16 Dec 5 ways to exercise postnatally
There’s so much to think about when you have had a baby that it is often very easy to forget about looking after another important person – you!
Good nutrition, staying hydrated and sleeping are all vital, but it is also important to start gentle exercise to work towards regaining a level of fitness and functionality similar to your prenatal state. It’s not just the fitness aspect that is important, the emotional and mental health benefits are plentiful and arise from having a reason to be getting out of the house at a set time of day each week. Meeting new people and giving you a sense of community. Being outdoors helps top up your vitamin D too!
6-week check up
However, you must wait until you’ve had your 6 week GP check before you begin your new regime. Ensure your GP checks that you have adequate intra-abdominal tension to offset any load that will be transferred into your core during normal activities of daily living. If you have a tummy gap then you do need to be very mindful of what form of exercise you take part in. But as stated above, it is the tension within the muscles in between the abdominal walls that is more important, as sometimes our abdominals may not ever fully close.
You should absolutely not start running until you are 6 months postnatal. You need to regain your joint and pelvic stability before you start to put your body under stress. If you are breastfeeding or have recently stopped, then your breasts will be heavy and this can alter your gait and the way in which you run. You may have muscle imbalance and more relaxin in your tendons and ligaments, making them less stable. Your pelvic floor (essentially a hammock between your pubic bone and coccyx), will be under more stress and can stretch further and weaken if you are overloading it through running. These are 5 ways you can comfortably get your fitness back:
You can start a walking programme (with your buggy too) which will help you to regain your strength. Start with a comfortable pace and then increase this to a brisk walk if you are pain-free and not out of breath. Or find a specialist programme such as Buggyfit, which is an outdoor postnatal programme run by a specialist trainer.
To regain your strength try a barre programme at home which can be performed holding the back of a chair to steady you. These moves are based on the foundations of ballet, where you use isometric holds and small movements to focus on specific muscles without adding load or impact. They include a series of standing side leg extensions, extending your leg backwards whilst keeping your hips and shoulders square and minimal movement in your lower spine and pelvis. Lifting and lowering you’re the leg forwards and up and bringing attention to your abdominals and pelvic floor at the same time, can allow you to work your entire leg without jumping or running.
Pilates is a great way to reconnect with your deep abdominal muscles and re-find your pelvic floor. With a good instructor you will train your pelvic floor to the right degree rather than overtrain it. Greater strength will be developed in your back and arm muscles and your posture can improve. Pilates can assist with body realignment. reduce back pain and increase energy levels. Pilates provides a gentle, full-body workout and focuses on areas that can be problematic following pregnancy.
Pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic Floor Exercises are a must but speak to a trained instructor who has deep knowledge on how best to train this area. Over-training can lead to many other problems in the immediate postnatal period and beyond. Find a Holistic Core Restore coach who can take you through a safe programme from the foundations of the pelvic floor health to more advanced work later on.
Light weight training
Light weight training/resistance work can be started once you can re-establish your joint stability and you do not have any pelvic floor issues. This work can strengthen your arms and your back to keep you strong when picking up and carrying your baby. As you will need to engage your core and pelvic floor prior to lifting, you will be improving your core strength throughout.
There’s a minefield of information out there and it can be so confusing. At the end of the day, the one person you need to always listen to is you. You know how your body feels and you need to listen to and respect it. It has been through quite a journey and needs looking after. Remember, you need to be in harmony with your body and be the best you can be for you.
AUTHOR: ADELE SMYTH
PILATES TEACHER, SURREY
Adele is an integrated health expert. She is a Pilates teacher in Surrey with a special interest in women’s health. She is also an Advanced Sport Massage Therapy practitioner. Adele offers a Holistic Core Restore programme and buggyfit classes for women to increase the strength and functionality of their pelvic floor, stomach and back muscles.