Feeling lost about postpartum exercise? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.
Turns out, working out after having a baby isn’t as easy as you’d think.
When it comes to being a new mama, there is a lot on your mind, and your postpartum fitness plan is likely to be right at the bottom of your priority list.
But getting active after birth can boost your energy levels, relieve stress, and help your mental health, so it’s pretty important.
But you probably have no clue where to start - especially if you’re sleep-deprived and juggling a million things at once.
So we had a chat with Mahri Relin, a fitness expert and founder of Body Conceptions, about all things postpartum fitness.
Mahri’s top postpartum exercise tips:
1. Don’t compare yourself to others
I know it can be easy to compare yourself with a friend who had a baby at the same time and wonder why you look and feel completely different, but every pregnancy, delivery, and postnatal healing process is different.
Know that you are doing your best, and it’s so important to stay at the pace that’s right for you!
2. Be gentle with your hormonal expectations
Heads up - after you give birth, your hormones are out of whack.
From fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels causing hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue, to higher cortisol levels from stress and lower melatonin and serotonin because of the lack of sleep, it’s totally natural for a new mama to feel tired and experience some weight gain.
So please don’t feel like you have to jump back in to exercise straight away! This is all normal.
3. Focus on breathing
Believe it or not, breathing is one of the most important components of postnatal healing.
Your rib cage can flare after pregnancy, which flattens the diaphragm and affects its connection with the pelvic floor and your deep core.
Proper breathing helps coordinate the movement of all of these elements together to allow them to help you strengthen your core, protect your spine, and control your internal pressure so that you can heal properly and prevent injury.
As an added bonus, proper breathing also helps you de-stress!
4. Pay attention to your posture
Did you know that there are a lot of changes that happen during pregnancy (and beyond!) that can affect your body’s ability to function without pain or injury?
For example, holding and picking up your baby can cause tightness in the front of your shoulders and rounding in your upper back.
Keep an eye on the way you stand when you carry your little one too - you want to avoid leaning back as this can lead to misalignment.
But don’t worry, there are lots of adjustments, exercises, and stretches that can help.
5. Listen to your body
It’s crucial to pay attention to your body’s signals when it comes to postpartum exercise.
Since relaxin - the hormone that loosens your muscles, joints, and ligaments during pregnancy - is still present for a while, you’re more prone to injury.
Plus, you might be recovering from abdominal injury or pelvic pain, so it’s really important to be aware of what feels good and back away from anything that still needs to heal.
6. Don’t jump into high-intensity fitness
Ignore the pressures out there to ‘bounce back’.
I know that many women feel restless and eager to return to their previous fitness level ASAP, but it’s important to remember that your body needs to ramp up again slowly and carefully.
It takes time to strengthen your muscles and heal from the structural changes that happened, so allow things to coordinate together in their own time and start with simple fitness like breathing, walking, and focusing on your pelvic floor.
7. Consult with an expert
Speaking with someone who understands postnatal recovery can help you learn how to properly approach your fitness journey.
After pregnancy, there are some common issues that can arise, including diastasis recti, pelvic floor incontinence or pain, and other discomforts.
Many of these issues can be made worse by incorrect exercise, but they can also be resolved with proper fitness.
8. Remember that all fitness counts
Postpartum exercise doesn’t have to happen all in one sitting for a full hour to be effective.
You’re a busy mama, and it’s totally okay to break things up however you need.
Why not try leg lifts while playing with baby on the blanket, fitting in some squats in the kitchen, or practicing your breathing at night as you unwind?
9. Try working out with your baby
Don’t have the time or opportunity to leave your little one?
Exercise with them instead!
You can easily incorporate a stroller into your walks, stretches, or lunges.
And if you don’t want to work out with them directly, baby will love sitting and watching you move around.
10. Do workouts that make you happy
As well as using fitness to help your body heal postpartum, fitness is even more important when it comes to confidence, catharsis, and joy.
It should be something just for you and a chance to feel good rather than accomplish a task you ‘should’ be doing.
Take each day as it comes, and do what makes you happy, if that’s no exercise all week, then that’s OK.