Running after giving birth: All you need to know about postpartum running (+ a training plan)

Motherhood is a marathon of its own, but with the right guidance, you can confidently hit the track again. Discover everything you need to know about postnatal running.

Woman running in the morning.

How to start running after giving birth

Becoming a mom comes with tons of new challenges, so finding the time and energy to exercise might not be at the top of your priority list at the moment – but once you feel ready to get back to running, having the right information and a post-natal training plan will help you do that without risking injury. 

If you used to run before your pregnancy (or during – check out our prenatal running guide if you need more info on that), you’re probably eager to recover your previous fitness level. And that’s definitely possible! 

Don’t hesitate to do everything at your own pace and take as much time as you need; pregnancy and childbirth change your body in countless ways, so taking things slow is the best way to prepare yourself to get back to more intense training sessions safely. 

The current evidence-based recommendation is that you can return to running around 3 months after childbirth – or more, if you have any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction.

To prepare your body to run again, there’s plenty you can do in the meantime, however. This is also a time when you can simply take a step back and focus on getting as much rest as you can – and with a newborn to take care of, we all know how much of a challenge this can be. So, if you feel that you need more time, take it slow. 

Patience and consistency are key when starting to run postpartum. Here’s how you can progressively work towards getting back to your previous fitness level:  

  • In the first 2 to 4 weeks after giving birth, rest will be your top priority (and rightfully so!)
  • In the next 8 to 10 weeks, you can start doing exercises that help rebuild pelvic floor strength; keep the intensity low to medium
  • Around week 12, consult with your doctor to see if you can go back to more vigorous exercise, such as running – if yes, you can then pick a postpartum running plan such as Runna’s
  • Listen to your body and don’t push through pain or discomfort
  • Recruit others – your partner, parents, friends – to help you get enough time for yourself; physical exercise is an essential part of the equation of your wellbeing after giving birth

To help you with all this, we’ve built Runna, a dedicated running coaching app that you can use to build your own personalized postpartum running plan. It sets all training sessions for you, enabling you to simply focus on running and rebuilding your fitness safely.

All the content of this guide is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Check with a women’s health doctor or a pelvic physiotherapist before you get back to running.

Our personalized postpartum running plan

No matter whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner with plenty of races under your belt, slowing down during your pregnancy and around childbirth is inevitable. 

To return to running safely after that, you need to focus on getting enough rest first – and then on doing some low- to moderate-intensity exercises. 

Once you’re 3 months postpartum and feel ready to get back to more rigorous training, consult with your doctor to make sure you’re not overlooking anything and that you’re ready to get back to running. If they give you a green light, you can start training with a personalized postpartum running plan that adapts to your preferences, current running level, and schedule. 

A tailored postnatal running plan will help you safely transition from easy walk-runs to more challenging sessions and regain your previous strength and endurance.

With Runna, your running coaching app, you get a personalized postnatal running plan that:

  • Is specifically designed for women who gave birth 3 months (or more) prior
  • Sets out all training sessions for you
  • Automatically adjusts your mileage and types of runs to your performance and preferences
  • Provides you with optional strength training sessions
  • Helps you manage your recovery and nutrition

In short, having a balanced postpartum training plan will help you get back to running safely and improve your running game week after week.

Whether you are a beginner looking to build and maintain a running habit or are an elite runner with plenty of experience, you can adapt your plan to your goals, schedule, and preferences.

12 week postnatal running plan

Are you 3 months postpartum and looking to get back to running? This plan is for you! 

If you're 3 months or more postpartum, our postnatal running plan will help you build back your fitness safely and at your own rate. With it, you can focus purely on the running: We’ll structure each week and set out every session so that you don’t need to spend any extra time or energy worrying about how you should train.

The postnatal running plan is a 12 week long journey to help get you back to – and beyond – your previous running fitness. 

First, you’ll do walk-runs and focus on building your running volume at an easy effort before re-introducing some faster sessions to help rebuild fitness. Do not rush this process and take it slow to minimize any risk of injury – and check out our detailed postnatal guide on what exercises to do in the first 12 weeks after giving birth.

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Start your plan today for just $17.99 per month / $109.99 per year.

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What to expect and where to start 

Below, you’ll see a brief overview of what our coach Ailish, who is a senior MSK physiotherapist, a runner, and mother of two, would advise you to do after giving birth to get back to running safely.

0-2 weeks

In the first two weeks, focus on getting as much rest as you can. Childbirth is a huge achievement and a challenge, so give your body time to recover and heal. Add more walking to your routine if and when you feel ready for it – but don’t hesitate to take more time to rest. 

Pelvic floor exercises

You can start doing gentle pelvic floor exercises. In a sitting position, engage the pelvic floor muscles, like if you’re bursting to pee and trying to hold it. Contract them for a second or a few seconds – even if it’s just one second, that’s totally fine. 

Then, over the next few months, the goal is to get to a point where you can do 10 fast, strong contractions in a row and 10 submaximal contractions that you hold for 10 seconds with a 4-second break, twice a day. Go at your own pace. 

If you’re feeling too uncomfortable or swollen, even gentle pelvic contractions can help. 

Pelvic floor exercises can engage your tummy muscles, so if you’ve had a C-section, remember to take it easy.

2-4 weeks

At this point, if you’re already feeling more comfortable and able to move around more easily, you can do some basic exercises on a mat, both for mobility and muscle activation (check out Ailish’s videos in her guide). 

4-6 weeks 

If you’re ready to progress, you can do some leg strengthening exercises or even hop on a stationary bike to start some non-impact, low-intensity cardio. Walking is a great alternative, too. How much you do is up to you and will depend on your previous activity levels, on how active you were during your pregnancy, and how you feel each day. 

Stay in your comfortable zone for now and progress at your own pace.  

6-8 weeks

By now you’re probably moving around more and find it easier to do so. If you have a postnatal check with your doctor, make sure you ask them all the questions you have about how your body feels with increasing movement. 

Watch out for any symptoms when increasing your activity levels, such as urinary and/or fecal incontinence, pressure, bulge, or dragging in the vagina, vaginal bleeding not related to your menstrual cycle, or any pelvic pain. If you get any of those symptoms, consult with your doctor.

By now, you can move on to the next one of Ailish’s workouts, if you’re feeling ready. You can also start doing some strength work in addition to walking and non-impact cardio.

8-12 weeks

If all is going well and your body is reacting positively to the new exercises, you can increase the amount of non-impact cardio you do; this can be with as little as 1-2 minutes per session. It’s better to go slower than risk an injury, so let your body guide you. 

If you like swimming and your doctor has given you the go ahead, you can try it. Again, take your time and ease into it. If you like cycling, you can try a group spin class. 

Here, you can do Ailish’s workout 4 for two weeks and then move on to workout 5. 

Then, her last and 6th workout video will guide you through a checklist of exercises you need to be able to do before you get back to running. 

Once you go through your first 12 weeks after giving birth and the 6 workouts Ailish has prepared for you, you can start training with Runna’s postnatal running program to get back to your previous running fitness.

Postpartum running and nutrition

Training is only one part of the equation of getting back to running after childbirth. Nutrition is an essential element that’ll fuel your recovery and help you get back on track. 

And while you probably want to start losing your pregnancy weight as soon as possible, you shouldn’t focus on weight loss just yet. This will happen progressively over the next months. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • If you’re breastfeeding, this means your energy needs are higher – so make sure you’re eating enough
  • Make sure you’re getting enough iron and calcium; iron and calcium needs increase during and after pregnancy and childbirth
  • Eat enough protein to facilitate muscle recovery
  • Make sure you’re staying hydrated as you add more physical activity to your daily routine

Running for weight loss: Is it possible to lose weight by running?

In short, yes, it’s possible to lose weight by running, but don’t stress it in the first months after giving birth. 

This is an exhausting period, and if you focus too much on reducing calories and increasing your weekly mileage simultaneously, you risk hitting a wall where you simply don’t have enough energy to sustain yourself and train. And if you’re breastfeeding, you do need extra calories on top of your maintenance energy needs. 

The best way to set yourself up for success is to combine exercise with a healthy diet and some strength training. And to be patient and kind to yourself – the weight will come off.

Graphic with two phones and a smartwatch featuring Runna app.

Take your running to the next level

Your personalized running coach with tailored training plans to achieve your goals, from running a faster 5k to finishing your first marathon.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.

Postpartum training and recovery: sleep, pelvic floor exercises, mobility work

Getting enough rest with a newborn is hard – so, don’t stress if you don’t have much (or any!) energy left for exercise. That said, gentle movement and pelvic floor exercises can be an excellent way to prepare your body for more movement. 

Here are our top tips for postpartum training and recovery: 

  • Get as much sleep as possible …Although we probably don’t need to remind you about this one. 
  • Do pelvic floor exercises: Pelvic floor exercises (contracting your pelvic floor muscles) will help you get back to being active and running after giving birth. 
  • Do mobility work: Gentle mobility exercises will help you recover your mobility and strength. Pilates or yoga are a great idea, once you get your doctor’s green light. 
  • Listen to your body: Be flexible and take extra days off whenever needed. If you experience any pain or discomfort, don’t push through it. Talk to your doctor about any symptoms that might worry you.

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Postpartum running gear: Running buggies, clothing, and more

You’ve probably already seen one of those parents running with a buggy in the park and wondered how they manage to do it. Once you get back to running, you’ll be able to do just that, if you feel like giving it a try. (But if you prefer running alone, that’s obviously great, too.)

Here’s our top advice related to postpartum running gear:

  • Running buggies: Running buggies are meant for babies older than 6 months, although in practice that might sometimes be closer to the 8-month mark. Choose a high-quality running buggy (you can borrow one if you aren’t sure you want to buy one just yet) and a quiet sidewalk or a park to get used to it.
  • Shoes: Shoes protect your body – and your pelvic floor – from the impact with the ground. Choose shoes that are well-cushioned to get enough protection. And remember to change them once they’re worn out.
  • Running bra: There are plenty of running bras available that are specifically designed for new mothers, including those who breastfeed. Invest in a high-quality bra that provides enough support.
  • Accessories: Use a running belt or armband to carry your phone, keys, and other essentials. If you’re running with your baby, the running buggy will probably have enough pockets.
  • Sun protection: Use high-SPF sunscreen, even in winter. 

Take your running to the next level

Start your plan today for just $17.99 per month / $109.99 per year.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.

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FAQ: All you need to know about running after giving birth

When can I start running after giving birth?

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Graphic with two phones and a smartwatch featuring Runna app.

Take your running to the next level

Your personalized running coach with tailored training plans to achieve your goals, from running a faster 5k to finishing your first marathon.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.
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