Getting back into exercise after pregnancy can be confusing and frustrating. It can feel like you’re back at square one and starting all over again. But you must remember to be kind to yourself — your body has gone through huge changes, and it has carried, fed and looked after another human for nine months. So you’ve earned the opportunity to take your time.
PT Sim Farrington, who is pre and post-natal trained, knows her stuff when it comes to getting back into exercise after pregnancy. She has some advice to share on what you need to know, what precautions you should take when exercising for the first time, and how long you should wait, as well as answers for some other important questions you may have.
Questions to ask yourself after a workout
If you do choose to get back into exercise, remember to take it easy and to take the process one day at a time. Your body is still healing, so ease yourself slowly into extra activity. During and after exercise, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel energised?
- Am I ready for a nap?
- Does anything hurt?
- Do I feel comfortable?
There’s no pressure to rush back into anything, and if your answers to the above questions aren’t what they should be, then you should stop doing the exercise that you’re doing and maybe even consult a doctor or a PT before continuing.
When to start exercising
While every pregnancy is different, if you had no issues when carrying the baby and during labour, you should be able to begin exercising again after your six-week post-natal check, provided it goes smoothly and you get the go-ahead from your doctor. If you exercised before pregnancy, want to get back into exercise, and you have the thumbs up from your doctor, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.
Many mothers experience complications or difficult births. If you had a caesarean your recovery time will be longer, and your doctor will let you know when the time is right for you to begin exercising. If you experienced abdominal separation or diastasis recti (abdominal separation), you need to be extra careful when returning to exercise, especially with ab workouts.
As a rule, your lower back and core muscles will be weaker after pregnancy, so keep this in mind if you struggle performing exercises more than you once did. You're also more at risk of injury after birth — your muscles and joints are more supple, so you need to ease yourself back into it.
Exercises to avoid
There are certain exercises that should be avoided until you’re at least 16-weeks post-partum. These include:
- Oblique exercises
Exercises to focus on
In general there are some exercises that you can focus on. Of course, if these don’t work for you, consult a PT to find something that does. A great way to get active again after pregnancy is by attending post-natal classes.
- Pelvic floor exercises
- Strengthening your core
- Walking and swimming
- Yoga and Pilates
- Light weight training
Take Home Message
And remember, don't compare yourself or your body to anybody else, or even with yourself before pregnancy. Your body has been through a lot, and you need to allow time for it to heal. And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, always check with your doctor before taking up any exercise to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk of an injury. And finally, in Sim’s words, “you’ve got this mama”.
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