This is a question I get asked a lot.
You’ve had a baby and you’re ready to move again, do you really have to wait 6 weeks to get back at it?
Listen mamas, I hear all the undertones to that question, probably because I too experienced a LOT of emotion about getting back to exercise after I had a baby. For me, there was EXCITEMENT about getting back to exercise now that I wasn’t hauling around a human everywhere with me. There was PRESSURE from myself and probably society to get my body back. There was CONFUSION about how to get back into exercise. There was WORRY that I might never feel the way I used to feel. There was a LOT of heavy anxiety about this new life and the lack of control I had over it that I wanted to FIX with exercise.
Hear this: I know you want to move again, I know this stage feels hard, I know it feels like you might never get back at it, but you will. Exercise is always going to be there and I am here to give you a great framework to make your return, but in the meantime: Learn how to be a mom. Whether this is your 1st or 5th baby you have to relearn how to care for that baby, you have to adjust to life with X number of children. Give yourself the time and permission to do that. Exercise will be here for you when you’re ready.
And now… The specifics
Today I’m talking strategy to getting back to exercise whether you’re 4 weeks postpartum, 4 months, or 4 years.
When you’re ready to plot your return to exercise, tune into the video below. It’s a little longer than a typical video from me, but its packed full of great information.
The Four Phases of Postpartum Recovery
1. Rest and Recovery
Give your body time to heal. Sleep when you can. Visit a PF physical therapist (click HERE to find one in your community). Let people help you. Begin to connect your breath with your pelvic floor as a way to help strengthen your deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor.
This is time where you take to be intentional about strengthening muscles that may have been weakened during pregnancy (ie your glutes and pelvic floor). In the rehab phase we are noticing how things feel in your body as your introducing movement back in. You’re connecting your breath to your movements (think: exhale on the hard part of an exercise, inhale on the easy part. Squat: inhale down, exhale up).
In this phase you want to gain some awareness of your alignment, how you’re standing/sitting both in exercise and during daily life. A contributing factors to pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasi recti, and low back pain is your alignment, or how your body is stacked. Pregnancy has a way of getting us used to standing in a very hyperextended or butt tucked under position which continues into postpartum life of holding, wearing, and feeding babies all day long.
Some simple tweeks to your alignment can make a difference in how you feel, reduce symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, and prevent future injury when you’re in a loaded (with weights) position during exercise.
Note: You’re never going to be in ideal alignment all the time. That is ok! By bringing some awareness to it though you will improve. If you notice you’re out of alignment, get to a more neutral alignment (if it feels like you’re falling forward you’re probably doing it right), take 3-5 breaths there and then move on with your day.
Common Alignment Issues + What Neutral Looks Like
Note: In my Return to Exercise Postpartum Program I walk you through getting into a neutral alignment in addition to the workout piece of the program. Get more information HERE.
3. Regain Strength
Here’s where things start to get confusing, particularly for the mom who was super active before and during pregnancy. Your mind and your body are in two very different places.
Your mind thinks you’re on your pre-pregnancy fitness level. Your body, needs you to honor where it is actually at. For many that might be with a weaker core, weaker glutes, less energy, and potentially some stiffness/discomfort in your body.
Don’t view this regaining strength phase as returning to your workouts at a slightly modified version of what they used to be. Instead, view this time as an opportunity to strengthen your body so it can support you in whatever form of exercise you want to get back to and be able to do, injury free, for years to come.
For my clients, we spend this regaining strength period focusing a lot on the glutes, hips, and hamstrings as they get weakened in pregnancy. I have clients move first without weight, then we add load. We work large and small muscle groups, test balance, work individual sides of the body, and train for motherhood. I know that might sound a little silly, but motherhood is going to demand that you bend over and pick up things off the ground, carry babies on your hip, carry groceries. I like to train my mom clients to be strong for those activities.
4. Return to Intensity
After you’ve spent some time strength training, after you’ve (hopefully) been to visit a women’s PF physical therapist, after you’re sure you’re not peeing during exercise and daily life, that’s when we can begin an introduction back to intensity.
Intense exercise seems to be the place where women want to start because its where you can get the lung burning feeling quickly. Before you head out for a run, do a bunch of box jumps or double unders you want make sure your body is strong and ready to handle the demand you’re placing on it.
When you do get to that stage I recommend returning to intensity in intervals.
For example, if you’re a runner. Instead of heading out for a 20 minute run try:
30 second of running
60 seconds of walking
Repeat for 15-20 minutes monitoring for symptoms (leaking of pee, heaviness in the vagina, bulging of your abdomen, pain in the back/hips/knees/ankles).
If anything feels off, stop, consult with a professional, don’t power through it.
If that feels good, gradually increase your intensity and decrease your rest. GRADUALLY.
Remember, that every birth and every recovery is going to be different. All the best athletes who are having babies have a very specific rehab schedule to keep them injury free and competing in their sport for as long as possible. YOU too should have the same strategy.
My 3 phase postpartum strength training program is coming and it kicks off with a free 5 day E-Course on July 16th. Get on the waitlist for that HERE. (Waitlist members will receive a hefty discount on the program when it rolls out in late July).