Postpartum Running Assessment: Are you ready to start running after a baby?

If you’re planning to return to (or start) running after having a baby it’s essential to do a postpartum running assessment to check that your body is ready for it!

There’s no denying that pregnancy and childbirth cause havoc to our bodies – so many drastic changes in such a short time! It’s no wonder postpartum women struggle with so many aches and pains. The reality is, having a baby is equivalent to a traumatic injury. After having a baby, we need time to heal and do the proper rehab to ensure our body has recovered before resuming high-intensity exercise like running.

How do you know if you’re ready to start running postpartum?

For many years, women were told to just wait a couple of months then gradually return to running when they feel ready. The problem with this advice is that it’s very general and vague – are all women ready to start running after a couple of months? Definitely not!

Running is a high-impact, repetitive sport that requires a lot of stability, resilience, and control – things that many women at 8-12 weeks postpartum have not yet regained.

To solve this issue, in 2019, a group of physiotherapists from the UK (Tom Goom, Emma Brockwell & Grianne Donnelly) released an evidence-based clinical guideline for returning to running postpartum.

These guidelines include a seven-part postpartum running assessment – a screen you can easily do at home to check if you’re ready to start running again.

I have included a detailed outline of this screen in my E-book ‘How to Safely Return to Running after a Baby’ as well as in the video above.

To pass this postpartum running assessment you should be able to complete all 7 tests without these symptoms:

  • No pain
  • No bulging or heaviness in your vagina
  • No incontinence (loss of urine)

The seven tests are:

  1. Walking for 30 minutes
  2. Single leg balance for 10 seconds on each leg
  3. Single leg hopping for 10 reps on each leg
  4. Single leg squat for 10 reps on each leg
  5. Jogging on the spot for 60 seconds
  6. Forward bounding for 10 reps on each leg
  7. Running man for 10 reps on each leg

When can you start running postpartum?

Resuming high-intensity exercise like running postpartum must be carefully planned and prepared. Your body might not be ready 3 months after giving birth, it might not even be ready 12 months after giving birth. Everybody is different, and your readiness for running will depend on how well your body is prepared to handle the stress of running. 

As a physiotherapist, I recommend all new mums wait at least 12 weeks before beginning running. Even if you have a relatively uncomplicated birth and ‘quick’ recovery, we know your tissues are still too loose and your muscles are still too weak to tolerate running. 

Research shows that women who resume running before 12 weeks are more likely to develop injuries and pelvic floor dysfunction.

But although I don’t recommend running in the first 12 weeks, it is an optimal time to re-build your strength and condition in preparation for running. 

Once you’re past the 12-week mark and have done at least a few weeks of strength training, you can do the postpartum running assessment. 

If you pass this postpartum running assessment you are then cleared to slowly resume running.

About the Author

Alina Kennedy

Alina Kennedy

Alina Kennedy is the founder and lead Physiotherapist behind The Runners Physio.

Alina is a physiotherapist and strength & conditioning specialist based in Adelaide, Australia. She graduated from the University of South Australia in 2011 and works as a sports physiotherapist focusing on running performance and injury rehabilitation. She’s developed training and rehab methods based on years of clinical experience and up-to-date scientific evidence. Her simple but effective approach has successfully helped thousands of runners overcome repetitive injuries and get back to running faster and healthier.

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