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Running clinics help women with post-pregnancy exercise

December 27, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Experts say running styles can change dramatically after women give birth, resulting in more injuries and less benefit. But there are running clinics designed especially for moms.

Liz Hrodey hits the treadmill to get her pre-pregnancy running form back. She has been running for years, but after two babies, she said she never felt right.

"I had a lot of injuries. I literally zigzagged down the roads," said Hrodey.

Hrodey visited the mom running clinic to find out what was going on. Bryan Heiderscheit, director of the University of Wisconsin Runners' Clinic, said the problems in form lead to back, buttock and thigh pains, as well as hamstring and Achilles injuries.

"It's not as if we're not seeing this in other individuals, but it's much more consistent in women following pregnancy," said Heiderscheit.

Abdominal muscles weakened by pregnancy that affect the pelvic bones are a major issue. Hrodey was given exercises specifically designed for her to strengthen them.

Heiderscheit said there are things every mom can do to improve their running. First, don't expect to pick up where you left off before you were pregnant. He said six weeks after birth, start slowly and gradually build up. Next, shorten your stride.

"You can reduce the load the body's incurring with running by just shortening your stride by about 5 or 10 percent," he said.

To do that, Heiderscheit said figure out your current steps per minute by counting the number of times your right foot hits the ground while running 30 seconds and multiply it by four. Then, add 5 to 10 percent more steps. Use a metronome to make sure you're running at your new stride.

Hrodey said it took her a while to get the hang of it. Since figuring out her problems, she has run multiple half-marathons and recently finished her first full marathon.

Heiderscheit said it's also important for moms to avoid bouncing while they're running. If you notice your eyes moving a lot, work on stabilizing them. It can decrease bouncing, which can lessen the load on your body while running.