Welcome to episode #34 of the peaceful power podcast today we discuss how new moms can work fitness back into their lives in a safe & effective way. We are talking through the first year after baby arrives.
Having a baby is a big deal. Not only to your life but to your body as well. I’m not talking only about weight gain but major things happen to the body post baby. I’ve been studying pre/post natal fitness for the last 9 years. My insight did change though after recently having a baby this past February. The changes you go through are immense. Post birth I feel there is so much pressure put on new moms to get back to pre-baby body within weeks. That expectation is not realistic for the majority of people. We see our friend, neighbor, celebrity, or person you follow on social media get back to her body quickly so you think well I should to. We sometimes forget about the stress the body was under while pregnant, during labor, and now lack of sleep taking care of a newborn. Your body is stressed. Everyone’s body reacts differently to stress so that might already put some people’s body in burn mode. Where their body just naturally is taking weight off due to high stress. Others tend to store weight when under stress. Typically post birth you will lose an initial 10-15 pounds. The baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid. You then go home with the baby with weight to lose. Ideally your waiting until you get the okay from the doctor to workout which is around 6 weeks post birth. Now when women get the okay to workout it doesn’t come with an instruction manual of what to do. So we assume since the doctor said okay we can resume our regular workouts that we did prior to becoming pregnant. If we really break that down we haven’t done those workouts in about 11 months. So as with anyone starting a new workout program we shouldn’t start off where we left off necessarily. I will go over why you don’t want to jump right back in and then go through each month post birth a general guide to working out post baby.
Why you don’t want to go all in 6 weeks post birth
Lots of things happened during the birth process. Some women feel completely normal 6 weeks post birth others don’t feel so great quite yet. So you already know what camp you fall in around 6 weeks. Your pelvic floor has done some hard work the past 9 months. Even if you did not have a vaginal birth your pelvic floor is still under pressure from carrying the baby all 9 months. It is not as strong at 6 weeks post birth and this is where if we jump, run. push heavy weight above our head at this point we don’t give the pelvic floor enough time to heal. In the US we don’t have mandated physical therapy like they do in Europe, or Australia for healing post birth. So we don’t know everything that happened while giving birth and how it might have shifted in the weeks post birth. Some women kegels, clams, are what is needed others that might not be the best option as things could be to tight. Physical therapy can tell you this or if your really in tune with your body you might know which one you fall under. We should not have to go to the bathroom, or slightly pee every time we jump, run, or laugh. That is where physical therapy can help. You should’t have to live with that and if that is happening pt is recommended. Now you need to see a specialist for pelvic rehab if that is happening. That is just one area to watch the other main area is the abnormal wall has been stretched. i Diastasis recti is another common complaint of women post birth. This I find is not always checked on by American doctors. To do the test you lie down on your back place your middle & pointer fingers together and perform a slight crunch upwards. Notice if your two fingers sink in the middle. You want to do this in 3 locations; right below your belly button, right above your belly button, and right below your chest. You might have separation in 1,2, or all 3 spots or none. 2nd pregnancies 85% of women get it. It is something you can recover from if you have it but you do not want to do crunches. Crunches will make it worse. As you crunch upwards the belly fat pushes down and makes the separation more than what it started out as. Which then can make women have the mommy tummy look. Training smart during pregnancy and right away post pregnancy will help you recover or never get it in the first place. What to do if you have it and 50% of women do develop it. Crunches, planks, overhead presses, running, jumping are off limits. You want to strengthen the core by doing toe dips, lying on the ground and pushing your low back to the floor & releasing, heel slides. Rebuilding the core is the first step and after your separation is healed or on the mend and your transverse is getting stronger than you can add back in planks while continuing the core stabilization exercises.
1 month post birth
Walking is the best thing you can do. While you walk maintain good core control and notice your pelvic floor.
2 months post birth
Squats if you feel like doing an exercise. Don’t worry about how low you go just starting to notice your pelvis and how your squats have changed (for now). Bridges are also a good exercise to start with. Lying flat on your back and lift your hips to the sky hold for 10-30 seconds. You will most likely get the green light to exercise at 6 weeks post birth and start slow. Don’t start with running. So many injuries happen because that is the first thing women gravitate towards as they think it’s the only way to lose the weight. Which is not true. So patience is needed. You still might be very sleep deprived so hard exercise is not recommended yet.
3 months post birth
Start to gradually add in longer walks maybe up to an hour, some incline walks if your on a treadmill. Lifting weights doing compound movements as time is usually a cause for concern. Compound movements are working 2 body parts with one move- squats to a shoulder press, side lunge with a hammer curl. Planks can be introduced if you don’t have any separation around the 10-12 week mark.
4 months post birth
Continue with planks, compound exercises, more intense cardio. Jacobs ladder, rowing, incline walking. Avoid running still. Lifting weights a little heavier lifting is more possible now. Overhead presses you can start with light weight.
5 months post birth
If you were a runner before and feel pretty good running can be added back into your routine. Start with an easy jog interval jog 1-2 minutes, walk 1-2 minutes. Do this for 10-30 minutes to see how you feel the next day. Still avoid crunches and continue with your weight lifting routine.
6 months post birth
Jumping can be added back into your routine again watching how you feel during and the next day. For pelvic floor health. Running can remain the same or pick up slightly depending on fitness level. Continue lifting and focus on working more back, rear delts, triceps, glutes. As those muscles tend to get shortened from holding your child, and feeding your child.
7 months post birth
The intensity can pick up if your feeling good. Crunches can be added if you have no separation. Still targeting the back side of the body to help increase strength where it is needed while constantly bending over to pick up your child, or if you have an office job typing, driving etc.
8 months post birth and beyond
You should be feeling pretty good. The weight should be slowly coming off. Your metabolism should be settling back in and health and body wise you should start to gain some energy. If you want to get more bang for your buck during your workouts combine cardio & strength. That has been a huge time saver for me. I do 10 minutes of intense cardio from 4-6 months, and increased to 20-30 minutes from 7-9 months. I added lifting exercises in between my cardio bursts or did 10 minutes of intense cardio followed by 20 minutes of a lifting workout. Time is something that we are trying to save and workouts can be done at home or at the gym as long as you stay consistent with them and listen to your body you will recover before you know it.
Lastly I wanted to discuss yoga and flexibility. That can be done throughout your post pregnancy journey. I would start with a restore class after your 6 weeks. Tell the instructor that your 6-12 weeks post birth and you might need some modifications for poses. I needed this when I was 6 weeks post partum. Certain poses did not feel good yet and she gave me great alternatives. Hamstrings, chest, back complaints are quite common post baby. So even if yoga is not for you making sure you do stretches to target those areas will help you feel better on a daily basis.
Everyone has their own unique labor & delivery as well as post partum journey. So honor your body and do what’s best for you. These are guidelines that I personally followed as well as have my clients follow. All have recovered from ab separation and do not complain about incontinence during workouts. So this has been my personal study for the last 9 years and want to help other women who might not have a set path post birth and are looking for a little help. Hopefully this will be a good start for you.
Go out there and spread your Peaceful Power.