We are in a day and age where we open instagram and see gorgeous mamas who have reclaimed their pre-baby body in 2.5 seconds, and are back to their favorite gym regimen before their baby can even open it’s beautiful little eyes. Have you seen it too? Does it inspire you? Make you feel worthless? Maybe a little of both? Are you in your fourth trimester, and dying just to feel like yourself again?
IT’S HARD. The hormones, the breastfeeding, (or the pain of engorged breasts if you’re formula feeding), the aches and pains, the lack of sleep, the extra baby weight, the stretch marks…ALL OF IT. Maybe you’ve always been active and you have a go getter attitude, or maybe creating a life has inspired you to make your health and fitness a priority. You want to feel energetic. You want to get back to running. You want to get back to crossfit. You want to shed the pounds, not because you are ashamed of the body that has created life, but because that is what helps YOU feel like your BEST SELF. I HEAR YOU. I SEE YOU. I AM YOU. And I am confident that you will accomplish every goal you have set for this journey and so much more!
HOWEVER, before you walk into Orange Theory, or even your local pilates studio that you can’t get enough of, there are a few exercises that you want to avoid while you establish a strong core and pelvic floor foundation.
1. Running – this is number one because it is usually the easiest to get back to – that’s why you asked for a jogging stroller on your registry, right?
2. HIGH INTENSITY exercise: This means jumping jacks, burpees, jump rope, plyometrics, and any explosive exercise.
3. Heavy Lifts – there is a difference between air squats and jumping back to the squat rack for 10 reps of 225lbs.
4. Planks, V-ups, Sit Ups and any other “front ab” activity – if you work on building foundational strength, you should eventually be able to resume these activities, but for now, there are safer ways to strengthen your abdominals.
5. Intense Biking, Swimming, and other Cardio activities – some of these can be great as a LOW intensity starter exercise, but when you put the pedal to the metal before your body is ready, any or all of them can create more issues than they fix.
It might be self-explanatory why a few of these are on the list, but others may not be so obvious. During the first 4 months or so postpartum, your body is healing. Your hormones, regardless of whether you are breastfeeding, are all over the place, and if you are breastfeeding, your prolactin is high and your estrogen is low (hello ligament laxity). Estrogen also helps with tissue oxygenation and healing, which means it may take a bit longer for those tissues to recover. Also, all of the above activities not only put stress on your recovering pelvic floor and abdominals, but because of increased intra-abdominal pressure with lifting, running, and heavy lifts, etc, instead of HELPING your body recover, you could actually end up with an injury (prolapse, increased incontinence, an umbilical hernia, exacerbation of diastasis recti, to name a few).
The goal of these first four months, is to re-establish a strong foundation, so that, when you are healed and READY to return to the gym, you can do so safely, strongly, and effectively.
Did you return to the gym postpartum? How long after having a baby did you go back? Did you do anything to prepare yourself? What was the easiest or hardest part of getting back to your fitness routine?