Thinking about jumping right back into your old fitness routine postpartum...think again!
If you are a mom, whether you had a baby recently or years ago, restrengthening your body is critical. Your body is not the same postbaby as it was. This applies to everyone, even if you worked out your entire pregnancy, once you have a baby your body is changed.
Pregnancy does more than just stretch out our abdominal muscles and give us a stretch mark or two (or hundred). Our breathing system changes, our posture changes, the way we transfer load in our body changes, and our muscles weaken (pregnancy sounds so glamorous, right!?).
Basically we develop lots of bad habits. These habits affect the way we move and carry our body. During those 9 months these movement patterns become second nature, most of us don’t even realize that there has been any change at all. If we jump right back into fitness without addressing these changes we are setting ourselves up for problems. These problems may or may not manifest right away. Sometimes they can take years to show up.
Our society has wrongly ingrained the need to “bounce back” to your pre-pregnancy weight, and perpetuated the misconception that there is nothing you can do to address common “mommy” complaints like leaking, abdominal laxity, back pain, neck pain and more. Can we just let go of these ideas already? A new mom just had a major life event and the focus should be on taking care of herself and healing rather than fitting into her skinny jeans and losing the baby weight! Can I get an amen!? When we change the focus too healing, taking care of ourselves, and getting stronger, losing weight and toning back up will come as well.
So how should we approach exercise after baby?
First, we need to teach our body how to breathe correctly again. This sounds odd, we get it. In fact, if we would have read that in a pregnancy book, we would have just rolled our eyes and skipped right over. Before you get ready to do that, hear us out.
To put it simply our breathing system regulates much of how our body functions. It coordinates our core and pelvic floor muscles, how we manage pressure, can reduce our stress and anxiety, and promote healing. During pregnancy the growing baby takes up room and prevents our diaphragm (main breathing muscle) from dropping down during our inhale (which it should naturally do in coordination with the pelvic floor). Many women adopt a more shallow breathing pattern. Shallow breathing recruits other muscles to do a job they weren’t intended to do which sets off a chain reaction in the body. We need to learn how to breathe again postpartum. It will accelerate healing of our core and pelvic floor too!
Try these postpartum breathing exercises every new mom should be doing
Secondly, we need to correct our posture. Growing a baby for 9 months does a number on our posture. Then in one instant that baby is gone and our body has to compensate once again. The postpartum period, and let’s be honest, just being a mom in general, places our bodies in many unfavorable positions. It’s important to pay attention to these areas of tightness as they will also inhibit the way our body moves, setting off another negative chain reaction. As new moms we often round through our shoulders and find ourselves in a forward head posture. Tight hip flexors are also common in postpartum women as they likely were recruited to help stabilize the pelvis in pregnancy.
Try these stretches to help relieve these common postpartum complaints:
Finally we need to strengthen our body. Pregnancy causes our abdominal muscles to separate (known as diastasis recti), weakens our pelvic floor (yes even if you had a c-section), glutes and generally the entire body (again, so glamorous, right!?). For many women, it’s tempting to jump right back into their old fitness routine, however, your body just simply isn't’ ready for it. You need to start with the basics to avoid making problems worse.
Here are some of the best postpartum exercises to start out with
For example, traditional abdominal exercises like crunches and planks can actually make diastasis worse. Your body will generally find a way to do what is being asked of it. This is why it is so important to remember that you may be able to do an exercise that your body isn't ready for which may lead to more issues instead of the results you are looking for. Starting with basic moves will build a foundation. As you build your foundation, remember to keep challenging yourself and advancing. Progressive overload, as this is known, is the only way to keep getting stronger and avoid a plateau.
Our goal is for all moms to be able to do everything they love without any limitations. Having a baby does not mean that you are broken, it just means you need to spend some time healing, just like you would do after an injury. When, down the road, you can do burpees without the fear of leaking, and go for a run pain free, you will be glad you did!
Questions for us? We are always happy to help! Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.