Giving birth is such an amazing thing. I was in complete awe of what my body was capable of after I gave birth to my daughter.
I remember during my pregnancy I had said to myself that after giving birth I wanted to become stronger and fitter than I had ever been.
I’m sure like me you were probably itching to start your postnatal fitness journey as soon as you could. But there are definitely some things that I wish I had been made aware of that I know many mums still do not know now.
Recently, I went live on Instagram with Claire Johnson from Alpha Fit Female, a pre and postnatal trainer, nutritionist and mum. We discussed what some key things are to know when you are planning your return to exercise after giving birth.
Be kind and give your body time to heal
See the first 3 months as the 4th trimester. So although you’re no longer pregnant, your body has gone through some much giving birth whether you had a vaginal delivery or a C-section. Give your body time to heal. Rest as much as you can. Your only job is to take care of yourself and the baby and get used to this new normal. You don’t need to worry about jumping straight back into exercise as your body probably won’t be ready for anything for at least the first 4-6 weeks.
The only things I would recommend to do in this period are your pelvic floor exercises, some gentle core strengthening exercises and walking. After 6-8 weeks if you feel better and you’ve been to see a women’s health physio (they will advise when it is safe for you to start exercising again) you can start introducing some light weights and bodyweight exercises.
See a Women’s Health Physio
These physiotherapists specialise in pelvic floor health for women and men. They are trained to assess your body internally (with your permission) and externally to see how your body has recovered from giving birth. The earliest you should see one after giving birth is 6-8 weeks, but don’t worry if you gave birth many years ago, it is never too late to pay one a visit if you have any issues.
Your women’s health physio will give you advice on how to strengthen your core, how your pelvic floor is functioning and what exercises to do to keep it strong.
The internet is great for general advice, but when you actually see a physio the advice they give you will be relevant to you and your body.
Work on your core strength and don’t forget those pelvic floor exercises
You don’t realise the importance of your pelvic floor and core muscles until you’ve given birth.
I was shocked when I couldn’t hold in a wee and had to run to the toilet. I was also shocked when I tried to do a plank at 8 weeks post giving birth and found I couldn’t hold it for more than 0.5 seconds!
There are now many great resources with tips and exercises (check out this video on my page) to do at home to help with these.
Before you try to get back to lifting, running or any type of physical activity, please work on getting your core strong again.
Your pelvic floor supports all your pelvic organs and also stops you from having accidents (if you know what I mean). If it’s not strong or functioning properly, you won’t be able to do the things you love; you won’t be able to run, jump or even squat. You might feel like you need to run to the toilet every time you need to go.
So again it comes back to seeing a women’s health physio who can assess you pelvic floor and teach you correct breathing techniques to work your core and pelvic floor and show you how to correctly exercise to get both strong again.
Return to running guidelines
I’ve met many mums who loved running before they became pregnant and their first question is usually about when they can return to running.
It really depends on the individual as each person and each birth is different.
Again, a great way to get personal guidance on this is to see a women’s health physio. But if you can’t afford to do that, then there are some great guidelines that were recently released by 3 physios to help mums return to running safely.
These guidelines are fantastic as they give you guidance on how to assess yourself to make sure you are ready to return to running after giving birth. There are a number of tests and exercises they advise you are able to do before signing yourself off to start running again (all included in their free download)
You can use these same tests to also assess whether you are ready to return to HIIT classes or anything else that produces high impact.
You’ll find a link to download a free copy below.
Check out the below resources to support your postnatal journey:
The Mummy Mot: A database on Women’s Health Physiotherapists based in the UK
Bumps and Burpees: A database of personal trainers around London who specialise in pre and postnatal fitness
Mum Hood by Frame: Postnatal classes in studios around London
Mumshape: A database of pre and postnatal classes and trainers in London
Return to Running Guidelines: Click here to download the free Return to running guidelines published in 2019.