For new military mothers, progressing from walking to running is a key milestone. As they prepare to pass their mandatory physical activity assessment, they need to build up their cardio and strength to endure the impact of running. Yet many new military mothers don’t get any guidance or training on how to do this slowly and safely. As part of its Fit Warrior Mom app, Pear Health Labs introduces a groundbreaking Return to Running Program designed exclusively for postpartum servicewomen. Learn more about the genesis of this unique fitness program and what sets it apart from conventional postpartum programs.
The Importance of a Thoughtful Fitness Approach
Eager to lose baby weight, women often jump into exercise right after getting medical clearance, typically around the 6-week mark. Yet running too soon after birth without proper training can exacerbate issues such as incontinence, prolapse, or diastasis recti.
“Women often dive right back into what they were doing before the baby was born, without realizing that the body is still healing,” explains Saralyn Ward, NASM-CPT., an award-winning fitness expert, founder of the Better After Baby postpartum app, and key collaborator in the design of the Return to Running Program. “Things have shifted, and they’re still navigating hormonal changes that have a direct impact on their ability to build strength.”
According to Saralyn, it’s not surprising women aren’t clear on how to resume exercise after giving birth. It wasn’t until 2019 and 2022 that research was published outlining specific exercise considerations for the postpartum body.
Tailoring Fitness to the Postpartum Journey
“Before we started creating the Return to Running program, we spent a year building a strength-training program addressing the specific needs of the postpartum mother,” says Saralyn. “We needed to make the program very nuanced because there are so many variables to consider. A woman’s sleep quality, her mental health and hormone changes, the type of birth she had, whether she’s breastfeeding, and how much social support she has all directly influence the quality of her exercise training.”
According to Saralyn, each stage of the early postpartum journey serves as a building block for future fitness success. “How she exercises at 6 weeks postpartum is, and should be, wildly different than how she will work out at 11 months postpartum,” explains Saralyn.
A Safe Return to Running: Following Protocols
Recent research advocates a cautious approach, suggesting that impact-based exercises like running should start no earlier than 13 weeks postpartum. This gives the body time to reach certain rehabilitative and strength milestones to handle the impact.
The Fit Warrior Mom Return to Running program starts at 13 weeks postpartum and continues to 52 weeks, aligning with the Air Force Physical Fitness Test. The programming includes three weekly walk-run interval workouts, emphasizing gradual progression, and increasing running distances by 10% weekly. Each session concludes with targeted exercises for the hips, deep abdominals, pelvic floor, and feet.
What Sets this Postpartum Program Apart
Implemented at Air Force bases nationwide, the Return to Running program is uniquely crafted to meet the specific needs of postpartum servicewomen. “This is not a generic, one-size-fits-all postpartum fitness program,” notes Saralyn. “We’ve taken the most current research and built a program that follows the recommendations to a T, right down to the timing of the exercises performed.” She adds, “I’ve worked in fitness for almost 20 years, and I can confidently say this program is the first of its kind.”
Powered by PEAR’s Training Intelligence® platform, the solution uses AI algorithms to tailor adaptable workout plans, tracking progress and capturing insights that help them at every stage of postpartum recovery.
Saralyn explains that Fit Warrior Mom is changing the paradigm of postpartum fitness. “By taking a holistic approach, offering supplemental resources for pelvic floor rehabilitation, lactation, mental health, and daily workouts, this unique solution serves those who selflessly serve our country.”
Adaptable Programs for Real-Life Challenges
Acknowledging the unpredictable nature of postpartum life, the Return to Running program incorporates checkpoints along the way with targeted questions to assess the runner. For example, recognizing real-life challenges such as sleepless nights, the program will adapt, and dial back the intensity of training for a week or so to ensure a realistic and sustainable fitness journey.
Fit Warrior Mom and the innovative Return to Running program stand as a testament to the transformative power of personalized, thoughtful fitness programming in supporting and enhancing the well-being of postpartum military mothers. By prioritizing consistency and offering personalized fitness journeys, Fit Warrior Mom empowers these dedicated moms for a strong and resilient return to running and force readiness.
As a digital solution, Fit Warrior Mom is accessible anytime, anywhere. Warrior moms can tap into their personalized fitness plans and resources at their convenience, making consistent, adaptable postpartum workouts a reality.
For more information on PEAR Health Labs’ AI-powered fitness training solutions for the military, firefighters, police, and other first responders, visit pearhealthlabs.com/solutions/military-and-government.