It took a long time for me to wrap my head around the fact that my “old body” was gone and indeed irrelevant.
Say hello to your new body: your post-baby body. This new body does not look or feel the same as the old one, but it is marvellous and amazing. It has grown life!
1. Too much high-intensity exercise too soon
So the first question is for new mums is this: have you had a proper check up? After both my girls, my 6-week check up amounted to a quick 5 minute chat on my general well-being. No mention was made on whether I was able to return to exercising, much less on how I should go about it!
New mums often start jogging or join classes to get fit again. But the problem is that jogging is quite high-impact, especially if you’re still carrying pregnancy weight. And in big classes, your trainer will probably be unaware that you are post-partum and have limited knowledge of specific requirements anyway.
What you need is a specific plan that targets your specific requirements and gives you the maximum results in the least possible time. The Minimum Effective Dose, so that you just do the things that are going to lead to results! And do these consistently.
I get many of my post-natal mums doing a 20 minute workout, 2-3 times per week. Once that’s embedded, you could increase it to 30-40 minutes 3-4 times per week.
We include whole body exercises, like step ups and squats. These use your big muscles groups and burn more calories! Maximum effectiveness in the Minimum dose…
2. Disregarding the stress that the core & pelvic floor have undergone
A ‘normal’ pregnancy puts the body through a massive amount of stress. If you’ve had any complications: stitches, C section, and so on, then the impact is multiplied. It is estimated that 53% of new mums have Diastasis Recti immediately post partum, which is when a separation occurs in the abdominal muscles. And urinary incontinence (leakage) is extremely common after giving birth. Both are signs of a weakened core…
But of course, we’d really like a flat(ter) belly like the latest celebrity mum. So off we go with our crunches and planks. After all they are the ‘core’ core exercises, right?
These very exercises could be worsening your weakened core. Instead we should focus on retraining the core to fire up when we need it. Here’s some examples:
- Standing tall. We get used to standing with our pregnancy bump popping forward but once baby is out, we need to retrain the core to be ‘switched on’, supporting the belly inwards. Ribs over hips is a good cue I give to clients. It literally means stand tall ensuring your ribs are aligned to your hips and not behind them.
- Hello glutes. If, like me, you found that your glutes had gone on holiday during your pregnancy, it’s time to call them back in. Glute bridges are a great exercise for this.
3. Too much stretching, not enough strengthening
The other mistake I often see is a prioritisation of stretching. We’ve all heard about Relaxin, the hormone that has relaxed our joints ready for birth. Well, Relaxin will carry on being produced in the body if you are breast feeding, and can persist in the body long after you have stopped too.
The implication is that too much stretching plus Relaxin can overstretch softened muscles and / or cause joint instability.
Your exercise program should focus on strengthening the muscles around the joints. Particularly the hips, the knees, the core. Have I mentioned step ups and squats? I love squats and step ups!
So the take away message is this: your post-partum body is wonderful but sensitive.
If you’re not sure where to start, ask a specialist…
If you need some advice, I’ll happily answer your questions…