As each pregnancy and labor experience varies between mothers, it is no surprise that every woman’s postpartum fitness journey will be different. With the seemingly immense pressure to snap back to your old self post-partum, it can be difficult to navigate your way through all the misinformation out there and do what is right for your body and overall well-being.
Becoming a new mum is such an incredible experience. Yet, there is no doubt it is one of the most challenging transitions a woman might have to go through.
It is tough, not only physically but emotionally. It can feel like you are on a rollercoaster of emotions as you come to terms with the fact that you just created this beautiful little human and now must learn to protect, nurture and care for them.
Physically, the body has not only been through months of growing that little human, but it has also just gone through one of the most strenuous feats the human body can achieve: childbirth. No matter what that experience looked like for you, it is a huge feat that your body needs time to recover from.
Here are 6 pieces of advice to help you ease your way back into postpartum fitness.
1. Enjoy the Bubble:
This new job of yours is nothing to be scoffed at. Learning to adapt to the 2 hourly feeds, minimal sleep, the mindless swaying to get bub to sleep, the frantic sprint to get the chores done once bub is asleep and not to mention all the extra time needed to stare in awe at this little precious human you’ve made! Being a new mum takes a lot of getting used to and your little human isn’t going to be a newborn forever. So, take the time to enjoy it! In saying that, it is important that you get time for yourself, and whilst it is not recommended that you go gun-ho back into the gym for your postpartum fitness – a few weeks after birth is a great time to focus on reconnecting with your body through some light breath work and gentle stretches. These are best guided by a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
2. 6 Weeks Is Not A Magic Number:
Once you have given birth you are told to wait for the 6-week check-up before you can begin your postpartum fitness again, which is great advice… but that does not mean you can dive straight back into your old routine once that fateful 6 weeks is up. The 6 weeks is a guide and as I mentioned above, everyone’s experience post-partum will be different. Several factors will determine when it will be deemed safe to return to exercise Post-Partum including; how your pregnancy was, the circumstances of your labor, if there were any complications during childbirth, and your body’s ability to heal. Something to keep in mind before you go bounding back to your old HIIT class.
Sadly, a lot of trainers do not fully appreciate the implications of post-natal training so don’t blindly rely on them to know what’s going on either.
3. Consult A Women’s Health Physiotherapist:
This is a big one! Whilst a 6-week check-up from the doctor is important it is not enough to determine your readiness to train. A glance downstairs is and poke of the abdomen is not enough to get you back into the weights room. A good Women’s Health Physiotherapist will do a full body assessment and determine the risk of common post-natal issues such a prolapse and abdominal separation. They can also assist with any other ailments that have crept up on you in the adjust to motherhood (those late-night feeds- hello rounded back).
These check-ups will also give you a good indication on how to begin your return to postpartum fitness. It may just begin with a few controlled breathing and core exercises which will help provide a strong foundation and reconnect you to your body.
4. Slow and Steady Wins the Race:
No matter what the goal is longevity should be at the forefront of our minds. The precautions we take with our training both pre and post-natal care to ensure our bodies are functioning with us in the long term. Once you have been given the green light to train by both a doctor and physiotherapist you mustn’t rush and ease your body back in. It has been through a lot, be patient. Remember, walking is a great form of exercise- not only for the body but for the mind (and is a great way to put bub to sleep), so if you don’t know where to start, start there.
Finding time to exercise is also another tricky thing to navigate; scour your local area for a good mum’s and bub’s class. Taking bub to a new environment often keeps them entertained as you train. It’s a great way to meet other new mums as well.
5. The Rebuild:
This is a continuation of the thought above but is a very important point. One thing I find a lot of mama’s neglect in their return to training post-partum is the Re-build phase. How I like to describe this phase is the bridge between your training at the end of your pregnancy and your training post-partum. This means that once you have completed your recovery with a physio (and yes that means all the ‘boring’ but important homework they give you) you are now ready to begin your training where you left it at the END of your pregnancy – not before pregnancy. This entails – taking on the same modifications that you were prescribed during your pregnancy – and taking the time to rebuild your strength from there. I find that this can be a little bit of a struggle for women who are very eager to return to their pre-baby training and can often result in them overstepping the mark with what their body is ready for. It is also important to factor recovery into your training sessions. Remember training is another stressor – that we need to be able to recover from if we are going adapt (and reap all the benefits from it.
So, what is the best form of recovery you ask? That’s right, SLEEP! Which sadly new parents don’t get a lot of. It is then very important that you take this into account when thinking about the intensity of your training and if it is suitable for your body’s current state of recovery.
6. Nourish Your Body and Stay Hydrated:
We all know a well-balanced diet is important for optimal health. Good nutrition and eating quality foods can also help the body heal and keep you feeling energized throughout your day. However, keeping on top of your diet and ensuring you are getting enough quality calories can be easier said than done when you’ve got a new baby to look after.
Some ideas that may make this easier:
Subscribe to local organic fruit and vegetable delivery service to ensure you always have fresh produce on hand.
Ask for help: when friends and family come to visit ask them to bring a meal your way in exchange for baby cuddles.
Bulk meal prep: prepare veggies, sauces, curries, and soups so that preparing dinner is a matter of minutes in the microwave rather than hours in the kitchen.
Keeping hydrated is another thing we need to be wary of post-partum particularly if you are breastfeeding. Always make sure you have a glass of water on hand before and after feeds. Once you begin exercising you will need to up your water intake. Invest in a good water bottle and sip water throughout your workout.
Tanya Poppett is a Master Trainer and Fitness Coach sharing her unique blend of Strength, HIIT, Maintenance, and Mobility workouts with the world. Follow her on Instagram for a daily dose of motivation.
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