What about the baby? Is it safe to run with the baby in a buggy? Well these guidelines written by a bunch of expert physiotherapists in this field of interest recommend not to run with the baby until they have adequate head and neck strength to undergo the different terrains that come with running whilst in the buggy. This usually does not take place until the 6-9 month mark. Lying a baby flat in the buggy will be more supportive for the baby compared to if the baby is in an upright or semi-reclined position.
Pushing a buggy while running requires more energy expenditure so this needs to be considered when working out how long or far to run. There are also different ways to push a buggy. The push and chase method, one hand and the two hand push. To start running with a buggy, two hands holding the buggy should be used and then progress to one hand. Having said this, the research has shown that the two handed method is most closely mimicking similar speed and stride length as someone free running.
The buggy itself should be designed for running, have a five-point harness for the baby, fixed front wheels, hand-operated brakes, rear wheel suspension, pneumatic tyres, 3 wheels and a wrist strap.
Having an abdominal separation after having the baby can indicate that there are issues with forces being able to transfer from one side of your trunk to the other. This can compromise the stability in your trunk and pelvis you need for running. A pelvic floor physiotherapist can use tools such as real time ultrasound to have a look at how your abdominals are functioning and whether they are co-ordinated with your pelvic floor. Needing to push something like a buggy is going to be harder on your core muscles to stabilise compared to if you are free running. So your core strength needs to be adequate to push the load of a buggy on different terrains. The tissues in your abdominals generally will not have regained its normal tension strength even by 7 months postnatal so high impact exercise can be loading the abdominal tissues more than what it can handle and potentially worsen an abdominal separation. Obesity and hypermobility can further delay the rehabilitation of these tissues. Clues that your abdomen is not handling the load is if there is a bulging of the abdomen outwards or you see a doming when running or when getting out of bed or a chair.
The guidelines have been given that if you run with an unmanaged abdominal separation, you can increase the risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction including stress incontinence and prolapse. This is why seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist to give you a thorough assessment of your pelvic floor, abdominal function and strength tests to see whether you are ready for running or not.
Check out Part 3 of our blog of Returning to Running After Having a Baby discussing specific tests that can be used to see whether you are ready for running. For Part 1 of our blog click on Running and the Pelvic Floor.
Reference: Returning to running postnatal- guideline for medical, health and fitness professionals managing this population. Authors: Tom Goom, Grainne Donnelly and Emma Brockwell. March 2019.