelvic Health Physiotherapists if you need more support. Get out and enjoy the spring air - you got this!
- Susan Tsang, PT
Susan Tsang, PhysiotherapistMScPT, BSc Kin, CAFCI, Dry Needling /IMS, Acupuncture, Orthopaedics and Pelvic Health
Susan graduated in 2006 with her Master of Science in Physical Therapy from the University of Alberta and has been working in private practice ever since. With a background in kinesiology, coaching and over 15 years of experience, she has helped a multitude of patients to get back to the activities that they are passionate about – whether that's a 10 km run, ripping the mountain bike trails, the weekly squash game, or just keeping up with the kids!
Susan strongly believes that a combination of manual therapy, home exercise and patient education is essential to successful recovery, management and prevention of future injuries. Susan has advanced training in pelvic health physiotherapy including incontinence, dyspareunia, pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic girdle pain with pregnancy and treating female athletes. Certified in dry needling/IMS, acupuncture and manual therapy, Susan values learning and is always striving to further her knowledge base and skill set.
When not in the clinic, Susan can be found playing outdoors. She is an avid downhill and cross-country skier, mountain biker and nature lover.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Thoreau