Returning to your ‘normal’ exercising routine postpartum can feel overwhelming. You barely have time for a few hours of sleep let alone a whole hour to spend down at the gym.
However, it’s not mission impossible and with the right amount of support, dedication, and acceptance, you’ll be able to build the perfect postpartum fitness plan.
The trick is to accept that your body and your life have changed. New aches and pains vie for your attention and you’re going through your day with a newborn baby likely clinging to your shoulder.
So the first step of a postpartum fitness plan is to let go of all your expectations.
Go easy on yourself
Holding yourself accountable and pushing through pain are great skills to have when exercising. However, sometimes you have to let them go.
Going out on that five-mile Saturday run the week after you gave birth is not responsible exercise.
If your body’s not ready to start strenuous exercise, don’t try to push it. This could end up doing long-term damage and it’s just not worth it.
Rather than risk aggravating potential postpartum injuries, it’s safer and healthier to gradually introduce new exercises, which we’ll go into more detail about later.
This doesn’t mean you have to abandon your old exercising habits, only that you should reconsider the amount or frequency.
If you’re unsure about any of this, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor, particularly if you suffer from any post-pregnancy complications.
Conditions like Diastasis Recti are quite common and doctors may recommend certain exercises while stressing that you avoid others.
Because of this variation, you should check in with a doctor before resuming heavy exercise and remember to always listen to your body.
Getting Started Again (Pelvic Floor Exercises)
While there are many ways to resume exercise, pelvic floor exercises are widely seen as some of the most effective for the postpartum period with the least risk.
Your postpartum life is likely filled with a variety of common and irritating pains including but certainly not limited to:
- A tight upper back
- Rounded shoulders
- A sore neck from breastfeeding
- Wrist pain from holding your newborn
- General lower back and hip pain
While there’s no easy fix for the aches and pains of postpartum life, strengthening your pelvic floor can help prevent and even treat these muscle imbalances.
Now that we know how essential pelvic floor muscles are for maintaining a stable back, core and hips, let’s explore some of the best exercises to strengthen them:
This simple exercise works nearly your entire body, increasing your strength and hip flexibility.
It can also be done while holding your baby against your chest or resting on top of your shoulders. This makes squatting even more accessible and a great way to bond with your newborn.
An ideal postnatal exercise, the bridge focuses on your core, pelvic floor muscles, and gluteus muscles.
The goal is to form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees before releasing after a few seconds.
This is a simple breathing exercise that helps you get into the rhythm of contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles.
Lie face up on the floor with your shoulders relaxed. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Your breathing shouldn’t move the chest and your ribs should expand.
A front plank is not the ideal postpartum exercise as instead of reducing stomach bulge, it might even add to the problem, particularly if you have diastasis recti.
A side plank will still activate your core however it is a perfectly safe postpartum exercise that has additional, easier variations to start with.
We’ve explored the best ways to exercise postpartum and the health benefits of doing so. However, it’s important to remember why you’re exercising.
Staying fit is a worthy goal and one you should definitely aim for. But beyond thinness or getting ‘ripped’, having a deeper reason to be healthy is a more sustainable approach.
Exercise not because you think you should but because you want to improve the way you feel.
Be inspired by your newborn baby so that one day your fitness may inspire them.