Here is our first article, of more to come, about how to train and exercise for fitness as it relates to motherhood. Before, during and after pregnancy and the birth of your child, you will hear many “recommendations” from friends, family and medical staff… Much of which should be taken with a grain of salt…
We get loads of questions about training and exercise through pregnancy and even more about getting “back in shape” after you have a baby… We have coaches who trained through pregnancies, dozens of members who trained with us while pregnant and even more who have come to us postpartum.
We use all of our experience and training, as well as research and good old common sense to help moms and moms-to-be, intelligently manage their fitness through their pregnancy and after… Let’s start with the end in mind! You just had your baby, and you are thinking about getting back to exercise training (that and getting more sleep!)
After a having a baby, it’s important to remember that your body does not instantly bounce back to normal. Research suggests it takes 18-24 months to fully recover from childbirth, even more so if you have had a c-section. Before you start any exercise program, get the go-ahead from your doctor.
Things to keep in mind:
Joints: When you are pregnant, your body releases a hormone called “Relaxin” that essentially juices up your joints to make them nice and relaxed. This helps your joints handle the added weight on your body, as well as prepares your hips for childbirth. Relaxin will be released until you stop nursing.
Posture: Changes in posture do not automatically correct after childbirth, and pregnant posture may become habitual. This combined with hunching over in nursing, holding your body with your shoulders forward etc. put a lot of stress on the spine. 68% of moms report low back pain up to a year after childbirth. Make sure to take the necessary precautions, and you may want to visit your soft tissue therapist, chiropractor, and/or physical therapist to prevent pain, and keep your spine healthy!
Calories: If you are nursing, you need more calories to feed your little one than you needed to actually grow the baby! When you are ready to add exercise back into your routine, be mindful that now you need enough calories to feed your baby, feed your body, build your muscles, and break down fat (yes, this takes up calories, too!)
Muscle Mass: The good news is that when you are building your baby, you will have human growth hormone, or HGH in your system. This means that postpartum, it is much easier to add on muscle mass than any other time in your life. Muscle is good!
Sleep: Some babies sleep, some babies don’t sleep. This means some moms sleep, and some moms don’t sleep. If you are not sleeping at least 5 consecutive hours each night, and 8 hours total each night, you are not sleeping long enough to allow your body to properly recover from a workout. Combining too much exercise and lack of sleep is a recipe for disaster.
Stress: Your body produces cortisol when it is stressed out. One of the major things that cortisol does is prevent the breakdown of fat. Lots of things can create stress, the most prominent in postpartum is lack of sleep. Nursing can help balance out cortisol levels, as well as a healthy diet free from processed foods.
What to do:
STAY ACTIVE: Go for a walk, do some light stretching, swim, run. You don’t need to a lot to stay happy. Recent evidence suggests a 10 minute walk in a tree populated area will do wonders for you.
WORKOUT SMART: Find somewhere that specializes in High Intensity, Functional Movements and focuses on educating you on how to care for your body. You DON’T need to spend 2 hours/day working out to get the results you want! 2-3 times per week of intense exercise is all you need. Make sure that location has an awesome community of great people working there and working out there. If you dread going to the gym or can’t name everyone in your class, you’re not in the right place.
FIND YOUR BALANCE: If you are working out and your milk supply drops, eat more. If you are waking up everyday feeling fatigued because you don’t sleep enough to recover, skip a workout, skip a week, skip a month.
STAY OFF THE SCALE: Focus on feeling good, staying happy, and raising your baby. Yes, sometimes people lose the weight right away. Yes, sometimes it can take longer. If you are eating well and staying active, you will be happy, and so will your baby!
What not to do:
EXERCISES THAT INVOLVE JUMPING: Remember that hormone, Relaxin? It makes any kind of exercise that involves high impacts very hard on your joints. You will cause swelling, soreness and possible permanent damage. Wait until 6 weeks after weaning to start these types of exercises.
DEEP, FAST SQUATS: Thinking of joining your friends boot camp class? Think again. Most boot camp classes involve doing a bunch of squats really fast. Squatting past parallel at speed is very difficult on your knees, ankles and hips (Relaxin again!) YES, you should squat deep in a controlled movement under supervision of a professional at slow speeds. NO, you shouldn’t do 50 squats in a class of 20 people with someone yelling “faster! lower!”
TOO MUCH: Even though you’re not pregnant anymore, you’re still sharing your body with your baby, especially if you are nursing. Doing cardio to the point that you start to resent picking up the baby to change them is not a good idea.
WEIGHTED, OVERHEAD MOVEMENTS: This one is tricky. YES, you should learn to lift weights properly overhead. However, that sneaky relaxin will also affect flexibility in your shoulders, elbows, wrists, etc. Again, doing in under the supervision of an experienced coach is the only right way to do this.
500 SIT-UPS EVERYDAY: Because your body probably isn’t ready for this just yet. You need to build up your core basically from scratch after it being slowly stretched out for 9 months. Also, 500 sit-ups everyday won’t really do a whole lot, and it wastes a lot of time.
At the end of the day, you need to listen to your body and be patient. Focus on staying happy, not on losing weight. There will come a time when your baby has stopped nursing, is sleeping through the night, and is generally more independent (as much as a baby can be!) that is when you can start with a regular exercise regime. This could take weeks, months or years. Until then, eat right, stay active and stay positive about yourself.