No two women are alike, from their bodies to their deliveries to their recovery and subsequently the healing process. And while each person may differ, when woman feels ready to start exercising again after childbirth, the main rules will remain the same.
The most important thing is to wait until your body is healed. Your body will need to be able to cope with the physical demands of exercise, and until you’ve been cleared by a medical professional, which can be anything from six weeks to six months depending on your labor, you must proceed with caution.
Even once your body is ready and you’ve been cleared, there are still a few things to pay attention to because being physically cleared for exercise doesn’t mean you can go straight back to your old routine.
And it definitely doesn’t mean everything is perfect on the inside. There’s still the risk of bleeding, tearing, or your body not being able to cope with the demands of the exercise. You will be able to do something, however, and then gradually increase your activity levels as you get stronger and more comfortable.
This gradual progression could be walking with your baby in a stroller and getting a few laps in every day, or it could be using the stationary bike at the gym with a light resistance routine. Once you are cleared, there are a few things that you’ll want to do to ensure the transition back into exercise is as smooth as possible. Remember to mentally prepare yourself, this might take a little time.
Get the All Clear
I recently spoke with a midwife who informed me that some local councils in the UK no longer do the six week post-natal check-up. That may be the case, but it doesn’t mean you don’t need to see your provider, especially if it’s your first baby and it’s all new to you.
Once cleared for exercise, you can gradually increase your activity. Please note, this doesn’t mean you can go straight to spin class and give it your all, but gradually start moving more and taking part in light activities. You could be cleared at six weeks or if you had a C-section or 10-12 weeks for a non surgical delivery, but either way, it’s vital that you are cleared by your medical professional first.
Listen to Your Body
Bodyweight exercises, once you resume being physically active, are a great way to ease back into things. Squats, wall sits, pelvic floor exercises, and deep belly breathing are all good places to start.
You may find that many things you were previously able to do are a little beyond you now, and that’s fine. Your core strength may be completely gone, and that’s also fine. It won’t be this way forever because you will start to build your body back up and get stronger.
However, if you rush into it and try to go straight back to your previous level, there’s a good chance you can cause more damage to your body and set yourself back even further—or even cause long term damage. Listen to your body, if you think you can try something a little more challenging, give it a go, but take it easy and if it doesn’t feel right, stop.
Avoid Anything Strenuous
Thinking of going to a HIIT class or following an extreme circuit? Think again.
Aside from the fact that your body is still recovering from a tremendous amount of stress, you’ve probably not been physically active for quite some time.
Not to mention you still have the hormone relaxin in your body which makes your joints more supple and increases the risk of injury to the joints, especially when going side to side or trying to perform a hard move at speed. Instead, opt for lower impact and lower risk options and focus on options where you are in full control.
If cardio is your thing, the stationary bike is a great way of getting back into exercise and building up your aerobic fitness. If you prefer weights, lifting lighter than normal for a few weeks (and avoiding the build-up of pressure in your abdomen) is also great and a fantastic way of getting your body used to lifting again.
Ignore the Scales
This is an important one as it’s oh so tempting to obsess over the scale, but there are other things at play which will affect the number staring back at you.
For example, if you’re breastfeeding, how much you feed, how much sleep you’re getting, and if are you able to eat whole meals all have a bearing on your overall weight. This is not to mention all the other factors such as stress, hormones, and energy levels.
You’ve got enough to worry about with your new bundle of joy without adding the extra pressure of losing a certain amount of weight, or worrying about looking a certain way. It may be tempting to judge your progress by the scales, there are better ways.
Instead, pay attention to how your body strengthens as you train and feel your energy levels increase. Another measure is to note how you feel in your clothes and how they fit on you.
Take the Time to Bond
Most importantly, above all, it’s a time to bond with your new baby and not to worry about anything else. You won’t get these precious moments back, so make the most of spending time with your loved ones, take it one day at a time with your return to exercise, and be patient with yourself.
Give yourself time to heal and time to recover.