10 Postpartum Exercise Running Tips for New Mums

Michelle Bridges Instagram

Michelle Bridges Source: Instagram @mishbridges

Postpartum exercise is recognised as beneficial for new mums.

Unfortunately some postpartum exercise information is not always appropriate for all women.

Australian fitness trainer Michelle Bridges (right) has recently been criticized in the media for her advice to new mums. Michelle posted a running workout that she’d done that same day, just three weeks after giving birth to her first child, along with her running tips for other new mums.

This following postpartum exercise information helps new mums like Michelle who are keen to return safely to running after childbirth.

Read on now to learn:

  • 10 postpartum exercise running tips
  • When is it safe to start running after childbirth?
  • Common postpartum exercise injuries with running
  • Is your pelvic floor at risk with running too soon?

10 Postpartum Exercise Running Tips For Women

Assuming you’ve been given approval to run by your Obstetrician or Midwife these tips can help you return to running and reduce your risk of injury.

It’s vital that you return to running when your pelvic floor tissues have completely healed and you’re confident that your pelvic floor exercises have restored sufficient pelvic floor strength and support for high impact exercises.

1. Start Out Gradually

Prepare for running with progressive postnatal walking. When you first start running keep your run duration short and alternate short intervals of running with brisk walking. You should be able to maintain a conversation when running at the correct speed.

2. Choose Flat Surfaces Running pram

Running on flat surfaces helps you avoid the added impact on your joints and pelvic floor associated with hill running.

3. Reduce Pram Load

Ideally try to start out running without a pram if possible. Running pushing the load of a pram increases strain on your body.

If you have no alternative but to run with your baby in a pram, invest in a lightweight running pram to reduce the load.

4. Run When Rested

Run when you’re well rested, not when fatigued. When you’re tired your body is more vulnerable to injury (including your pelvic floor, joints and ligaments). If you’ve been awake throughout the night or if you’re very tired leave running for another day.

5. Avoid Pelvic Floor Bracing

There is no benefit to running with your pelvic floor muscles braced (contracted), in fact this practice causes pelvic floor fatigue and can result in pelvic floor pain and pelvic floor muscle tension. Activate your deep abdominal muscles gently (never forcefully) when running.

6. Good Running Posture

Use good upright running posture. Pregnancy promotes slumped forwards posture which increases the risk of spinal strain and decreases the activity or your supportive core and pelvic floor muscles.

Good posture involves visualising a string drawing up through the crown of your head, lengthening your spine and raising your chest forwards when running.

7. Alternate Running Surfaces Alternate surfaces

Running on different surfaces can help reduce the load and impact of running on your body.

This isn’t easy if you’re confined to treadmill running however when outdoors try to alternate surfaces during your run (e.g. grass or gravel versus constant road running).

8. Food & Fluid Intake

When you’re breastfeeding your energy and fluid demands are increased.

Make sure your energy intake is sufficient to ensure good milk production. If you’ve been feeding during the night and run in the morning, have something light to eat before setting out. Stay well hydrated before and after running especially if you’re breast feeding.

9. Supportive Exercise Gear

Wear well cushioned supportive footwear – the ligaments supporting the arches of the feet soften with pregnancy so ensure your good arch support.

Wear a well fitting supportive exercise bra. Some women find they benefit from wearing a crop top over their bra for additional support.

10. Listen To Your Body.

Your body is very good at signalling when you need to modify your postpartum exercise routine. If you’re tired, uncomfortable or feeling sore during or after running, your body may be telling you to take things slower.

Try not ignore the signals your body sends you.

When Is It Safe To Start Running After Childbirth?

Exercise for months 1-3 after childbirth should be low impact for all women. Low impact exercises are those that minimise the forces placed upon the body e.g. walking and cycling.

High impact exercises are inappropriate for all women for at least 4 months after childbirth. Some women can gradually commence running from 4 months after childbirth. Others need to avoid running in favour of low impact exercises until their body is sufficiently recovered and strong enough to withstand the forces associated with running and other high impact exercises.

Unfortunately there’s no one clear answer for all women. 

All women have their own individual risks factors for postpartum injury (e.g. pre-existing injuries, pregnancy and childbirth experiences, pelvic floor function, bodyweight, running experience, fitness and parity (i.e. number of babies).

Why wait before running after childbirth?

Pelvic floor stretching downwards

Pelvic floor forced downwards with running

Pregnancy and childbirth stretch, strain and weaken the pelvic floor tissues.

The pelvic floor soft tissues require adequate time to heal and recover.

Weak pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy and childbirth can take 5-6 months to strengthen.

If you were to strain your calf muscle you’d wait for repair and strengthen it before returning to running. The same rehab principles apply to the pelvic floor tissues.

Running before the pelvic floor tissues recover repeatedly forces them downwards (shown right) increasing the risk of serious pelvic floor problems including pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence (bladder and/or bowel) or chronic pelvic pain.

Read on below to check your risk of running too soon after childbirth.

Common Postpartum Injury Risks With Running

The risk of specific injury varies from one women to the next however there are postpartum injury risks that apply to many women undertaking high impact exercise like running soon after childbirth.

1. Pelvic Floor Injury

Pelvic floor injury can cause long-term pelvic floor dysfunction after childbirth. High impact exercises such as running too soon after childbirth can increase the risk of pelvic floor injury.

During pregnancy your pelvic floor becomes stretched and weakened with the weight of your growing baby. Even after a caesarean section the pelvic floor is at increased risk of injury with early return to running.

The repeated high impact landing when your heel strikes the ground during running forces your pelvic floor downwards. If your pelvic floor is still weak after childbirth, repeated impact causes your pelvic floor to stretch, strain and weaken further.

Daily Pelvic floor exercises are essential for restoring the pre-pregnancy strength and supportive function of the pelvic floor muscles and tissues.

2. Pelvic Joint Injury Pelvic instability

Some women experience pelvic instability during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Pelvic instability can present as pain in the buttock with weight bearing or it can make walking almost impossible particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy.

Pelvic instability occurs when the ligaments (strong tissues) supporting the joints of the pelvis soften in preparation for childbirth.

The supportive pelvic ligaments remain softened for at least the first few months after childbirth. High impact exercises including running involve uneven weight bearing and shearing forces through the joints of the pelvis which can cause or worsen pelvic instability.

Pelvic stability exercises can assist women with pelvic instability after childbirth.

Is Your Pelvic Floor At Risk With Running Too Soon?

All women are considered to have an increased risk of pelvic injury with early postpartum running (i.e. before 4 months) regardless of whether their delivery is vaginal or caesarean section.

Risk of pelvic floor injury with high impact exercise after childbirth increases with: Female athlete running

  • Pelvic floor symptoms (vaginal heaviness, incontinence, pelvic pain)
  • Pelvic floor weakness
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Traumatic vaginal delivery (e.g. forceps, vacuum extraction, tearing, episiotomy, prolonged 2nd stage)
  • Overweight (especially abdominal fat i.e. fat surrounding abdominal organs)
  • Increasing age
  • Athletes

If any one or more of these risks apply to you and you’re keen to return to running and other high impact postpartum exercise, you may benefit from seeing a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist.

Consulting with a Physiotherapist will help you know whether your pelvic floor can withstand the forces of running and help you restore your pelvic floor towards safe running and high impact postpartum exercise.

Next: Prolapse and Running – How to Reduce Running Impact for Prolapse Protection

We Welcome Your Comments



  1. Michelle,

    Great post. Thank you so much. Oh how I wish I’d read this after my first pregnancy….

    A keen adventure racer, hill runner etc before I got pregnant, and a track athlete up to my early twenties, I’d been following a “Running During Pregnancy” book that seemed great while I was pregnant, and good physio led pilates allowed me to stay jogging (with loo breaks!) right up into my 8th month. The book then seemed to suggest, (at least to me) through pieces written by other women, that it was possible to start running again as soon as I felt like it when my baby was very small. Of course the competitive streak in me didn’t think twice – “if they can I can try. I don’t want this baby to change everything about me… I just need to start back into good habits asap and not use the baby as an excuse…I need to make time for Me and freedom and the things I love that keep me sain to be a good mother” Etc etc.

    And then after my second run, about 4 weeks post partum, I was convinced I had a prolapse and got the fright of my life. I didn’t, but needless to say I did seem to have pelvic floor injury. Physio ensued and I went through what felt like a torturously slow rehab to get up to 5km runs, frustrating because it was never what I expected. That was about 5 mins post partum.

    I hadn’t ever considered childbirth to be an injury to be recovered from; something that genuinely needed rehab. If I had, maybe I’d still be able to run down a mountain side without the fear of having to find a bush to avoid an accident, despite plenty of pelvic floor exercise (which itself is torture!). But the competitor in me assumed that as a one time athlete, an aerobically fit and strong new mom (I’d kept up modified kettle bell classes under careful supervision until 36 weeks and swam past my due date) that the six week rule didn’t apply to me. I didn’t need those lame walk-run-walk programmes… They seemed silly and I was still pretty fit!

    I’m on my second pregnancy now and my other pregnant friends and I have a WhatsApp group to remind ourselves to Keggle throughout the day. That in itself is a huge improvement on last time round already.

    I’ll see how things go after this baby, totally adjust my previous expectations of “normality” and heed all the advice above, but I think I’ve *nearly* given up on ever getting back to being the fancy free downhill runner I once loved to be… I was back to doing fairly flat trail run races of up to 10km without any issue but the steep hills I loved, though much better eventually (after another shock and embarrassingly wet accident mid race when my baby was 9months…), were very risky still, so my distance adventure race confidence really took a hammering. I keep telling myself that as an endurance sport it’s something I can enjoy when my kids are in school and growing up, so there’s time to rehab fully and get back to the sport I’d only just really discovered and absolutely loved… But another part of me is afraid that on top of the lifestyle upheaval that comes inevitably with parenthood, this, with its painfully slow progress to improvement, could be the thing that prevents that. If I let it….

    I’m so glad I’ve found your site, if 2 years too late to avoid my experience… I’m hoping it will give me the inspiration to maintain the continuous, slow rehab on the long road to full pelvic floor recovery… Maybe I won’t give up hope for those downhills after all.

    Heed Michelle’s sage advice ladies and don’t just “take it slow” – give those runners a holiday for a while. Find another way to get what you need for a few months, and DO consult a physio before you start back. For those few extra weeks, it’s just not worth it.

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says

      Hi Lesley

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. I have no doubt many women have had similar experiences to yours – keen to get straight back to exercise after childbirth, feeling invincible, having long-term pelvic floor injury far from consciousness pushing to get back to some sense of the ‘old’ pre-pregnant self back.

      Yes rehab is often slow, especially when your body is also fatigued from the physical work of being a mum to one or more young children. Then just when the load lifts a little menopause strikes with its own set of pelvic floor challenges.

      Lesley there are a number of continence options long-term if the exercises don’t do the job i.e. intravaginal devices or surgery so stay positive and commit to your exercises long-term too. The WhatsApp group you have sounds fantastic! What a great reminder and source of motivation for you and your friends.

      All the best to you & wishing you many happy days being active with the sun on your back

Pelvic Exercises Physiotherapy


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