One of my favorite demographics to work with is new mamas. While no, I’m not a mom myself, I feel you ladies are generally being improperly served and taken advantage of by the fitness industry. It’s common for new moms to feel anxious and uncomfortable in their new bodies and want to quickly get their “old body” back. Unfortunately, the fitness industry KNOWS this and they looove to feed into it. (Obviously, I’m speaking in general terms. There’s some really awesome postpartum trainers out there that I personally look up to.) Mommy boot camps and stroller fitness are a prime example of some fitness fads that are trying to make bank on your current state and are urging women to jump into intense exercise waaaayy before they really should.
First off, I don’t care if you worked out intensely before and during your pregnancy, your body needs to rest and recover after giving birth.
Just because your doctor “cleared” you to start running and training 6 weeks postpartum, doesn’t mean you’re actually ready to start up again. If you REALLY want to know for sure if you’re ready to start training intensely again, I would recommend seeing a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist 2-6 weeks postpartum to get a good picture of the status of your pelvic floor (yes, that entire area that was recently traumatized by pushing out a brand new human being…) Are you experiencing diastasis in your abdominals? (Separation of the rectis abdominis bellies.) What about any pelvic organ prolapse? (Like, do you feel like your organs are literally going to fall out of you…?) These things must be addressed before jumping back into intense exercise.
IF you are cleared for exercise, it’s best to start with some post-natal specific training and rehabilitation.
Before we get into the exercises that you SHOULD be doing, I want to discuss the types of exercises that you should AVOID (for the time being at least!)
- Maximal lifts – Heavy squats, deadlifts, bench press, and so on. Why? Because these exercises require a strong core to be performed properly and safely.
- High impact exercises or plyometrics – All the bouncing that these tend to cause can be dangerous to the pelvic organs. And yes, this includes running!
- Exercises that are stressful to the diastasis or create abdominal bulging – This includes abdominal crunches, push-ups, planks, and other abdominal exercises like leg raises.
- AND… – Anything that is just really stressful to the body, causes pain (lower back, pelvis), and requires a lot to recover from.
I know that seems like a lot to avoid, but you need to view the first several postpartum months (or as long as needed) as a recovery period, much like someone who has just undergone surgery. The body needs to heal and this requires both time and patience. And if you view it in the grand scheme of things, this is really just a short period of time in the whole of an individual’s life. Besides, the more you rest and recover during this time period, the sooner you can get back to more rigorous exercise! And with less risk of injury or additional trauma caused to the body.
So what types of exercises CAN and SHOULD you do?
- Postpartum weeks 2-6 should be primarily devoted to rest, recovery, and rehabilitation. – This includes re-learning proper breathing and posture/body alignment and performing light leg and glute exercises such as squats and glute bridges, along with some gentle upper body exercises like band pulls.
- WALK! – While running may be a no-no for approximately 6 months for many moms, walking is greatly encouraged. Not only does it get the blood flowing and help with recovery, but it can help reduce your new-mama stress, burn some extra calories to kick up fat burning a bit, and best of all, it’s easy to do with baby in tow.
- EASE back into strength training at week 7 (or later, if needed) – Emphasize hip dominant exercises (think lots of glute bridging), pulling exercises (rows, pulldowns), chest and shoulder presses, and non-crunchy core exercises like the Pallof press. Remember to avoid going too heavy too fast. Listen to your body. If something feels “off” it probably is. 😉
- SLEEP!!! – I know you’re laughing since sleep can be hard to come by when you have a new baby, but you must sleep and rest when you can. All of our body’s processes can be off-set if you aren’t getting enough sleep, and that includes fat burning and muscle repair. Just keep this in mind: the less sleep you get, the gentler you want to be on your body.
And for my last set of DO’s…
- Do be easy on yourself.
- Do love your body in any state it’s in.
- Do work with your body, not against it.
- Do maintain patience in getting back to exercise and losing the “baby weight.” Afterall, there’s really no rush. 🙂
There’s so much more I could share with you about postpartum training, but I think I’ll save some of those other topics for another day. If you’re a new mom (or not-so-new mom) and need more specific help with core rehabilitation or training, you can head on over here and shoot me a message. There’s so much conflicting information out there, and it’s important for new moms to be reintroduced to exercise in a safe and efficient manner!
If you want even more info NOW, go check out Jessie Mundell on her website. She is my go-to source for everything pregnancy related! She’s very knowledgable and regularly puts out amazing, FREE content!