Six steps to post-natal fitness
If you’ve had a baby recently, or are gearing up for a super cute Christmas present, you may be wondering when it’s safe for you to start exercising after giving birth.
For the active woman, pregnancy will certainly change things when it comes to fitness and wellbeing. After nine months of growing, nurturing, carrying and birthing a tiny human, the physical and mental effects will be huge. Your body will be different, you’ll no doubt be tired and your fitness levels will have dropped, even if you stayed active during your pregnancy. It is also fair to say that most mums will feel very differently when it comes to body confidence after having a baby.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to getting back into fitness, you are not alone, so here are six steps to help you on your way…
1. Wait until you are ready
Critically, post-natal mums must wait until their body is ready before they start exercising again. The NHS offers a post-partum check around 6-8 weeks after giving birth. At this appointment, which is usually conducted at home, your midwife or health visitor will check if you have healed from any stitches or operations, check your blood pressure and also – importantly – check on your mental wellbeing.
After this check, if you’re healthy and you had a straightforward pregnancy and birth, it’s usually safe to start exercising again. If you have had a cesarean section, it could take a little longer to get back into fitness and activity. This is major abdominal surgery, so don’t give yourself a hard time, and let yourself heal before you start to think about exercise or training.
If you have any concerns, make sure you take this one-on-one opportunity to ask for advice.
2. Start slowly and build up your confidence
If you have been given the green light and feel OK to start getting back into a fitness regime, then start slowly and build up your strength and confidence over time.
Getting out into the fresh air with your buggy is a good way to start building up stamina and getting your muscles engaged again, and walking is a great way to start getting your cardio in, as you can start gently and gradually increase speed and duration.
Do what works for you. Don’t push yourself, take it slowly and remember that your body has carried a human being. It could take a while before you feel back to your prenatal self. Additionally, you’ll no doubt be feeling tired and your hormones will be still in the settling down stage, so if you feel like a sofa-and-cuddles day with baby, go for gold! Tomorrow is another day.
3. Remember your pelvic floor
Having some urinary leakage after pregnancy is completely and totally normal. Your body has just carried a baby and the muscles around your bladder, vagina and bottom will have stretched and feel looser due to the extra weight and hormonal changes.
Carrying out pelvic floor muscle exercises strengthen these muscles and will help prevent the accidental wees when you laugh, sneeze, jog or cough!
Luckily, the NHS has produced a very quick guide to these exercises – also called kegels – on its post-pregnancy body page here. Check them out and start incorporating them into your daily routine.
4. Try a specialist workout class
If you feel A-OK to get back into the swing of things, why not look into specialist post-partum exercise classes? FIIT TV offers a variety of classes with highly trained PTs like Lulu Adams who specialise in post-natal fitness, focusing on elements like rebuilding strength, managing stomach muscle separation, boosting your pelvic floor and much more.
Even better, FIIT offers a FREE 14 day trial and plans for as little as £10 a month – the same price as a weekly posh latte from your local coffee shop…
5. Eat well and stay hydrated – especially when you’re breastfeeding
It’s a myth that you need a heap of extra calories if you’re breastfeeding – you just need to eat a healthy, balanced diet full of good foods including fruits and veggies, wholemeal carbs, protein (including beans, pulses and nuts) and calcium-rich dairy (or non dairy) foods and drinks. Don’t go hungry, and make sure you fill up on healthy foods rather than sugary or fatty treats,
If you are breastfeeding, it’s important to stay well hydrated – so if you are adding exercise and fitness into the mix, you must ensure you drink enough water throughout the day. If you’re bored of plain water, buy a special bottle and add slices of lemon, lime or even cucumber to keep it interesting.
6. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day
Lastly, please go easy on yourself. Regardless of the plethora of celebrity and influencers pictures you have seen about women “pinging back into shape” just weeks after giving birth, it’s much healthier to take it one step at a time, and build up your confidence and strength slowly. Some mums can get their size 10 jeans on straight after giving birth, other mums never get the exact same shape back – we are all different. Please do not compare yourself to celebs, influencers or other mums, and do not feel disheartened if you don’t look like you did before you had the baby.
It has taken nine months to grow your little one, and in most cases it takes a lot longer than a few weeks to get back into shape. Try to focus on health, strength and fitness rather than how many pounds you lose or what you look like in your skinnies, and remember – you’re a warrior!
If you have any concerns about getting back into fitness or exercise post-partum, please check with your health visitor, midwife or GP. For further information and advice, please visit the NHS website which includes tonnes of information on post-natal physical and mental wellbeing.