Running to my forties
I have always enjoyed running throughout my life. I ran in high school, ran in university and completed lots of short events (5k/10k) and 2 half marathons pre babies. For me, it was a great way to incorporate aerobic exercise without much effort. All I needed was a good pair of running shoes (and a supportive sports bra) and a half-hour a few times a week. I was not running to compete with anyone else. I was running for my own mental wellbeing, my health, and my satisfaction at reaching my goals.
Running is no easy task, it is a high impact sport placing a lot of demand on the body and my body had changed significantly after having children. To be run ready, my body needed time to heal and regain its strength. After having my babies 5 and 8 years ago, I resumed low impact exercises in the early post partum (6-8 weeks) followed by a gradual return to running between 3-6 months postnatal. As I’ve become older and progressed through my younger years, I haven’t returned to running like I did before I had my children. Mostly due to lack of time and energy, not to mention a few niggles with my arthritic knees. However, I’ve always wanted to tick off that bucket list to run over the Auckland harbour bridge before I turn 40 this year. Not only would it be a ton of fun but a great experience to partake in!
In order for my body to be run ready, it was crucial that I wasn’t experiencing any pain, heaviness, dragging or incontinence before, during or after exercise or during my runs. I knew I had good pelvic floor strength and endurance and my DRA (diastasis recti abdominis) wasn’t significant. My body was ready for it and I wanted to train appropriately to avoid any injuries.
To track my progress, I’ve been using an app called Map my run. To get even more technical, I made an appointment to see Dr Kelly Sheerin who is an expert in running injuries and human biomechanics at AUT Millennium. I had a Run 3D video running gait analysis carried on a force treadmill which allowed the collection of information about my running technique. From this assessment, it did show signs of lumbopelvic dysfunction and an inefficient load transfer through each of my feet. It was motivating to see where my issues were so I knew exactly what I needed to work on to achieve my goals realistically. All I need to do now is do my homework! My training plan is run three days a week and reformer Pilates on alternate days while allowing myself six months. Yes, this journey to running over the bridge will take me about as long as it did to conceive and birth a child.
To put it simply, the timing of return to activity/exercise following childbirth is highly variable for every women. It all depends on the type of birth, recovery from perineal damage, medical or surgical procedures, blood loss (degree of anaemia), and what your level of fitness was like pre-pregnancy. For this reason, it is recommended that all women, regardless of how they delivery, seek out a pelvic health assessment with a pelvic and women’s health physiotherapist (usually after 6 weeks) to evaluate strength, function and co-ordination of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles which are often impacted by pregnancy and delivery. It’s even more important to get a review with a pelvic health physiotherapist if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms prior to, or after attempting, return to running:
· Heaviness/ dragging in the pelvic area (can be associated with prolapse)
• Leaking urine or inability to control bowel movements
• Pendular abdomen or noticeable gap along the midline of your abdominal wall. (This may indicate Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA)
• Pelvic or lower back pain
• Ongoing or increased blood loss beyond 8 weeks postnatal that is not linked to your monthly cycle