exercise after childbirth

8 Things You Must Consider Before Exercising After Childbirth

One of the great things about having a large portion of our clients being female is that we get to share their journey of fitness throughout their pregnancy.

Then once their home and settled in we get to help them regain their fitness and strength, or as a lot of mums say their ‘pre baby body.’

Setting up realistic expectations at the first meeting with your coach is crucial for success because things are different for a whole host of reasons after having a baby.

Things like work for the pelvic floor, core stability and strength (with both cesarean and natural births) and even dealing with sleep deprivation and the affect that has on your body are all important factors to consider.

It takes around 40 weeks to form the fully pregnant body and it can take just as long to return back to your full pre-pregnancy physical self.

1. Start Back Slowly – As a general rule four to six weeks post delivery is a good time frame to reintroduce exercise. This is the minimum for births via cesarean section but also not a bad idea for natural deliveries as you allow your body to settle back down. This doesn’t mean you have to be under house arrest for the first month, walking or simply getting out and about is a good start on the road back to fitness. If you can access light to moderate ‘cardio’ type exercise at your gym then that can be nice easy transition back as well.

2. How Is Your Pelvic Floor? – When the pelvic floor is weakened exercises that increase intra-abdominal pressure can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor. This can result in delayed healing or even a prolapse. Kegel exercises to restrengthen or defamiliarise yourself with the pelvic floor muscles is one of the first forms of exercise to incorporate. If in doubt talk to your coach or have them refer you to a physio that specialises in this area.

3. Repairing Abdominal Separation – This is a very common occurrence in the ’six pack’ muscles aka the rectus abdominus. This can be checked by the physio in the hospital or at your six week check up. Depending on the severity you may need to spend some time working on this area specifically to help draw the muscles back together. When doing abdominal or ‘core’ work it is best to work with plank variations and not sit ups or crunches starting at an appropriate level and working your way up. Your pelvic floor is integral to ‘core strength’ so revisit the above point if necessary and always remember to engage your pelvic floor correctly when doing any core work or other lifting.

4. How Stable Is Your Pelvis? Not only your pelvis but all the other joints in your body, especially the load bearing ones. The hormone ‘Relaxin’ has been doing it’s job to get you ready for the birth of your child and has softened the ligaments and joints around your body. This can take up to six months to return back to normal. Wobbly, unstable joints (think “wet spaghetti”) aren’t a great base for movement. Controlled movements in stable positions with rigid shape (think “dry spaghetti”) will serve you a lot better and decrease the chance of injury.

5. Low Intensity Options – Regardless of the type of training you were doing leading up to your delivery, always start back with exercise at low intensity. This may mean doing the same things you were doing with lighter weights, exercise substitutions and modifications. We also have some great low impact options that can go from low to very high intensity at Citywide Fitness. These options are worth considering if your joints and pelvic floor aren’t keeping up with your fitness levels.

6. Hydration – Sleep and hydration are the two easiest ways to increase, or decrease, your bodies efficiency. With a baby at home it is going to be easier to focus on something you’ve got more control over, such as hydration, than it is sleep. This is even more important when breastfeeding as dehydration can occur very quickly (even in colder climates) and this can impact on your milk supply. Also with the increase in activity your bodies hydration needs will increase.

7. Managing Stress – As mentioned above you may not be getting all the sleep you want which means your body is in a state of stress. Being aware of this, and accepting it for what it is, is a good start. There are some great mindset strategies to help manage stress and the two I recommend mostly are practicing gratitude and some form of meditation. It’s going to be easy to find something each morning and evening (maybe also during the hours you’re awake between evening and morning…) that you are grateful for. Chances are some of that gratitude is being rocked to sleep in your arms 🙂 Meditation can be as simple as taking two minutes and allowing yourself to breathe. Maybe to cry and breathe, it’s ok, but you need to have some time for yourself. Usually I’d recommend a minimum of five minutes but two is a start and may be more than you’ve been getting up until now. If you don’t have two minutes then make sure you take five minutes. Slow down to speed up 🙂

8. Compare Yourself to Yourself – “Comparison is the thief of joy”, that’s one of my favourite sayings at the moment. Forget what anyone else is doing in their journey along the road of health and fitness. You can only be the best version of yourself and that should be your focus.

The easiest way to get back into the swing of things is with our Mum’s 28 Day Program. We take all of these factors into account and suggest the most appropriate way to train, give you customised nutrition advice and strategies to keep a good headspace. Perfect for those familiar with exercise or people training for the first time, click here to find out more – http://www.citywidefitness.com.au/mums-28-day