Fortunately, my return to running after having a baby has been a relatively easy transition for me. I feel so lucky I’ve only had a few minor things come up, and somehow (I’m still not entirely sure how) I have been able to run faster and set new PRs in almost every distance from the 10K to the marathon.
Even though things were going relatively well for me, I still had a lot of questions pertaining to my body specifically:
- Is my transverse abdominal muscle engaging?
- What else can I do to fix my diastasis recti (the gap in my abs)?
- More recently on long runs my lower abs/c-section scar area was becoming sore. What could be done to help this?
- Am I doing everything necessary to get my body primed for the marathon in June?
I did the best to educate myself on the runner’s postpartum body. I read blog posts, watched YouTube videos, and scoured other various articles trying to make sure I was doing the necessary things to get my body back after having a baby. Recently, I read Becki’s blog post on how her transverse abdominis muscle wasn’t recruiting correctly and causing her to fatigue very early in the marathon. I also listed to a podcast she did, and the one thing she said that stuck with me was that every postpartum women should see a physical therapist. She, too, had a c-section and said it is expected that someone who has shoulder surgery is referred to a PT for rehab, why shouldn’t someone who had abdominal surgery also need PT. I finally decided to go a see a physical therapist this week, and I am so glad I did.
I went in to see Lori Sivitz at United Physical Therapy here in Anchorage. She was recommended to me by her coworker, Alec Kay, who is an amazing physical therapist and highly sought after by the running community here. I figured she would probably give me some core strengthening exercises and send me on my way, but I was quite wrong. I walked out of her office not with five strengthening exercises but five stretches! Stretches for my mid-back, hamstrings, and calves, and I also have to work on my posture!
When I arrived, Lori and I talked about what was bothering me and what my concerns were. Then she took a look at my posture. Come to find out, I arch my lower back too much when I stand and instead I need to rotate my hip girdle posteriorly (backwards).
Next she took a look at my back, glutes, and calf muscles. I have always known my hamstrings and calves are tight. (For example, I cannot get my thighs parallel to the ground when doing a squat because my calves are so tight.) What I did not realize was how tight my mid-back was. And crazily enough, the tight hamstrings and back were affecting the tightness in my glutes too. I’ve always known everything is connected, but I didn’t realize how interconnected everything is. She showed me the connection by releasing tension in my back and hamstrings and automatically the pressure she was applying to my glutes did not hurt nearly as much.
Lori also took a look at my c-section scar. She said one side didn’t move as freely, so maybe there is still lingering scar tissue?? I don’t remember what she said about this, but I thought it was interesting.
Then she had me do some crunches. She said I had about a finger width’s gap in my abs. But the one thing that wasn’t right about my core was how much my abs peaked up like a mountain when I crunched up. She said this was due to my abs recruiting the muscles incorrectly. As far as I can remember my abs have always done this, even pre-baby. I didn’t realize this was a problem. Oops! (You can watch a video of it on Instagram. It is still kind of hard to see, but trust me, the muscles don’t stay flat at all.)
Lori spent an entire hour with me, and I walked away with so much knowledge. I highly encourage you to see a physical therapist if you are having any issues post-baby. You should not be dealing with issues months and years down the road.
And if you live in the Anchorage area, please come hear Lori speak at a presentation she is giving on the postpartum runner’s body. I am hosting a talk at Skinny Raven on Saturday, May 14 at 9:00am. I have asked she talk specifically about pelvic floor issues and incontinence along with diastasis recti as I’ve heard these are things several of my friends are dealing with. And even if you aren’t a runner, I know she will have valuable information to share about the postpartum body in general. You can find this event on The Runner’s Plate Facebook page.