How I run happy and healthy – Emma Brockwell
23 April 2021
As a pelvic health physiotherapist as well as a author, podcaster, runner and mum, Emma is passionate about women’s pre- and postnatal care and the role regular exercise has to play in ensuring physical and mental wellbeing.
Why did you start running?
When I was a teenager, as I found that getting outside and pounding the streets and trails did wonders for my mental health. It didn’t take long until I was hooked and ever since running has been a part of who I am and a way of maintaining my mental and physical health.
What motivates you to run?
So many things. Life as a mum of three is pretty hectic, so the opportunity to get outside, put on a podcast and switch off is gold. I love getting out into nature too. I’m not a treadmill runner, I’m lucky to live near some beautiful trails and see something new every day. Running gives me that opportunity to explore my world.
As much as I love a run on my own, I also love running with Oxted Ladies Run Club – what better excuse to catch up with my great pals and put the world to rights? The end-of-the-run feeling always motivates me too and now my kids are getting older I am really enjoying running with them while they learn to ride their bikes. Running is very special and I couldn’t imagine my life without it.
How often do you go out running?
I run three to four times a week. There was a time where I ran daily, but I kept picking up injuries so now I mix up my exercise regime and always make sure I strength train two to three times a week too. I think runners underestimate how important strength training is in not only preventing injury but also in improving their running, definitely good to mix it up!
You encourage women, pre- and post-natal, to exercise. Why do you think it is important that mums take time for themselves and keep active?
Yes. I am so, so passionate that all women are empowered to exercise during and after pregnancy. A lot of women feel guilty about exercising during and after pregnancy and often don’t prioritise themselves. However, there is so much evidence that being active during and after pregnancy has huge benefits not only for mum, but for baby’s health too.
It’s a public health priority that we encourage women, men and children to get active and I see the perinatal period as a great opportunity to do just this. An active mum has a more active family.
What would you say to mums who feel they don’t have the time or energy to run/exercise regularly?
Find an exercise you love – if you don’t enjoy it you won’t want to do it. Don’t be afraid to try something new, new is exciting and often motivating. Take away the pressure. You don’t have to be an amazing runner or an amazing swimmer for example to enjoy exercise. Think bitesize. Remember every minute you are active counts, so even if you aim to get in 10 minutes a day that is a great start on the road to activity and exercise. The more you exercise, the more energy you will have, there’s the irony! Finally try to make exercise part of your routine, just as you would have a shower. Once it becomes a habit it often becomes part of you and it’s a great thing to have as part of your daily wellbeing routine.
What would your advice be to those women who face physical difficulties running after having children – in particular those who suffer from pelvic floor issues?
It is common but not normal to suffer pelvic floor dysfunction after having a baby. This can include leaking urine or pelvic organ prolapse, symptoms that can often be exacerbated by exercise like running. Pelvic floor dysfunction can get worse if left untreated and there’s evidence to show that it’s a barrier to exercise. These conditions are treatable, but also preventable.
Every woman who has had a baby should see a pelvic health physiotherapist, even if they are symptom-free. Your body will have changed dramatically during and after pregnancy. You wouldn’t have knee surgery and return to sport without rehabilitation, so why do we expect women to return to exercise (particularly high-impact exercise) postnatally without having rehabilitation?
Pelvic health physiotherapists are trained to assess you internally (your pelvic floor) and externally and help you return to the sport you like safely and effectively. So speak to your GP and ask to see a pelvic health physiotherapist, or you can seek their help privately.
Celebrate You is all about running for your head and your heart. How has running helped improve your mental health and wellbeing?
I love this and couldn’t agree more. This is one of the many reasons that I run, to maintain and improve my physical and mental health. I have offered suffered from periods of low mood and anxiety and running has always helped me overcome some tricky times.
I personally must exercise every day to keep my mind and body happy, it’s my fix. I’m so passionate that more and more people see the huge benefits running can bring, while being a low-cost, accessible exercise to do with or without friends.
What would be your one bit of advice for a first-time runner or someone considering taking up running?
Start with a good walk/run program and stick with it. There will be days when it feels harder, and you have to dig deep to step outside, but that’s the hardest bit. Once you take those first few steps you are away and will be so grateful that you persevered.
You’re running the first-ever virtual Vitality London 10,000 in May – why should other people sign up and join you?
Whether you are a seasoned runner or new to running, the 10K distance is always a fun and exciting challenge. Perhaps you want a PB or perhaps this will be the first time you have run so far. Whatever your reason for running the virtual Vitality London 10,000, this year has been incredibly difficult for everyone and it’s fun to have a goal like this and knowing that so many others are doing it too.
Every week I am checking in with my Instagram followers who are training and offering them some little tips, so head over to @physiomumuk and join my ‘virtual team’!