Tips for Postpartum Exercise

A couple of days ago I was talking to a mama of two who I haven’t yet worked with. At 3 years postpartum she was telling me that she still struggles with the way her tummy looks and feels. We chatted for a bit, and then I referred her to my diastasis self-assessment tool. She wrote me back not an hour later to tell me how she wished she had known more about the types of exercise that are appropriate post baby because she’s sure that what she’s been doing for the past three years has made her situation worse.

Fast forward to this morning and I was chatting with another mama of two in my post-natal class. Her second isn’t yet one year and we’ve been working together for seven months or so. She was telling me how much better she feels physically after baby two because she understands what makes sense for her postpartum body. Instead of pushing herself so hard that she leaves our sessions feeling beat up and with back pain, she’s feeling gradually stronger and stronger. This is why I love what I do!

I think it’s so important for women to regain their strength and confidence in realistic ways that make sense in the context of being a new mom. Signing up for cross-fit in order to ‘bounce back’ quickly…maybe not the best idea.

I wanted to share a few tips today about how to modify your exercise postpartum whether you’re training at a gym solo or whether you’re joining a group class that isn’t necessarily specifically post-natal. I hope you find them helpful:

When you’re moving from lying down into a seated position, roll onto your side first and use your arm to push you up into a seated position. Avoid crunching forward which puts a lot of pressure on your abdominal wall.

Focus on exercises that are in a standing, side-lying or lying on your back. Strength and resistance training is generally safe using safe positions above, but being mindful of weight restrictions to avoid increasing intra-abdominal pressure (the pressure inside your belly that can put outward pressure on your abdominal wall and downward pressure on your pelvic floor)

Focus on low impact cardio if you’re leaking any urine at all, or until you’ve been assessed by a pelvic floor physio. If you’re in a class that’s not post-natal specific you can always modify; for instance squat jumps turn into body weight squats OR switch jumps turn into alternating lunges.

As you become more aware of the tension or lack of tension in your abdominals, you should start to notice the exercise positions where you feel a bulge or where you’re feeling unsupported through your abdominals or where you feel back pain. Avoid those positions and movements and modify instead. For example: If you have an abdominal separation you should avoid fully front loaded push-ups. Instead try incline push-ups on a wall or if you need more of a challenge try incline push-ups from your knees with your hands on a bench.

Spend some time doing daily core and pelvic floor work to rehabilitate the separation and, more importantly, improve the overall tension. Once you’ve mastered core breathing, you’ll be able to integrate it with almost any movement.

If you find this helpful, send me a quick email to let me know. I’d love to hear about how you’re approaching postpartum fitness (no matter how far postpartum you are) and I’d love to know about your number one struggle and your number one success. I promise to reply xo J

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