How to come back from pregnancy and birth and become stronger than before
If you’ve read part 1 of this blog, you’ll already know the importance of the fourth trimester, respecting your postnatal core, and the effects of your daily movement patterns on your body.
When you’re ready to return to exercise, you’ll know because:
- You’ll want to – don’t let anyone coerce you there!
- You’ll finally be feeling well-enough rested, like you have a little energy to spare
- You might have seen a Women’s Health Physiotherapist, who’ll have advised you on any rehab exercises you need to do and any pelvic floor work required.
1. When you’re back in the gym, train for a strong butt and back
Start by releasing tight muscles: Most new mums have tight chest muscles, tight hip flexors (at the front of your hips) and tight quads (the front of your thighs). Starting your workout with movements which loosen these tight areas will help you to move more freely and better train your muscles.
Squats: the queen of exercises, you need to squat to fulfill your Mummy movements. You must learn how to squat well and make sure that it activates your butt muscles, not just your thighs.
Pull: many mums will find that hours spent feeding, cuddling, pram-pushing and baby-wearing leave their back muscles stretched and weakened. Learning to effectively activate your upper and middle back muscles, and then strengthening them, is a great strategy that will improve your posture and have you moving more freely.
Deadlifting: for the years of lifting a small child, it’s essential that you know how to lift safely, protecting your back and strengthening your butt.
All of these movements are the fundamental components of my Mighty Mums(R) programmes, so if you’re local to Leith, give me a shout!
Runners: If you love running and can’t wait to get back to it, please listen up:
- No running before 12 weeks after birth, and then, take your time building up your mileage. Return to a couch-to-5K, regardless of your running history.
- Look out for red flags. If you have any leaking of poo or pee, backache, or you can’t control the pressure in your core, stop.
- Cross-training is essential to avoiding injury. Training hip stability with single leg work, being able to rotate your upper body as you run, and having the strength to keep your hips level under load are all important.
2. Remember that you’re depleted.
Everything you did to look after your health while you were pregnant – the yoga classes, the clean eating, the walking, the vitamins – none of that was for you. All of that was for the little human you were growing.
When we’re pregnant, our bodies prioritise the growth of the baby by sending it all your nutrients. This doesn’t leave much for mum. A good amount of time after having a baby is needed to get mum’s body working well again. That’s why low-level lurgies – colds, bugs, ailments of being generally run-down – are so common in the postnatal period.
When our systems are depleted like this, there’s not much left for exercising, pushing hard, building speed or muscles. Respect your body’s efforts to rebuild itself and don’t pile on the pressure.
Eating well – clean food, plenty of protein and loads of veggies – will help build you back up, as will an appropriate postnatal multivitamin.
3. Pay attention to your pelvic floor.
No exercise should make you leak pee, poo or wind. If it does, it’s your body sending you a message that it’s not ready to do that exercise yet.
Often pelvic floor exercise is the answer, but a check up with a women’s health physiotherapist will help you get a clear idea of what’s going on.
The muscles of the pelvic floor are fairly small and it’s their job to support the ligaments holding your pelvic organs in place (that’s your bladder, uterus and bowel.) During pregnancy those ligaments are stretched by the weight of your baby, and postnatally they need time to regain tension. Your pelvic floor muscles take the pressure off the ligaments and allow them to heal. If your pelvic floor muscles aren’t strong, or you load them more than they can manage, you’re not giving your ligaments a chance to heal.
If you feel any heaviness or dragging sensations in your vagina, these are worth getting checked out with your GP or Women’s Health Physiotherapist. They can be a sign of pelvic organ prolapse (movement of the bladder, uterus or bowel inside the pelvis), which is not a cause for panic but IS a cause for a medical opinion.
Women’s Health Physiotherapy (WHP): therapeutic treatment of all disorders affecting the pelvis and pelvic floor, such as incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse or pelvic pain. Most WH Physiotherapists will examine you internally, depending your complaint. Some WHPs offer a Mummy MOT, especially tailored for new mums, to check tummy muscles and pelvic floor function.
4. When you do return to exercise, remember:
- Progress gradually. Don’t go nuts in the first workout. You’ll regret it when you ache all over and have to get up in the middle of the night. Be smart and start gentle.
- Never push through pain. This is especially important for pelvic pain.
- Always exhale on exertion. It’s the best way to look after your core.
- Find an instructor who understands postnatal fitness. You’re officially in a ‘specialist population’ and need some knowledgeable attention so that you can make the best decisions about your body and wellbeing.
- If your instructor doesn’t ask you about your pelvic floor or diastasis, they’re not doing you justice. Don’t assume that just because a class welcomes babies, it’s suitable for your postnatal body.
- Don’t be downhearted if you don’t feel like exercising yet. You’re amazing. It will come in time.
- In my experience, mums who return to fitness get stronger and fitter than they did before they had children.
- Your body is capable of growing and birthing and rearing a baby. That’s phenomenal – give your body respect and love and awe!
- Having caring responsibilities and pressures on your time tend to give you more focus and this means you achieve more.
- Happy mums make happier kids. If you want to exercise, you’re allowed to make it a priority. It’ll benefit you and everyone around you.
- Returning to fitness in a smart, appropriate way will make you stronger in the years to come.
If you’ve got any questions about this, you could book for a Clarity Call, or drop me a line to find out when the next block of Mighty Mums is starting. It’d be great to see you there.