If you have given birth, you know that it is certainly a life altering event (to say the least). You also know that it really requires a lot of healing afterward, and it can take quite some time before you feel like yourself. If you were active before getting pregnant, you may be disappointed at how difficult exercise you used to do feels once you have resumed activity and Post-baby fitness is probably not a top concern.
There are some guidelines I recommend for safe and appropriate exercise after you have given birth. These guidelines are geared towards those who have had an uncomplicated birth and recovery. This is not meant to replace the advice of your health care provider, and if you are unsure what is right for you please consult a fitness professional.
1. Give yourself enough time
You may be itching to get back into the gym, but it is important to remember that your body has just been through many significant changes. Even if you had an uncomplicated delivery and pregnancy, you have experienced huge changes to the shape and size of your body in a relatively short period of time during your pregnancy. The birth itself, even if uncomplicated, has put enormous demand and stress on your body.
I recommend taking a minimum of one month to six weeks before resuming exercise.
2. Start small
If you were deadlifting twice your body weight prior to getting pregnant, you may be surprised that even much less than that can feel difficult post-baby. Start with a lower weight and get your body reintroduced to familiar movements. Remember, your center of gravity was much different and constantly changing in pregnancy. Your body and mind need to get re-familiarized with exercises. Being active prior to and during pregnancy will help your “muscle memory”; once you resume activity, you will bounce back quicker.
3. Be realistic about your post-baby fitness goals
This applies to your time and your expectations. You may want to have a six pack after three months, but for most of us that is unrealistic and not a healthy goal to set. Also, you may tell yourself you will dedicate five days a week to exercise, when your new life with a baby may leave you shorter on time than you think.
Think about which days of the week and times generally would work. Set a goal you know you can stick with. It could be that you are able to do three evenings a week for thirty minutes when your partner is home from work, or even in your home while the baby naps. This way you are less likely to get discouraged, and you will feel good about it when you do get your scheduled exercise in.
4. Seek help from a professional
Even if you are feeling good, many people will benefit from seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist to make sure everything down there is “in working order”, so to speak. Many health benefit plans will cover this.
Additionally, if you are unsure of the type of exercises you should be doing or how to do them safely and effectively, a qualified personal trainer can help create a program that will work well for you specifically.
5. Give yourself some credit
Last but not least: don’t forget to appreciate everything your body has been through! You have birth to a human being, and that is a wonderful thing. Being active again is important for your mental health just as much as physical, so don’t get too caught up in looking a certain way or getting back to your fitness level at lightning speed. Enjoy the process of returning to fitness, and embrace that you have gone through a wonderful new change in your life.