When I was pregnant I could not wait to dive back into my high intensity workouts again. I happily modified my workouts while my babes were growing in my belly, but I longed for the days that I could really go for it again. I missed the stress relief of it and if I’m being honest, I really really wanted to get my pre-babe body back.
So when my first son turned the magical six weeks, I got the magical clearance to return to exercise. I came home from my midwife appointment, put my son down for a nap and laced up for workout #1.
That first workout was an eye opener. I was out of breath, could barely hold a plank for 15 seconds and my hips hurt really bad.
As a Personal Trainer, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t listen to my body when it was telling me to back off. I kept going and even made the decision to sign up for a half marathon when my son was only 7 months. I basically did everything that I now tell my clients not to do!
My boys are now 8 and 6 (WHAT?!!!!) and looking back, I would do things a whole lot differently. Knowledge is power and I have more of it as well as a little perspective. I made a lot of mistakes because I didn't know differently. Even as a Personal Trainer, this was a whole new world for me.
So today I wanna share 6 Do's and Don'ts of Post Partum Exercise ( I did ALL of the don'ts) to help you recover from your childbirth and get strong and fit again without sacrificing your physical and mental health:
DO get a thorough check up first:
Most of us wait to get the green light from the doc/OB/midwife before we start working out. And while this is great, I recommend going one step further. Have your health care provider check you for a condition called Diastasis Recti. This is essentially the separation of your abdominal wall in between your “six pack muscles”. This is a very common condition that can be treated with corrective exercise (I recommend a physiotherapist here) but it’s helpful to know ahead of time.
In addition to this, I recommend getting a referral for a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist….yes it’s a thing! Regardless of how you delivered, your pelvic floor can become weak during pregnancy. Pelvic floor problems can cause low back pain, “leaking” when you cough, painful sex or even an organ prolapse. Working with a professional will help you learn your “starting point” and develop a personal plan to address your specific issues.
Don’t go full tilt right away:
It can be so tempting to dive back into high intensity training like running or plyometrics but your body needs a break. It has literally been through the “marathon of birth” and we need to treat it with care. It’s also important to remember that our post-baby hormones cause our joints to be looser and less stable.
Jarring movements such as running or plyometrics can lead to injury when started too soon. You CAN get back to these eventually. However it’s best to begin with light or bodyweight exercises that build strength and stability first.
DO train the heck out of your glutes:
Remember those post baby hormones that make your joints weak? All the more reason to train one of the most important stabilizers in your body...your glutes (ie. your butt). Strong glutes support your hips, knees and lower back and prevent injury. One of the best exercises to strengthen your glutes is the clamshell. Check out the video below for details. Perform this exercise 2-3 times a week, 3 sets of 15-20 reps for best results.
Don’t do crunches. Just don't
Literally every post partum woman I know wants to get her “abs” back. And I can’t say I I didn't either. But if I can give you one piece of advice it would be this: Don’t do crunches!
Earlier we talked about Diastasis Recti (the separation of your abdominals) being a common side effect of pregnancy. So many women have it and crunches make it worse not better!
Women with Diastasis Recti should train to bring the abdominal muscles closer together. What happens when we do crunches? We push these muscles further apart and can even create a belly pooch (the exact opposite of what we want!)
Start by practicing this gentle breathing exercise to start turning on your core muscles again (it’s harder than it sounds and yes it works)
Step 1: Sit in a comfortable position. Take a deep breath in and feel your belly expand
Step 2: As you exhale, do a gentle kegel (or think of stopping the flow of your pee) Your belly will contract slightly here.
Step 3: Inhale and release the kegel contraction gently (it’s just as important to release the contraction too)
Repeat this for 5-10 breaths 2-3 times a day to begin (diaper change time can be a good cue)
DO something you love:
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do “all the fitness things”. Regular movement is so beneficial for your physical and mental health regardless of what it is. We all know that exercise is good for us but it’s easy to feel like we aren’t doing enough or doing it “right”. Take the pressure off of yourself and allow yourself to just focus on movement right now, instead of formal “exercise”. Love taking your baby for a walk in the stroller? Go for it? More of a yoga girl? Roll out your mat and go to town. Find a way to move that you love and you will be more likely to stick to it and you’ll still reap all the benefits of physical activity.
Don’t stress too much about the baby weight
If another celebrity has a baby and walks the red carpet in a size 0 dress the day after giving birth, I think I may vomit. Yes this happens but it’s not realistic for 90% of the population. If you didn’t bounce back 3 hours after birth, YOU are in the majority and it is OK! If I could go back in time and talk to my post baby self, I would tell myself to relax about the whole baby weight thing. Life is long and this post baby body time is just a blip on the radar. You are perfect as you are and your body will settle into a happy place naturally over time. Your body has given you a huge gift. Take a moment to thank it and know that it if you treat it with respect, it WILL return to it’s old strong super powered self again. You got this mama!
Got the green light to workout again? Check out my FREE 5 Days to Fit Jumpstart Program for Busy Moms and receive 5 days of (short) home workout videos, and an energizing, fat burning meal plan. Don’t be afraid to modify the movements a bit if you’re just starting out and make sure to add in an extra meal or snack if you're breastfeeding. And as always Please check with your doc before you start ANY new fitness program or meal plan.
Kim Holmes is a Personal Trainer and the Owner of My Fit Coach. She helps busy Moms care for their bodies (and minds) through Online Fitness and Nutrition Programs. As a Mom of two young sons, she understands that you don’t have hours to spend at the gym. Her Online Programs are efficient, fun and most importantly, they make fitness fit into your REAL life.