This is a guest post by Heather King Smith, MPH
You’ve listened and followed the advice of your healthcare providers during your pregnancy, perhaps taking a break from running during part of your pregnancy (or not!) and now that you’ve had your baby, you’re ready to lace up your shoes and head out the door for a long-anticipated run. Maybe you’ve already gotten the approval from your doctor to start exercising—so what could go wrong?
Truthfully, a lot! Kate has written about how to get back into running after having a babyhere, but there’s even more a running mama can do in preparation for hitting the pavement again. Pilates can help you ease back into running safely and help prevent injury
Pilates offers a gentle way to restore function to your core, which has undergone many changes during your pregnancy and delivery. Core function is important for runners for injury prevention and running efficiency. As a mind-body exercise, Pilates can help you cope with the stresses and demands of being a new mom, and get you in tune with your body. Doing Pilates post-partum is a great way to mitigate stress until you can run again. Pilates is that it is great injury prevention for every runner, and it’s something you can continue to do for the rest of your life.
You don’t need special equipment
Even though Pilates has its own specially designed equipment, you don’t need to have it to reap some of the major benefits Pilates has to offer—all you need is a clear space on your floor, and perhaps a mat. If you want to get fancy, there are a few inexpensive props that can increase the intensity of the exercises and add resistance to the workouts.
Pilates is the ultimate core exercise
During pregnancy, as your growing baby and uterus compete for space in your pelvis, abdomen, and thorax, your organs shift to accommodate the growth. Excess pressure is placed on the pelvic floor and the abdomen. Conditions such as Diastasis Recti, a thinning of the linea alba (connective tissue at the midline between the rectus abdominis muscles, or the “six pack abs” muscles), stress urinary incontinence, and other pelvic floor dysfunctions can occur as a result. These are all disorders related to core function, and Pilates is well-known for training the core. A qualified Pilates teacher who is trained to work with these conditions can help women restore their core function after pregnancy.
Pilates will help you coordinate your breathing
The growth and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy have effects beyond the obvious—breathing rate is increased, and the accessory muscles of breathing work more during pregnancy. Retraining the breath is the first step postpartum to restoring optimal core function, and Pilates can help with that. Ideally, Pilates is begun before or during pregnancy so that immediately after delivery, mom can begin breathing exercises and light core awareness activities to help the core muscles regain their function. Breathing is a central part of Pilates, and by working on an optimal breathing pattern first, you will be able to run better when it’s time to hit the road after delivery.
Pilates is a whole body movement system
Pregnancy also results in musculoskeletal changes—the hormones relaxin and progesterone create laxity in joints and ligaments, and some muscles are lengthened while others are shortened as a result of postural changes during pregnancy. Pilates can help moderate these effects by balancing the muscles’ length and strength as much as possible during pregnancy, and helping to restore the muscles after delivery. The effects of these hormones on the musculoskeletal system is one of the primary reasons it is recommended to wait until 8 weeks after delivery to resume running. Yes, that seems like a long time, but you will be busy caring for your baby, and your body really needs this time to recover. Starting back too soon can result in stress fractures and joint injuries, so you really want to take this time now rather than try to heal from an injury while also caring for a baby!
Pilates will help improve your posture
Not only can Pilates improve core function and muscle strength—it can also bring your posture back to normal and make you more aware of common postural tendencies of new moms. Posture is a key component of optimal running form, so if you are in poor posture all day, you will be running in poor posture, which can affect your risk of injury and running efficiency and pace.
Pilates: the perfect transition and injury prevention to help new moms get back to running
Pilates address several key areas that are important to new moms and to runners: core strength, breathing coordination, balanced muscle development and posture. It will help a new mom ease back into running gently, restoring your core while giving you an outlet for stress relief. You don’t need special equipment or even to leave your house to start with a Pilates program that is safe and appropriate for a new mom who wants to get back into running!
Heather King Smith is a Pilates Method Alliance Certified Pilates Teacher and Balanced Body Faculty with over 15 years teaching experience. Specializing in post-rehabilitation, pre- and post-natal, general fitness, and yoga. Interested in building community and supporting lifelong healthy habits through Pilates instruction and practice. She owns her own Studio in Decatur, Trinity Pilates.