5 Things to Know About Postpartum Fitness
There’s really no way to be totally prepared for postpartum, right? There were definitely times where I felt like I was living in someone else’s body. Returning to (or starting) a postpartum fitness routine can feel a little overwhelming.
And one of the things that surprised me the most-especially in the beginning- was how weak I felt doing the simplest things.
During my pregnancy, I had it in my mind that there would be a few weeks of recovery and then I’d be itching to get back to my regularly scheduled fitness program.
First of all, an unplanned c-section definitely threw a wrench in to my vision. And not only was I feeling the effects physically, mentally I had zero motivation to make the effort for movement.
At the same time, I was pressuring myself to get back to it…after all, I was a fitness professional- what does that say about me if I wasn’t “leading by example”?
The fact was, it just took me (and my body) a little longer to get to that place. And I’m totally cool with that.
Because I didn’t force myself back earlier than I was ready just because I felt like I was “supposed” to. I didn’t force myself to follow the timeline.
The result was that I gave my body the time it needed to do the recovering that it needed, and I was mentally ready (and excited) to get back to a regular exercise routine. It felt that much better, and I was more appreciative of my body when I got back to it.
So I want to share some of my top tips that I think you should know about postpartum fitness- whether you’re returning to it or starting from scratch:
1.That 6 Week mark isn’t like a magical day when your body says “Ok, I’m all healed!”.
You may get the all-clear from your doctor at your 6-week follow-up appointment, and they’ll probably tell you that you’re clear to “return to regular activity”…but what does that mean?
“Regular activity” is a relative term and can mean anything from sitting on the couch to running a half marathon.
My advice (speaking from personal experience) is to not let yourself get too caught up in the general guidelines and instead do it on your own terms, according to how your body is feeling. Many women may start feeling up to exercise earlier than 6 weeks (in most cases movement is actually encouraged early on in your recovery!), while others may not feel ready- physically and/or mentally- until much later.
And both are totally perfect!
2. You might feel like you’re living in someone else’s body.
Seriously, things might feel like they’re in different places, you’ll probably feel uncomfortable, some movements might feel like you’re doing them for the first time ever.
One thing that I had to learn very quickly was that I had to let go of the expectations I had for myself returning to exercise. Movements that I considered simple pre-pregnancy all of a sudden were super challenging, and it was….humbling.
So wherever you were in your fitness journey prior to having your baby, try to give yourself and your body some grace and remember that even if you’re not where you want to be right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t get there.
This could also be a really great time to explore some new types of movement that might feel really good to your postpartum body and who knows, maybe you’ll find a new activity that you really like!
3. Pay attention to your pelvic floor!
Looking back there’s a lot of things I wish I had known- or known to do my research on- but one that I didn’t learn about until WAY later was pelvic floor.
The only thing I started hearing more and more about during my pregnancy was diastasis recti. And to be honest, the only reason that was on my radar was because I was worried about what my stomach would look like postpartum…vain, I know.
It wasn’t until much later when I was doing my postpartum fitness specialist certifications that I learned about the importance of the core and pelvic floor connection. Why hadn’t any mentioned this to me??
One of the big eye-openers was that really anyone, regardless of whether you gave birth vaginally or had a c-section, is susceptible to pelvic floor disorders.
I wish I had been guided towards a pelvic health physical therapist sooner, because it was so helpful. So if you’re feeling things that don’t feel “normal” (think: leaking pee when you sneeze or cough, feeling a heaviness or pressure in your vagina, pelvic pain, pain with sex), then I recommend making an appointment with a physical therapist who specializes in disorders of the pelvic floor.
4. Inactivity can actually slow down your recovery.
I’m all for rest and recovery and making sure you’re giving your body adequate time to heal.
However, not doing ANY type of movement can actually keep your body from recovering…not to mention make it that much harder when you do eventually decide to start exercising.
I recommend starting with easy movements like walking, gentle stretches, and even some easy core and pelvic floor exercises as early as your body feels up to it, and when your energy allows for it. (which let’s be honest, may not be that often in the beginning…)
It doesn’t have to be anything hardcore when you’re first getting started, but just to get your body used to the feeling of moving again and finding out what feels good. Then it’s all about steadily progressing as you get stronger!
5. I know it’s not sexy, I know it’s boring…but slow and steady wins the race.
It’s so tempting to go after the workouts that promise the quick results especially when you’re in this body that you don’t recognize and you just want to feel “normal” again. But I can’t stress enough the importance of starting from the bottom ( technically you want to start from the inside with the core) and working your way up.
Regardless of your specific fitness goals, I’m sure you want to be able to perform the countless activities of everyday #momlife with more ease. To do that requires functional strength, stability and mobility. The way you’re going to get those is to start with the basics of building up your core strength (really the foundation of most of your body’s movements) and gradually progressing to more challenging movements.
It’s so common for new moms to be focused on outward appearance, on the ways your body is different, the things you want to change…which is why all the “21 day fixes” and “30 day ab challenges” get so much attention.
I don’t know about you, but as a fellow “later in life” mom, I’m not as interested in whether I’ll be in a smaller size next month as I am in being able to pick up my toddler whenever he wants me to and still giving him a run for his money when he’s 15 and I’m 55.
My mission is to help other 40 and beyond moms build strong bodies that they feel confident in (both inside and outside).
If you have questions about postpartum fitness and how you can get started, I work with moms just like you to help reach your health and fitness goals.
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