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Body After Baby: How Pregnancy Affects Runners

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

For runners, giving birth to a baby requires the same mental strength used to power through the final miles of a race. The ability to push beyond the pain, knowing the finish line awaits, comes in handy for nature’s ultimate endurance event. And while many women report an increase in ability to push their bodies after having a baby, many don’t know about potential postpartum gait changes.

According to a recent study published in The Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, scientists found that both pregnant and new mother runners experienced several biomechanical changes including a forward-tilting pelvis. Movement of the typically stable region of the body can cause hip, lower back and leg pain due to the body’s need to overcompensate and adjust to it’s normal state. Though this conclusion shouldn’t come as a surprise says Bryan Heiderscheit, a professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at University of Wisconsin, researchers believe female runners can counterbalance the tilting through exercise. Since pregnancy and labor strain the abdomen and connective tissues, it’s crucial for postpartum runners to strengthen affected muscles.

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Before busting out the crunches, consider this: Dr. Heiderscheit says the go-to exercise doesn’t cut it. The old-faithful move doesn’t reach deep enough into the abdomen to work the small muscles surround the pelvis. Heiderscheit recommends a mixture of traditional and not-so-traditional techniques to get back in running shape and avoid postpartum pain. Combine abdominal exercises like squats, planks and bridges with pulling your belly up and in multiple times (imagine going to the bathroom while stopping the flow mid-stream) to stabilize your pelvic area. Shortening your stride and increasing your cadence, might also help reduce the impact from pounding the pavement.

Bottom line: don’t ignore aches and pains after having a baby by chalking them up to getting back in shape. Listen to your body’s response to running and incorporate workouts to strengthen stretched muscles. If pain continues, seek medical advice from your doctor or sports medicine specialist.

*Please seek medical clearance from your doctor before attempting to run during or after pregnancy.

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