Returning To Running Part 2 – Tasks and Exercises

Continuing our “Returning To Running” series, Mary Kate runs through some essential tasks and exercises you should carry out before your first run.

 If you have any of the signs and symptoms mentioned in the previous post please don’t run yet.

If you are in any doubt why not book in for a Consultation. We can give you peace of mind to safely return to running!

1. Back flexibility and pelvic symmetry- The Wobble Test.

Running is a sequence of standing on one leg then the other, just speeded up.

• Try standing on 1 leg for a few seconds and then the other. Did they feel the same or different? Were you markedly more ‘wobbly’ one way, or have to jut your hip out to balance. Any pain triggered? Was it easier to move from right to left than left to right (or vice versa). Did one way just require more concentration?

If this test provoked any of the above symptoms you are most likely not ready to run yet and if you already have a suspicion that your back or pelvis is not ‘right’ DON’T run yet because it is likely only to get worse.

If you had pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy and it is still niggling or you think that your delivery might have triggered a new back or hip problem get a physiotherapy assessment, as you may need a specific programme to get you back on track.

2.Strong gluteal (bum) muscles-. Single Leg Bridge.

One of the big load bearing muscles are the gluteals. As you stride forward each buttock needs to help take your weight and create forward propulsion. The single leg bridge mimics the job the gluts have to do when you run.

• Perform a single leg bridge to check your right and left glutes are working equally well – you should feel your buttocks, not your hamstrings, take your weight and your foot should feel that it can just ‘float’ off the floor.
• When you are up in your bridge position it is important to note. Are you hips level? Can you feel both gluteals (bottom muscles) working evenly or is one side doing all the work?
• Now focus on supporting your body weight with your right leg and let your left knee fold in over your hip.
• Feel the work in your right bottom.
• Then put your foot down and repeat folding your right knee in.

You should be able to move smoothly from one side to the other without dipping hips, cramping in the feet or hamstrings or rapid fatigue. If this is a challenge practice this exercise and attend a few post natal Pilates classes to improve your core strength.

3.Good abdominal control- Pilates double tabletop

A traditional head lift/crunch style abdominal exercise doesn’t reflect the role the abdominals have to play when you move. In a sit-up/crunch you are keeping your legs still and moving your upper body, but when you run you need to keep your body still and move your legs! At full sprint both your feet will be off the floor at the same time.

Pilates double tabletop is a good exercise that mimics what the abdominals need to do when we run.

• Can you do 10 leg extensions from tabletop position, maintaining neutral spine, and a lightly engaged core and while breathing naturally?
• Your abdominals should not bulge or dome.
• Start with your arms by your side
• If you find your abdominals bulging you are not strong/coordinated enough to run yet and may need to focus your training: build up your muscle strength and co-ordination by doing post natal Pilates.

4.Good Pelvic floor strength and endurance

It’s important to make sure your pelvic floor is ready to run. The best way is to see a women’s health physiotherapist and have it properly assessed.

If you are leaking or have any feeling of heaviness or dragging in your pelvic floor, do not run.

• To test you pelvic floor for running- Try doing 20 strong, fast contractions, while completely letting go between contractions

Endurance of your pelvic floor is also paramount. See if you can do 5 long contractions, holding for 10 seconds each, making sure your bum and thigh muscles are fully relaxed and you’re breathing! Letting go and relaxing your pelvic floor is as important as being able to strengthen it as a muscle needs to be able to fully lengthen to contract and work optimally.

Summing up:

Remember it takes strength and endurance training to get back to running to ensure the key muscle groups are prepared for running. Ideally everyone should see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist after having a baby for a thorough assessment. Running is a fantastic form of exercise and loved by so many with so many great benefits both physically and mentally so we want to get you back to it as soon as you are ready.