When it comes to returning to exercise after you’ve had your baby, you might have lots of different thoughts: When can I start? What are the right exercises? I need to get back into my pre-baby clothes! I can’t wait to get back into the gym!
The reality is that postnatal fitness is not as simple as your pre-pregnancy fitness. It’s not as easy as just going to a fitness class or the gym. You can’t just decide, tomorrow, I’ll start. Although, there are some people who do that and it might work for them. But really you should also take all of the below into account:
Look after your mental health
Pregnancy and post-pregnancy your body is flooded with a load of different hormones. Everyone is affected by these differently, but we all know that most of us will experience some type of “baby blues”. For some, this doesn’t last for very long, for others it goes on or even reappears a few months later in the form of postnatal depression.
Exercise can help combat postnatal depression, however, it is important to know how this depression is manifesting itself.
Do you want to exercise to punish yourself because you hate your new body? Or actually, is exercise the one thing that is making you feel like yourself again? Lots of mums talk about how great they feel after they exercise, and it is a great way to lift your mood and energise you.
However if you do feel like you may be suffering from postnatal depression, then it’s important to speak to your GP or health visitor to get the help you need.
Six-week postnatal follow up
It took 9 months to grow your baby and your body will not just bounce back in a few weeks. So many changes have happened internally that need time to heal and recover. Some changes have happened externally and you may not know the extent of them.
The number 1 tip I would give any postnatal woman whether she wants to return to exercise or not, is to book in a visit with your nurse or midwife for your six-week check. For most women, this is when any abdominal separation should have closed. The medical professionals should do an examination of your core, your pelvic floor, and advise you on what type of exercise you can return to and what exercises you may need to do as rehab if your separation has not completely closed.
Why is this important?
If you love things like crossfit, running or team sports, you want to make sure your body is ready to do all those things. If you start at a level to tough for your body, then you can do more damage than good in the long run. It’s important to remember that you are not at the same level of fitness that you were before. So you will need time to rebuild your core strength, improve your level of fitness and make sure your pelvic floor is also ready (that means no leaking!)
Don’t focus too much on weight loss
In the past you may have used exercise to lose some weight before a big event – like a holiday or your wedding – and you may have done whatever it took to lose the weight, like going on an extreme diet.
However much you might want to “drop the baby weight”, you need to remember that your body needs to heal, especially in those first few weeks. So this is not the time to restrict calories or do any type of dieting. You want to feed your body with lots of nutrient dense foods, but also foods that might be easy to eat with one hand as babies need lots of holding in the early days!
When you start exercising again, try not to just see it as a way to get the weight off, but as a way to get strong. Your life is about to get very busy and your little one will get bigger and heavier. You’ll need to be able to carry them, their carseat (with them in it) and lots of other things – I have seen girls coming to class with baby, car seat, back packs and baby bag…..phew! You want to get your body strong to protect it from things like lower back pain or pains that come with having poor posture which often comes with motherhood.
So think of your return to exercise as a way to help you deal with all the things that motherhood brings in the near and far future, both physically and mentally.