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. :-)
After 9 long months, you finally find yourself holding this little person that you made. You are in awe of this absolute miracle and overwhelmed by a love that you never knew existed. At the same time, a lot of mums find themselves feeling extremely despondent that the bump doesn't completely disappear when bub is born... Needless to say - a lot of women are very eager to get straight back into their exercise routines as soon as they have clearance to try and regain their pre-baby bodies. Celebrities are not setting very healthy examples for women either, with a lot of famous mums stepping out looking better than ever before, only weeks after having a baby!
As mums we need to accept the fact that everybody is different; some women bounce back quicker and with less effort than others! We need to learn to love and embrace our postnatal bodies - and give it a little credit! It created a human being! It took 9 months to make a baby - at least give yourself another 9 months before beating yourself up about not being able to "shake the baby weight".
Before you jump back into a vigorous exercise routine as soon as you have your 6-week clearance in hand - remember this: Your body went through a lot to create and give life to this little person. As with anything - there is a lot of rehabilitation that needs to happen before you can even think of getting back to a "normal" exercise regime! Your core is without a doubt stuffed, your pelvic floor will need a bit of work, and your joints are all still very flexible and at risk of injury while relaxin (a pregnancy hormone that relaxes your joints) is in your system.
If you are able to see a physio or your Postnatal Exercise Qualified Personal Trainer in hospital, you will be able to start your rehabilitation before you and your new little bundle are discharged! During the first 6 weeks your body enters a natural healing process and by doing some breathing and tightening exercises you can help your body repair itself much quicker and more effectively than if you don't do those exercises. Again - it is very important to do these exercises under the supervision of a Postnatal Exercise specialist!!!!! Once you then receive your 6 week clearance you can start some light strengthening exercises and light cardio. Emphasis on the word LIGHT! Once you reach the 12-week mark, you should be able to start increasing the intensity SLOWLY.
Honestly - it can take up to 6 months before you will be able to exercise like you did before baby. Don't beat yourself up if you can't run a 5km like you used to straight after having a baby. It will come - with time. Rather focus on correct nutrition (you are still "eating for two" if you are breastfeeding!) and rehabilitating your body to get to a good starting point. You may even find that after proper rehab you are fitter and stronger than you were before pregnancy! Take your time, and enjoy your baby!
So it has begun! My long time dream is finally a reality! We kicked off our Mums and Bubs sessions on Tuesday and although there could've been more people, it was an enjoyable session all-in-all. So on that note I thought I would write an article on the benefits of postnatal exercise.
As mums, we are so busy taking care of everyone, we forget to take care of ourselves. When you have a new baby, everything changes. You are sleeping a whole lot less (unless you are one of the lucky few who have sleepy babies - I'm still waiting for a complete night sleep 16 months later!!) and you have this little person demanding a whole lot of your time and energy. After looking after this little person, there is still housework and cooking and a husband to see to. We tend to put ourselves on the back burner. We absolutely shouldn't! Exercise has so many benefits and they are so worth the effort!
Some benefits of postnatal exercise are:
So where do we find time in our busy days? Shouldn't we be resting when our baby is resting? The answer is yes - you probably should, but any exercise is better than no exercise at all. If bub is getting a bit fussy - load her up in a pram and go for a stroll. You will feel better being outdoors and she will probably drift off to sleep in no time! A great motivator and fitness idea is to find a postnatal mums and bubs fitness group in your area. The social aspect of the session can also go a long way to make new mums feel "normal". Also important is to remember that core stabilisation and pelvic floor exercises can be done any time. While you wait for the kettle to boil - contract your deep core muscles and pull in that pelvic floor. Hold it until the jug is boiled! Repeat that whenever you remember - e.g. waiting at a traffic light, changing baby's nappy - whenever you think of it. Contract the muscles and hold for at least 10 seconds, and don't forget to breathe. In fact - do it right now while you read the rest of the article!
Very important to remember is to not beat yourself up when you can't make it to a workout. Sometimes life happens and we can't always do it all! Eventually life will calm down and you can get back into a workout routine.
Make sure that when you exercise you are wearing a good supportive bra and, if you are breastfeeding, that your exercise sessions are after you feed bub. Also - only do exercises that are comfortable for you. As soon as you experience any pain or discomfort stop the exercise immediately. Also - don't expect to run a marathon 6 weeks after giving birth. Start slow - with low impact exercises and work your way up. Yoga, pilates, aqua aerobics, low impact aerobics and light weight training are all good starting points.
Also - ALWAYS speak to your doctor or midwife before starting any postnatal exercise program. You may need to wait a bit and recover first. Don't feel despondent when this is the case. Eventually once your body has recovered properly - it will be stronger to do the exercise.
I hope that this article was informative! If you have any more questions - drop me a line. I'm always happy to have a chat. (You can release your core and pelvic floor now!)