A better question is should I run with a diastasis, and that answer is, probably not -- BUT, before you bite my head off, let me explain why and help you figure out how to run safely.
I know what it is like, telling a runner not to run is like trying to change the mind of a 3 year old. So, what we you do to get you strong enough to run safely, since we all know you are going to run anyway.
Lets go into why we advise against running:
A diastasis is a thinning of the fascia in the front of your abdomen. It runs through your entire body, connecting and orchestrating movement. It’s very important!
To repair itself, fascia doesn’t like to be under constant strain, which means your posture and alignment need to be spot on, especially if you are going to stress your body with a single leg dynamic activity, like running -- even more so, if you going to push a pushchair. Also, keep in mind that if your diastasis is only tentatively healed -- meaning it feels firm when you lift your head, but your abs bulge when you do a plank or leg lift -- then running could open it right back up, because it’s not 100% fixed yet.
Let’s think of it in terms of any other injury… You tear your ACL (knee ligament), it gets fixed and you rehab enough to be able to walk around, but you are certainly not ready to hop in a football game yet. A diastasis is the same way. You need to take purposeful steps to get back to 100%.
Your core acts as a major stabilizer of your pelvis when you run. With a diastasis, your ability to load your core is ineffective, which means so is your pelvic stability.
Without pelvic stability, injury is likely to occur, such as IT Band syndrome, knee pain, hip pain, achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, back pain, and neck and shoulder tightness. Our body needs balance to make sure everybody stays in perfect working order. If not, someone (a joint/muscle/ligament/etc.) will get more wear and tear than everyone else and will start screaming at you, often in the form of pelvic floor leaks, butt or hip pain, low back tightness… you get the picture.
Correct running form utilises the entire core and glutes, but with a diastasis, you will not transfer energy well across the front and are more likely to load the connective tissue, not your entire core. (Think of it as the weakest link in the chain, and the body loves to exploit a weak link by following the path of least resistance. Then it can hang on connective tissue instead of using muscle. Using muscle burns calories, if we go back to when food was scarce and calorie conservation could mean life or death, our bodies adapted to conserve energy and rest whenever possible.
So, what should you do if you want to run but have a Diastasis? Well, at least now you know it could cause a lack of pelvic stability, which can lead to injuries down the road. If it were me, I’d spend some (don’t panic, I didn’t say all) of my running time working on the cause of the DR. I did not say give up running or never run again! All I want is to keep you safe, healthy, and running for years and years.
Running is a single leg dynamic activity. It’s HARD on our body. You need to be in great shape to run.
You need to be in great shape to run without something feeling achy or tight.
Step 1: Perfect your alignment in both everyday life and running.
Step 2. Check your ribcage to make sure it’s recovered fully from being pregnant. I have all my ladies draw on themselves to check ribcage angle. It’s a fun selfie and sets a great example for the kids. LOL. With a baby pushing up and out, your ribs have a tendency to spread and then they might not go back automatically postpartum. Needing to hook your bra clasp on a larger setting or having trouble getting dresses zipped is a sign your ribs need an exercise or two to get them back down.
Step 3. Fix your breathing. Deep 360 ribcage expansion is needed for diastasis closure. Shallow breathing, promoted by drawing in your belly button, will prevent you from keeping your diastasis closed longterm.
Step 4. Fix your everyday movement patterns. Learn how to bend, twist, and reach, stressing your core the right way. A good diastasis recovery program (whether online or in-person) should go over this. Everyday movements can be more important than exercises.
Step 5. Learn how to progressively load. Once my ladies get their ribs in, they learn how to breathe and move. Then, we move onto progressive front loading (i.e. being able to do a plank). A plank from the floor is not a safe exercise for a diastasis until you have trained the core how to do it. Think about pushing a stroller. That’s a lot of “planking” in an upright position, especially if you are pushing it uphill.
Step 6. Get stronger making sure all your muscles are working like they are supposed to. Example: Let’s take a simple bridge. A bridge should come from your glutes (butt muscles) but a lot of my clients feel it in their quads (front of their legs) and low back (paraspinals) and this makes their issue worse. Instead of doing a bridge to help their diastasis, they are actually keeping it from healing. Gasp!! Some exercises are better than others, but it’s how you do them that matters most. You should be able to do a single leg bridge keeping your hips balanced.
Step 7. Then progress into running. Start slow. Not slow speed, just mileage. Don’t try to run 6 miles your first time out. Then please, please, please keep getting stronger!!! Running creates muscle imbalances. Those imbalances fuel injury down the road. Getting stronger and staying strong is the best preventative measure!
I did not say abandon running forever, so don't freak out. I simply want you to be smart about it and approach it like you would any dynamic exercise, with a strong, connected body!