As you return to exercise postpartum, make the most of your time and effort by avoiding these 5 mistakes:
Mistake 1. Not taking enough time for rest and recuperation.
Make sure you take a full two weeks of rest after delivery, regardless of how your birth went.
Continue to take the rest of the first 6 weeks easy. While you can start introducing easy walks and perhaps some light bodyweight exercise or mobility, hold off on structured exercise.
If you had a complicated vaginal birth or surgical delivery, you might need to wait a little longer.
Mistake 2. Ignoring your core and pelvic floor muscles.
Your core and pelvic floor work together to create a stable platform off of which your arms and legs do their strong work.
Your core and pelvic muscles are also deeply impacted by pregnancy and childbirth.
Before you can start building full body strength, generating power and tolerating impact, you have got to rehab and retrain these key muscles.
Try this: Retrain the relflexive, coordinated function of your core and pelvic floor using your breath.
A great way to retrain your breath is by learning the Connection Breath. The Connection Breath is a coordinated diaphramatic breath and pelvic floor contraction (kegel) that places equal emphasis on the contract and relax.
Learn to apply the Connection Breath to exercise so you can support your body during exertion.
Core and pelvic floor rehab and retraining is not just about isolated core and pelvic floor exercises. It’s about learning to re-integrate good core and pelvic floor function into all of your activities.
Mistake 3. You’re doing too much too soon.
When you start exercising after pregnancy, you can’t just pick back up where you were at the end of your pregnancy. You have to spending time getting to know your postpartum body.
Start by retraining your core (see next point) and building foundational full body strength.
Practice progressive overload. Slowly add volume, load and intensity over time.
If you do too much too soon, you risk injury and setbacks.
Don’t skip to the sexy stuff. While the low intensity stuff might feel like a detour on the path to recovery, it’s actually the short cut.
Mistake 4. Not following a program (or following the wrong program).
If you’re doing random Instagram workouts or stuff you’ve found on YouTube, you might see some initial gains but you’re going to plateau pretty quickly.
Instead, choose a program designed for where you are and where you want to go.
Hallmarks of a good postpartum return-to-exercise program:
Begins with the gold standard foundations of core and pelvic floor function
Educates you on the transformations your body is experiencing
Teaches you movement skills that will carry you beyond the program
Encourages you to listen to your body and adjust accordingly
Prescribes the same movements for 4-6 week blocks so you have time to build strength and competancy in those patterns
Follows progressive overload so that you continue to get stronger
Keeps things simple because time and mental bandwidth are a premium
Shameless plug: Check out Stronger Postpartum if you’re looking for a great self-paced program you can do at home.
Mistake 5. Prioritizing exercise without considering sleep, stress, nutrition etc.
Whether you’ve got a newborn, a toddler or a teenager, parenting is hard.
To your nervous system, stress on your body is the same whether it comes from a bad night’s sleep, a hard workout or a fight with your kid.
While I want you to practice showing up, I also want you to practice giving yourself grace.
Exercise isn’t going to bring you benefit if it’s grinding you down.
And soon enough, the pressures of parenting are going to change and you’ll have more bandwidth to exercise like you want to.
If it’s ever the choice between an hour of sleep and a workout, choose the sleep. If you’re feeling run down, go easy on your workout or choose a restorative walk instead.
Your Stronger Postpartum Action Plan:
As you return to exercise after pregnancy, stack the deck in favor of an injury-free experience.
Rest and recover. Wait to begin a structured exercise program until you’re at least 6 weeks postpartum.
Prioritize your postpartum core recovery. Rehab your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor before moving on to higher level exercises.
Follow progressive overload. Slow is fast.
Follow a core and pelvic floor-informed postpartum exercise program.
Prioritize other healthy habits including sleep, nutrition and stress management.
While you might be feeling some pressure to get back to things ASAP, remember that this chapter will seem short in hindsight. Don’t sacrifice your long-term strength and function for the short-term reward of an intense workout that you’re not quite ready for.
My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me with questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I offer customized, online pregnancy and postpartum personal training to folks locally (Seattle-area, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and beyond.