Having a baby is an incredible achievement when you think about the fact that you actually grow a small human in your stomach then bring it into this world! So it is no wonder that the body has to go through some rather dramatic changes to accommodate this process. Most new mothers find that they no longer have the strength, flexibility, or stamina they once had, not to mention the other changes that their body has experienced.
When it comes to getting back into your fitness, most doctors and health professionals advise you to take some time out between giving birth and starting up your fitness routine again. The general rule is to wait at least 4 weeks after giving birth, or 6 weeks if you had a cesarian. Though this is very much subject to your own situation, as you may find you need longer than this. Don’t fret though, this time is a special time for you to bond with your new bub… And try to grab any sleep that you can!
Here are 6 important steps to be aware of when getting back into your fitness:
Baby steps! - When you are ready to start getting back into shape it is important to remember to start slow. Even if you were very fit before pregnancy, you might have to start with very basic exercises and work your way back up.
Rest when you need it! - Being a new mum is exhausting both mentally and physically, so try to work around how your body feels (and what your baby will allow). Rest when you need it and exercise when you can. Perhaps incorporate your baby’s sleep time with some light exercise such as pushing them in their stroller. You can work up towards jogging behind your stroller as your body slowly adjusts.
Keep hydrated! - This might seem like a given, however if you are breastfeeding you have even more need to stay hydrated. Plus you won’t feel like exercising at all if you allow your body to get dehydrated.
Work on stability - Your body has undergone some very dramatic hormonal changes over the past 9 months, one of these being an increase in relaxin in your body. Relaxin (much like the name suggests) is a hormone that helps in loosening and relaxing the joints and muscles of the body to help in adjusting to accommodate rapid growth of the belly, as well as loosening the hips to support birthing. The problem is these changes don’t just magically go back to normal after birth, you have to work on it. So ease yourself into exercises by slowly working on regaining your muscle strength. Trying to rush into stronger exercises straight away could be dangerous and lead to injury.
Work on your pelvic floor and abs - During pregnancy and giving birth, both the pelvic floor and your abdominal muscles can become weakened. Your abdominal muscles can even become separated, which can require specific physical therapy to recover from. So start with some gentle practices that focus on strengthening both of these areas, which is where post natal yoga and gentle Pilates classes can be very beneficial.
- Mix it up! - You may have been an avid gym junkie before falling pregnant, however this might be a good time to try some different forms of exercise whilst you are starting to get your body back on track. Walking, swimming and cycling are all fantastic ways of increasing your cardiovascular fitness at the same time as increasing muscle tone. As I mentioned before, postnatal yoga classes and gentle Pilates classes are also great ways of re-strengthening your pelvic floor (and helping you avoid peeing each time you sneeze!), as well as increasing the core strength needed as you work towards reintroducing stronger exercises.