Pregnancy and giving birth cause LOADS of changes to your body and are major physical stressors. Also, caring for a new baby means you are most likely sleep deprived, time deprived, and finding it difficult to adjust to your new body. Now is not the time to go on a crash diet or get back into intense exercise. Neither is it a time to eat junk food and stop moving.
Here are what I consider to be ‘essential’ aspects of getting back into exercise and more importantly, using exercise to heal and recover.
Before returning to structured exercise, ensure you get a thorough post natal check. The standard 6-week check at your ob-gyn will check things such as blood pressure, stitches, your uterus, cervix and ovaries and your general health. Ideally, you should also get yourself checked by a women’s health physio who will assess your pelvic floor and core, including a diastasis assessment.
Your Priority should be your Pelvic Floor and Core
Pregnancy and childbirth puts a huge strain on your pelvic floor, so your first priority when returning to exercise should be to restore your core and pelvic floor. This is an essential step that unfortunately many women skip, in an attempt to ‘get back to their pre-baby body’ as soon as possible. A strong and fully functional core and pelvic floor forms the foundation for your recovery and strength. It can improve (or prevent) issues such as leaking pee when you jump/run, incontinence, prolapse, lower back pain, diastasis, and more.
No need for any fancy workouts, exercises or equipment – just remember to keep things functional and simple – in our everyday lives we squat, lunge, pull, push, rotate, and bend to extend. Your exercises should reflect and mimic this. This doesn’t have to be boring – there are endless variations of exercises that use these everyday movement patterns. Also, once you have gained strength and function, choose compound full-body exercises (those that use multiple muscles and body parts rather than isolating one muscle). These exercises will build strength, burn more calories, and also have a slight cardio effect.
Alignment and Posture
In any kind of exercise you do, awareness of your alignment and posture is also something that is often overlooked. If your body is out of alignment when exercising, you can cause injury, maintain a diastasis, put undue pressure on your core and joints, and you also don’t get the most out of the exercise.
Be Mindful and Aware
Remember – you’ve had a baby. Your body has done something amazing. Respect it and embrace it. Don’t push more than your body wants you to. Be mindful of every movement you do. Be aware of how your body is responding – do you have any new pain? Is your energy improved or worse after workouts? Do you leak a little when you run or jump? Let your body guide you.
Metabolic Training & Strength Training
Once fully restored and recovered and you’re ready to move onto more intense exercise, choose strength training and HIIT. This gives you more bang for your buck – you get quicker results in less time. These workouts should be short, intense, and sweaty. They will help you build muscle, burn calories, and raise your metabolism. I REPEAT: only do this once your core and pelvic floor are fully restored.
Movement to Feel Better: Restorative Movement & Walking
Stretches, mobilisations and releases are an essential part of getting your body returning to optimal function. Release tight muscles, mobilise your joints, and take time to rest. Try to increase your total daily steps, and go on leisure walks outside. These will nourish you, make your body feel physically better, and also improve your mood and lessen anxiety. Don’t underestimate the power of self-care and being gentle to your body.
As always, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have – get in touch.