I have worked with many women, before, during and after their pregnancies, but it wasn’t until I experienced it myself that I realized how much support and information new moms need and more importantly what information is often lacking.
6 weeks after you have a baby, you go to your check up with your doctor, and they usually tell you it’s fine to start exercising. Good news, right? Well it is, but you are now about to start exercising with a new body, one that has spent the last 9 months creating an actual person, a body that is now postpartum….and that’s how it should be treated.
After my first son was born, the thought of working out didn’t even occur to me until he was about 10 months old. Being a first time mom turned my world upside down and it took me a while to get (somewhat) settled. And when I resumed exercise I started off really slowly, doing a few exercises a day because that’s about all I could squeeze in. I did the exercises at home because I knew if I had to get him and myself ready to go to a gym, it would never happen! I would use that as an excuse not to go…. I know myself 😉
The delivery of my second son was completely different than my first and I felt terrific right after having him (I had an unplanned c-section with my first and had a VBAC with my second…a story for another time!) I felt mentally more stable and mildly prepared for the sleep deprivation and the new life of being a mom to 2 little ones.
Like I said in the beginning, I have worked with many, many pre & postnatal women and I have to say, I love training women AFTER they have had their baby. I don’t think there is a lot of good information out there for postpartum mama’s in regards to how to train their new bodies. And I have seen so many women actually injure themselves trying to get back in shape after pregnancy. Being able to help mama’s feel good in their bodies and teach them the smart ways to train is so gratifying to me. I am so committed to it because I know being postpartum is challenging enough….why make it harder? My goal is to support as many mama’s as possible during this special time…I want to help them take care of themselves so they can better take care of their little one(s), and to learn to appreciate progress with a grateful heart. There is so much going on during this time, I want to simply the fitness part, so that mama’s can rehab their post-baby body in a way that is smart, effective and doesn’t take a lot of time.
Here are my top 5 tips to get you started…….
1. Posture. You are going to have terrible posture while you do many things with your baby. You hold them, feed them, wear them…all done in the front of your body…your shoulders and upper back roll forward, your hips jut out in front of you and as the baby gets bigger you end up holding them on one side, creating muscle imbalances in your body. As much as you can, create awareness around your posture and alignment. When you are standing; unlock your knees, align your hips under your ribs and relax your shoulders. When you are sitting; again, relax your shoulders and lean back a bit. The more you practice correct alignment, the easier it will become and the better your body will feel.
2. Training your core. There is a right way to do this and a wrong way. A friend recently told me a story about her friend who is 6 weeks postpartum. She went back to the gym, jumped in to a “core conditioning” class, started doing crunches and felt a sharp pain (that didn’t go away) in her lower abdomen. There are so many things wrong with this. If your core hasn’t completely healed yet and/or you have diastasis recti (check out my Facebook live video to learn how to check if you have it https://www.facebook.com/karablighpilates/ ) you should definitely avoid “crunches/sit ups”. For now, you should also avoid planks and push ups….any exercise where you position your body with your belly facing the floor. There are so many safer (and effective) ways to train your core muscles. Exercises like, dead bug, hip lifts, gentle pelvic floor muscle reactivation, clamshells, side plank, farmer carries, squats and stretching will be much safer and will help promote healing to the deep internal muscles that have been stretched and weakened during pregnancy.
3. Intensity. I get asked all the time how to know when workouts should increase in intensity. I understand wanting to get back to your usual workout routine, but consider the following before you go jumping back into an intense program/class…
- Are you sleeping at night?
- Are you eating well?
- Do you leak (urine) when lifting your baby (or a laundry basket or when getting up or squatting down, etc.)?
- Are you drinking enough water daily?
Without these factors your body will not be able to recover from intense workouts and you take the risk of injury if your body isn’t properly healed and ready for such intense movements. You have just dedicated your body and time to grow and nurture your little one(s), now is the perfect time to listen to your body and give yourself some grace.
4. Cardio vs. Strength Training. I know a lot of women can be focused on the number on the scale and then think they need to spend a ton of time “burning calories” doing cardio. If doing cardio (running, elliptical machines, bikes, etc.) is your thing and it makes you feel good, by all means do it! You probably need it for clearing your head at this point more than anything. However, please trust me when I say this, you will get more bang for your buck doing strength training instead. I promise. Lift some weights. Preferably heavier than your baby. Or stick with body weight exercises. Pick 4 exercises and do each one for 12-15 repetitions and repeat that a few times, resting only when needed. Your heart rate will increase, your bones will thank you and in the end, you will be strong and you need to be strong to be a mom…you just do.
5. Time. Like I said earlier, your body just went through a crazy transformation during those 9 months of pregnancy, as did your hormones and emotions. Your body needs time to heal. Internal healing needs to occur. It’s not something you will actually see happen and it’s not going to happen overnight. Be patient. As much as I want you to take care of yourself, I also want you to be present with your little one and to fully appreciate what your body just created. I encourage you to focus on your health and well-being over what the scale says and what your waist size is. Remember, progress with a grateful heart.
If you like this post, please feel free to share it with other mama’s who could use it and if you have any questions at all, please feel free to comment below. I would love to help you in any way I can!