Post-Natal Exercise – My Top Tips

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I had a lovely session with my Mum and baby group yesterday which was then followed by them posting a great post on Instagram while having a coffee and cake afterwards as #itsallaboutbalance after all 😊. This post just made me smile as it’s exactly what I wanted to achieve for new mums coming to these groups:

Firstly, the group of mums started off with having a great workout out in the fresh air helping to improve strength and fitness. This is so important as a new mum as exercise helps your body to return to your pre-pregnancy state as well as giving you the strength and posture to deal with the physical demands of being a mum.

And secondly, during the sessions, the mums while working hard exercising have also had a laugh, shared how they felt that day, chatted about everything from pooy nappies to sleep deprivation, and have all bonded. This is just as important as the exercise from my point of view. There are so many psychological benefits to post-natal exercise as well as physical. Post-natal depression now affects more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth (according to the NHS website). Consistent exercise relieves stress, eases depression and anxiety, clears your head, helps you sleep better, and makes you feel happy. The friendships these mums have made in this group (making them feel supported and happy) is just as important as the fact they are exercising and getting fitter and stronger from my point of view.

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Finally, the thing that really made me smile was the fact they quoted my favourite hashtag #itsallaboutbalance as they were all having a guilt free treat afterwards. As I truly believe life is not about depriving yourself but more about balancing out the treats with healthy eating and regular exercise.

If you’ve recently had a baby and are wondering how to return to exercise, then here are some of my top tips for post-natal exercise…

WHEN TO START EXERCISE AFTER BIRTH

After birth your body is repairing and healing and it’s important to allow your body to do this by avoiding formal exercise until after you’ve had your 6 week check and a midwife has confirmed you’re ok to exercise (if you’ve had complications or a c-section it may be a little longer before you are able to return to exercise). However, there are a few gentle exercises such as gentle walking, abdominal hollowing and pelvic floor exercises, you can do prior to this. If you refer to my ‘Exercise after Birth’ Guide there are more details on this.

TAKE THINGS AT YOUR PACE & LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Your body has been through a lot over 9 months, adapting to growing and giving birth to a baby. Once you’ve had your 6-week check and have been given the ok this does not then mean you are ready to dive in and do a 10-mile run or a marathon session at the gym…. It’s important you take things at a steady pace. After birth, your body needs to heal and it’s a gradual process, which if you rush, can cause injury and set-backs. It’s not just a case of jumping straight back into your pre-pregnancy routine, make sure you follow guidelines and gradually build the intensity of your workouts back up from where you left off during pregnancy. And most importantly listen to your body…. If something doesn’t feel right then stop; If something hurts stop, and get it checked by a medical professional; and if you are feeling tired, unwell or generally weak then rest. Only start exercise if you feel ready.

THINGS TO CONSIDER / ADAPT

Certain changes in your body, medical conditions and complications can occur once you’ve had your baby (e.g. Prolapse, Pelvic pain, damaged coccyx etc). These do not mean you cannot exercise, you may just have to adapt and avoid certain exercises or positions. If you make sure your instructor is qualified in Post-natal exercise, and you tell them about any conditions, they will be able to adapt your programme and give you safe exercises which will be effective and cause minimal discomfort. Please see my ‘Exercise after Birth’ Guide for more details on various conditions and the adaptions needed.

It’s important to note that an exercise professional’s role is to safely prescribe exercises based on the information you give them. They are not qualified to diagnose any conditions please make sure you see a suitably qualified medical professional to do this.

CORE IS KING

Training your Core is one of the most important things when planning post-natal exercise. Strengthening your core will help with posture, reduce any lower back pain and improve your performance when training. After birth your abdominal muscles have stretched and sometimes separated so it’s important to realign, strengthen and return them back to the correct length. Your Pelvic floor muscles have also stretched and need tightening and strengthening. It’s important you have your abs checked to find out if they have separated and by how far so that you can be given the correct abdominal exercises for you. For more advice on this please check my ‘Exercise after Birth’ Guide.

To help strengthen and tighten your Pelvic Floor muscles make sure you do your pelvic floor exercises every day!

HOW TO FIND THE TIME

As a new mum you’ll be busy looking after your baby and adapting to life as a parent and fitting in exercise can feel like the last priority on the list, especially if you have the added stress of having to arrange childcare while you do it. But if we go back to the beginning of this blog you can see why it’s so important to try and find that time…

Exercise doesn’t have to mean hours in the gym or long sessions. If you can do little and often it’s more manageable. Here’s a few tips of how to fit the exercise in with baby in tow so you don’t have to worry about childcare:

  • Walking is such a great way to get cardio exercise and it’s free too! Wrap your baby up in the pram and get out for a walk while they nap. If you arrange to meet some other mums while walking, it’s a great way to see friends and catch up at the same time too.
  • Use baby’s nap times at home to fit in a short home workout.
  • Joining a post-natal exercise group is a great way to get some exercise as well as to meet up with other mums, share how your feeling, get some fresh air and make you feel good 😊. Just make sure your instructor is qualified in Post-natal exercise and you have made them aware of any medical conditions or considerations.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF 😊

Finally, but most importantly, be kind to yourself!

For a lot of new mum’s, the motivation to exercise is very much about returning to their pre-pregnancy body. But make sure that your expectations and goals are realistic. It’s too tempting to try and set hard goals to get the weight off, but unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and disappointment. It took 9 months to grow your baby and it can take 9-12 months to return to your pre-pregnancy body. The best way to do this is through eating a balanced diet and regular exercise and to do it slowly so it’s maintainable and stays off.

Make sure you take each day at a time and don’t beat yourself up when you have a day with no exercise and lots of tea and biscuits…. One of my favourite hashtags is #itsallaboutbalance. If you cut absolutely everything out and deprive yourself all the time, it’s not maintainable. Let yourself have some treats and don’t feel guilty about them.

Hopefully this blog has given some reassurance and motivation for new mums out there to start with some exercise. Please share with anyone you know who has recently had a baby and may benefit from reading this. If you would like more details, checkout out my website, where there is a copy of my ‘Exercising after Birth’ Guide. If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch 😊