Returning to Exercise after Pregnancy
Kathryn is 45, she has 2 kids who are at primary school. She has tried since the kids were born to return to exercise, but has often found she gets some sort of injury and must stop. She wants to exercise because she knows she should. But has put on weight and wants to shift it and can’t quite get started.
Because of the stop-start nature of her exercising, she doesn’t know what to do. She chooses diets and exercises promising quick results, but this is exactly causing her injury!
What can we learn from Kathryn’s case?
I see so many women who become deconditioned following pregnancy, and the ensuing years of babydom. By the time you have thought about exercise, it can be up to 18 months since you have exercised properly. In our minds though, we remember the level of exercise we used to do and feel compelled to pick up where we left off!
As a result, we may decide we want to run 3 or 4 times a week or start a boot-camp. This, in turn, leads to you picking up an injury and then you must stop.
The Early Days
I had a caesarean and I remember standing at the baby change table and feeling like there was nothing holding me in my middle. There was a void of blub that certainly wasn’t there before.
After the first 6 weeks or 12 weeks of having a C-section, your body and mind are not ready for anything hard. You need to start gently, and I think it all ties in with your recovery from labour, lack of sleep, milk production and general craziness of having a newborn.
An Important Note
An important note is to always check with your health visitor how your stomach muscles are and that they are returning adequately post pregnancy. This will effect how you progress and if you have any doubts please get a consultation.
I think in these early days, don’t be hard on yourself.
You can let go of your discipline and do little bits of exercises as and when.
I first start by doing some gentle tummy holds when I was changing or feeding which when you have twins is pretty much 24 hours a day!
Then when I lie down I would also do a few (literally 5-10) tummy exercises. This was my exercise for the first 3-4 months. It maybe that you were able to keep up your fitness and your rebound back to shape quickly, which I think happens when you are younger. In that case, you still need to set your pace slow at the start. Re-engage with your core and body and then slowly increase the volume at a pace that works for you.
What I did
I then decided to join a local mum’s running group…. What a shock! 3 stone heavier than when I last ran, completely sleep deprived, I joined a bunch of yummy mummies doing runs, squats and jumping jacks! This is when I realised that someone had hijacked my old body and it was was not ready for this. All the impact just felt terrible, I felt terrible both physically and mentally!
Not one to give up I just kept doing stuff, who knows what I did (it is all a blur) but I kept doing it!
Two years into it I decided I wanted to do my Pilates training, so started teaching. Through the teaching, I actually realised that this type of exercise was what I needed, slow and controlled, strength work but also mobilising my body.
I also realised that even doing Pilates once a week gave me some improvements and when you are sleep deprived and your energy reserve is low, you need to be kind to yourself.
Working hard during exercise would have to wait!
I had not realised that during the pregnancy and the months ensuing my body had become stiff and felt old. This maybe due to postures you spend hours in whilst caring for your baby. The sitting or bending and kneeling on the floor. All positions I did not use to being in especially for such length.
Feeding, changing nappies, playing on the floor place us in quite strong positions which we are not really used to and I think this along with the fact we are tired and de-conditioned, can lead to pain and discomfort.
My upper back would feel stiff and my shoulders were rounding. Mobilising the upper back and shoulders was key to taking the stress from your lower back.
So if you are someone who has bounced straight back in to exercise post-baby then perhaps a few weeks considering your core will be of value. Often I see women who have had babies in quick succession and bounced back during the first but struggled after the second. Remember to strengthen the core.
What Exercise should I do?
The first few weeks is gentle as we discussed above, once you feel that your muscles have started to reset, you can start some gentle strengthening of your whole body. I definitely recommend slow, low weighted exercises perhaps little and often and gradually build.
How active you were during the pregnancy and before will also make a difference. But if you are advised not to exercise then you must follow medical advice.
It is best to start gently and gradually increase what you are doing. Try and keep up some form of exercise even if its 5mins at home, then gradually as the baby sleeps and you sleep you will have more energy for more.
I see a lot of women who walk with buggies after pregnancy and I think that’s a great way to get your exercise. Just be careful if you struggled with Pelvic Girdle Pain during pregnancy.
Walking will also help with weight loss.
If you would like more info get in touch. We will be launching our first post, natal class, shortly!