One of the most important things to remember in this first month as a new mum is that your body needs rest. It takes time to recover from birth so make sure you don’t underestimate the amount of down time you will need. Let people help you wherever possible, you’ll be back on your feet sooner than you think so just try to enjoy this time. Whether you are breastfeeding or not make sure you are drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.
You will be getting used to the demanding life of a mum now and ready to become sociable again and get active. Whilst your doctor will advise you against going back to the gym just yet, a great place to start is walking, whenever and wherever you can! Pop your baby in the buggy and off you go. It’s free, great cardio and you can do it with friends. It’s a great way of getting out of the house and active again. It is also important to continue working on your pelvic floor strength exercises as this will set you up perfectly for your return to exercise.
Right, time to exercise again! The doctor should give you the green light to start exercising again around the 12 week mark. This doesn’t mean booking straight back into your old body pump classes or setting out for a 10K run, you need to ease your body into it by steadily building up your strength again. Your will need to have your abdominals checked for any separation (diastasis recti) to assess the type of exercise you can be doing. Your doctor should do this but if they don’t then ask! When returning to the gym, it is advisable to seek the expertise of a postnatal personal trainer to begin with, especially if you do have any separation as they can advise you on the types of exercises to do to close the gap.
Your trainer will focus hugely on your posture to begin with in all the exercises you do together, reminding you to keep your pelvis in a neutral position, pull in your core and keep your shoulders back and down. This will feel difficult to start with and as if your abdominals aren’t doing what you tell them to but persevere and it’ll become second nature again soon. You will want to avoid any jumping exercises until you have strengthened up your pelvic floor muscles again.
Tip – if you’re breastfeeding, make sure you feed your little one before training to avoid discomfort and leaking. Make sure you have a supportive sports bra and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
By now should be feeling much more like your old self again. Your abdominals will be feeling awake and you will be able to contract them more easily on demand.
Make sure you are continuously checking your abdominals to assess the separation. If they aren’t fully back together yet, don’t worry, you’ll get there. Just keep going with your twisting exercises and pulling your abdominals in before starting any exercise. If the gap has now closed up then you may now start adding in planks, crunches and all the exercises you might associate with core work.
Your baby will weigh somewhere between 5 – 8kg now and want to be carried all the time. This means that good posture and upper body strength are now more important than ever. It is very common to see mums sticking their hips out to balance their baby, or puffing their tummy out while holding the baby in front of them. This will eventually cause deferred pain to the knees and many mums will suffer for months with painful knees without knowing why. Build up your upper body strength with dumbbell shoulder presses, tricep dips, press ups (starting on your knees and working up to full body) cable rows, all starting with a light weight and building up as you get stronger.
In the gym you will be starting to build up your overall strength again with compound exercises that encourage mass activation of large muscle groups like squats and lunges. Still always keep an eye on that posture to make sure you are performing the exercise correctly. Cardio can come into play now and you may want to see how you feel in a spinning class or on a run.
Now that you are feeling stronger, the thought of a training session will not seem so alien to your body anymore and you are hopefully enjoying seeing all the improvements in your ability and physique. Mix up your sessions with both cardio and strength training to keep your metabolism firing. Spinning is a great place to start, as there is no doubt that it will get your heart pumping and those endorphins rushing. It also is a good way to ease back into cardio in terms of your pelvic floor as it doesn’t involve any impact. If you feel comfortable running and wish to do so, this is of course ok, just ease yourself back into it with a few shorter runs to see how you feel.
Half a year as a mum and nothing should be stopping you now! Think how far you have come over the past six months. You will be making improvements left, right and centre and you should be very proud of yourself. No matter how confident you feel exercising now, don’t forget about your posture in the gym, and in your everyday activities. Keep your shoulders back and down, your core pulled in and your pelvis in a neutral position. It will be fast becoming a natural posture for you if you work at it.
In terms of exercise you should now be able to do anything you wish to, whether it’s pilates, running, spinning or sessions involving heavier weights but you must listen to your body. Don’t jump in at the highest level as you will be disappointed and it may result in injury, setting you back a few steps. Your best bet is to see how your body copes with the exercise and then make adjustments if you need to. Tell your instructor if you feel nervous and they can keep an eye on your form, making sure you are ok through the class. Jumping exercises may still not feel comfortable for you and that is ok, just let the instructor know you’ll be avoiding these.
Quality is always better than quantity so don’t rush through the numbers just to keep up with others around you, focus on you and before long you will be right up there with them!
words Charlie Launder, Personal Trainer at Bumps and Burpees (www.lomaxpt.com/fitness-2/bumps-burpees)