Easing Back into Fitness After Giving Birth
Easing your way back into fitness can look different from another person’s journey. Many mamas active before their pregnancy and even during, assume that after a short break, they’ll be able to get back into the gym or their routine without any significant changes. But postpartum bodies undergo dramatic changes, and sometimes those changes become permanent. Resuming fitness and activity after giving birth is a fantastic way to help your body recover and lift your spirits, but only if you proceed with care.
Here are some tips for successfully easing back into fitness after giving birth.
Get Clearance from Your Doctor
It is crucial to discuss your fitness plans and goals with your doctor both during pregnancy and postpartum. If you have had any issues or complications in your pregnancy, you’ll want to ensure that those issues won’t harm or challenge you in any way. Our bodies go through incredible changes while nurturing a baby, and in our excitement to get back into spin class or lifting weights, we can easily strain joints and muscles that are not ready. These injuries can further delay the ability to return to fitness.
Diastasis Recti Is Serious
Ask your doctor when you are discussing your return to fitness to test for diastasis recti. During pregnancy, many women experience diastasis when the abdominal muscles separate. Like everything else that changes, it can take time for these muscles to knit back together. In some cases, the diastasis is severe and may not come back together properly, and attempting to strain these muscles can cause further injury and significant pain. Your doctor may even refer you to a physical therapist. If you do have diastasis, depending on the severity of your separation, you’ll need to modify certain activities, especially core work.
Easy Does It
Whether you were an ultra-athlete or a couch potato, your entry back into fitness and exercise postpartum should be akin to slowly wading in from the shallow end of the pool. And it’s okay that you can’t go back exactly to what you were doing before you were pregnant—or even during pregnancy. Give yourself and your body grace, and start slow. Using a treadmill or going for gentle walks is a great way to ease back in and will allow you to gauge your fatigue and ability. Remember, the act of giving birth, both vaginally and via C-section, takes a toll on the body. Your body will heal, but the key is to be patient with the process and celebrate gentle, loving movement!
A Plan for Lifting Weights
Many mamas love to lift weights and strength train and even continue lifting throughout the pregnancy with some modifications. You might think that once you give birth, you can return to your pre-pregnancy lifting habits, but it’s not that simple. Proceed with caution when resuming lifting weights postpartum, even if you are cleared and do not have any diastasis or joint issues.
A good rule of thumb is to begin lifting weights by starting with half the weight you were last using. Take the time to move slowly and observe how your body is reacting and feeling. You may find that certain lifts are easier than others or that you are more comfortable now in different positions. The first few times you resume lifting weights, you’re learning about your body all over again.
Always Use Moderation
If something doesn’t feel right, modify it. Don’t be afraid to adjust your movements, and be mindful of how it feels. Often new mamas feel motivated to “get back into shape” after having a baby because they want their bodies to look like before. Many are unprepared for the effect that all the physical changes can have on their self-image and mental health. This is the time when grace and kindness are key. It takes phenomenal strength to nurture a child and bring them into the world, so it’s essential to be kind to the body that accomplished that.
And don’t forget to support yourself with both kindness and a belly band or postpartum girdle. These girdles and corsets can provide the gentle yet firm support you need for your core when you’re easing back into a fitness routine. And when you find a girdle that fits, you may notice a lot less discomfort as you recover and go about your day-to-day activities.
Make a Plan Guided by Love
It’s okay to make a plan for easing back into fitness, but remember these five points and always approach your body with the love and respect it deserves. Slowing down and listening to your body is a sign of strength, not weakness. What matters now is taking the time to optimize your health so you can be more present for others and yourself. Finally, remember that you are on your own fitness journey, which happens at the pace you decide.