First and foremost you really need to get your medical clearance before starting to exercise again post pregnancy. General guidelines state:
Normal Birth – 6 weeks post birth provided there have been no complications and the woman herself feels good. The 6 week check-up is a great time to get the go ahead from your GP.
Caesarean – 12 weeks post section provided there have been no complications. I will allow women who are less than the 12 weeks to take part in my classes if they have medical clearance but will start them off very slowly and progress from there.
Every birth is different and everybody will recover in its own way. Like exercising during pregnancy it’s important to listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard too fast. You can read about my own post pregnancy story here.
My first steps out into the real world post pregnancy
Start slowly with walking. You will more than likely be looking forward to getting out of the house anyway and it’s great for you and your baby to get some fresh air (or to get a break from the constant stream of visitors). If you’re nervous at first ask someone else to join you and don’t go too far.
Core control on the go
Regaining control and strength of your core muscles which include your pelvic floor muscles is essential before moving on to other forms of exercise that may exert pressure. Practise your core control exercises as often as you possibly can. The maternity nurse will most likely have given you a leaflet with pelvic floor or kegel exercises to do and these are really important to do as early as possible. There will be days when you can’t seem to find time to eat let alone do exercise so I recommend trying to do your core control work at random times like when you’re making bottles. Tell yourself at the start of the day that every time you make bottles or boil the kettle you’ll do the exercises shown in the video below and soon enough you’ll get into a little routine.
Increasing your walking pace and going for longer walks may be possible at this stage. Continue to practise your core control exercises and if comfortable add in some additional bodyweight resistance exercise e.g. modified press-ups, squats, short planks etc.
This is a great time to think about joining a post pregnancy or baby friendly class like Buggy Bootcamp (shameless plug I run such a thing – check out the details here) or Mother and Baby Yoga. Just make sure that you inform your instructor if you have had any pregnancy complications.
Be very careful before putting your body under too much pressure. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t run or do exercise of a higher intensity but remember the pressure your pelvic floor muscles have been under and how week they may now be. Your body will tell you in the most embarrassing way if you are ready or not anyway. Think of your pelvic floor exercise like scrubbing your body before putting on fake tan. If you skip that part you run the risk of looking like a big streaky mess. Put in the ground work and you’ll reap the rewards afterwards.
Once you are starting to feel your body regaining its strength you should be able to increase the intensity of your exercise routine but again listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard. Note that I said listen to your body not your brain which is so exhausted from the lack of sleep that all it can do is scream ‘COUCH!!!!’ Regular exercise will help to increase your energy levels and hormonal balance too so your brain will thank you eventually too. Take advantage of all the lovely people offering to mind your baby. They really really do want to do it and no you’re not putting them out.
Try to incorporate your baby in your workouts from as early as possible. I did this with Frankie and now he loves taking part or even just watching me from the buggy. If you don’t do it from early on they can sometimes get a little frightened but let’s face it a grown adult might be scared at the sight of us exercising some days too!)
If it’s not possible for you to get out of the house to exercise due to your schedule or the weather then you might like to consider an online fitness course to help you along the way. Shameless plug No.2 – check out details of my September 2015 course here.
Here are a couple of videos I put together to help you. The first includes some very basic core control exercises and the second to show you some of the things you can do with your baby as you increase your intensity (although I can’t promise the sunny day – it was the only one we had this summer in Ireland).