Congratulations! You’ve carefully watched your diet, toned down the exercising with numerous variations, and successfully welcomed a new member of your family into the world after 9 months of hard work. Now, you can’t to get back to your pre-pregnancy routine so you can reclaim your body and your fitness levels. However, don’t be too quick to jump back into everything. First, make sure that you are cleared by your doctor before you start anything. This can usually be done at your six-week post partum check up. If you’ve remained relatively active throughout the duration of your pregnancy and feel up to it, start off slow and gentle with a low-impact activity, like walking.
Definitely do not start with anything high-impact like plyometrics or heavy weight lifting. After you give birth, your body is still filled with a hormone, called relaxin, that loosens your ligaments. Relaxin can exacerbate any joint issues through running, dancing, and jumping. It can stay in your body for up to six months post partum and is responsible for many women’s complaints of “jiggly” and “wobbly” joints. It might also take a couple of months before you can fully integrate these high impact exercises back into your normal routine since your pelvic floor muscles will be weakened. These muscles hold your internal organs in place and starting a high impact activity too soon might create feelings of “jostling”, or “unrest” internally.
Be careful of your abdominal exercises before you start any ab exercise. A common injury that happens during pregnancy is called diastasis recti. It may manifest itself after pregnancy as a “pooch”. This abdominalseparation happens sometimes in pregnancy because your growing uterus can split your abdominal muscles down the center into two or three parts. Certain exercises that exacerbate this issue are crunches, planks, and sit-ups. Straining this injury further can cause urine leakage, lower back pain, and even a hernia. One way to check if you have this condition is to lie flat on your back. Bend your knees and place your left hand just above your belly button. Exhale, lifting your shoulders and head off of the floor. Your abdominals should tighten. Feel for a gap where your left hand is. If you feel this gap, tell your doctor and ask him to do a physical exam. You should resume abdominal exercises only when he has given you the green light.
Do be gentle with yourself. Many mothers are very harsh on theirselves because they think “I used to be able to do this before I was pregnant. I should still be able to do it now!” Don’t be afraid to take things slowly, especially at the beginning. Consider trading in your CrossFit classes for a couple of gentle laps around a pool. Instead of high-paced Zumba classes, consider a PureBarre class, or a nice long walk in the evening with your significant other and your new child.
Lastly, if you’re a work at home mom, find your time of productivity. Nap time and bed time are usually the most ideal times of day to get a workout in. Whether you need to get up a little earlier than your little one, or stay up a little later past their bedtime, when your baby is sleeping is usually the optimal time for you to get in some quality “you” time. Don’t be afraid to utilize your partner or your husband. It really does take a village to raise a child. Hiring a mother’s helper or a nanny a couple of times a week can free up some time for you to get some sleep and to unwind, knowing that your little one is well taken care of. And remember, don’t be too hard on yourself, and feel like you’re “supposed to” feel perfect and ready to go the week after your child is born. Take the time to heal and to enjoy this wonderful time with your newborn and relish in it, for it won’t last forever.