As a Personal Trainer I am sick of people trying to find quick fixes to lose weight. As a mother I am sick to death of the expectations that people have of us mothers that we can pop out a baby one day and walk out of hospital in our skinny jeans and crop tops the next. Yes some of us were blessed with amazing genes, and they can do the latter, but most mums look at themselves after having baby and are nearly convinced the doctors left a baby in there somewhere. You still have a belly, you have HUGE boobs, you have aches and pains in all areas and you have no idea what happened to your pre-baby self. Furthermore, breastfeeding doesn't help everyone to lose the babyweight!
What happens then is that new mums resort to joining challenges and eating plans "designed for busy mums". Hey, I did the same! That was before I knew what I know now. I was planking and crunching with the best of them to "strengthen my core"! Mountain climbers, burpees, the works - and all of that not even 6 months postnatal!!! Unknowingly I most likely did more harm to my core than good. Which is why I still have at least a 2 finger gap and that is 2 years after giving birth! My core has only recently, after a lot of researching and hard work, been able to fire up properly. I wish I had completed my Postnatal fitness qualification before I had my baby!! It would've taken the guess work out of a lot of it.
I have also joined a few online forums directed at new mums and their health & fitness, and even though I am rejoicing at the fact that people are aware and talking about the basic issues (diastasis and pelvic floor), I am shocked at some of the misconceptions still surrounding postnatal fitness! I cannot stress the fact that your body went through a major (quite literally) life changing event! It needs time to heal, rehabilitate and recover before we can place extra strain on it to lose weight and get fit!! You are no longer "just you", you have a little person who relies on you for the most basic of needs, and if you are malnourishing yourself and over-exercising, how do you expect to be able to care for your baby?
Then I am faced with all these fads and trends (vibrating machines, waist trainers to name but a few) and I can all but shake my head at how these things are growing in popularity!
Any plyometric (or bouncy) exercise is not recommended until most of your postnatal rehab has happened, so why would you get on a vibrating machine? Your pelvic floor needs time to heal and recover, and the stress the vibration does, cannot be good. As for waist trainers - I thought we had left that in the Victorian Ages! You do get tummy support bands (FITSplint) for people who suffer from severe Diastasis, but those are specially designed and serve a medical purpose. Waist trainers (as made famous by the Kardashian-clan in recent media) really have no place in Postnatal Rehabilitation. There are many SAFE and EFFECTIVE exercises that will train your core and your pelvic floor and yes, it may not be the quick or easy way out, but it is the effective, long term solution.
In conclusion, while some people are able to just bounce back without much fuss, the rest of us need to realise that our bodies might never return to it's pre-baby condition. You have nurtured and birthed a baby and there is no bigger accolade in this world! Time to forget about all the expectations and accept that our bodies are new and improved. :-)
As a Fitness Professional specialising in prenatal and postnatal fitness, I get tired of common misconceptions about exercising during pregnancy. A well-balanced, safe workout regime has far more benefits to both mum and bub than no exercise at all.
Some common myths I have come across are:
#1 - Lifting weights are dangerous to both you and baby
New research has shown that fitter and stronger mums have shorter labours, less chance of preterm labour, fewer complications during pregnancy and labour and shorter hospital stays. Mums have also shown a lower Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) during labour! As for benefits to your bouncing bundle of joys, they include higher APGAR scores and the ability to handle labour much better. It has also shown a lower instance of cardiovascular problems later in life and babies whose mums kept fit during pregnancy has also shown faster maturity of their brains.
#2 - Pregnancy niggles will be made worse and you run an increased risk of injury
Yes, the hormone Relaxin is running through your body loosening the ligaments and weakening the joints, which is all necessary for you to bring your baby into this world, but instead of being an argument against strength training, it should actually be an argument FOR strength training! Think about it - a stronger body will have increased stability! If you work with a qualified Prenatal Fitness Instructor to work out a safe strengthening program, they will be able to teach you correct form and make adaptions as your body changes!
#3 - You need to keep your heart rate under 140bpm
Yes, you need to be mindful of over doing it but the 140bpm rule is outdated. A much better indication is using RPE and the talk test. If you are still able to hold a conversation, but still feel like you are getting a workout, you're good. If you are struggling to suck in oxygen and not managing to talk - you need to bring it down a notch... But doing higher intervals all helps to prepare you for labour. Doing 30-60 seconds work, short rest and repeat is pretty much the same cycle your body will go through during labour!
#4 - Do not train your abdominals because it will cause separation
Uhm - no.... Not training your core will only result in a heck of a sore back! Proper core training is vital during pregnancy! A strong core will reduce the size and severity of Diastasis Recti (stomach separation) and also help your DR to recover quicker after giving birth! Obviously proper core training during pregnancy does not include sit-ups, crunches or front planks!
#5 - You should avoid all exercise except walking and yoga during pregnancy
Walking and yoga are both needed as part of your prenatal fitness regime, but strength training adds another (and necessary) dimension to your exercise! Some benefits of strength training:
* Helps to support your changing body
* Maintain your strength as you carry extra weight
* Aids recovery after birth
* Prepare you and your baby for those intense moments during labour.
(Source: Jessie Mundell - Mundell Lifestyles)
Now that the myths have been debunked, let's look at some benefits of general exercise during pregnancy:
* Improved Fitness
* Improved Muscle Tone and Strength
* Increased Self-Esteem
* Increased Sense of Wellbeing
* Feeling in Control of your Body
* Heightened Body Awareness
* Weight Control
* Relieving stress
* Bounce back quicker after giving birth
* Promotes good posture
All-in-all, the benefits completely outweigh the risks. Obviously there are some instances where you should not exercise at all during pregnancy, and you should always check with your doctor or midwife whether it is safe for you to be exercising! Also make sure that you find a fitness professional who has a qualification in prenatal fitness, as this will help you to have the safest workout for both you and bub!