I don’t know about you guys, but a few months ago when I went through it, I felt confused during the postpartum period about what to do, even being knowledgeable in the fitness industry. This is a huge reason why I started asking around and doing more research to work on the postpartum postures we work in class. So many people told me what NOT to do, but didn’t give me any options
for things I could do instead. For example, I knew sit-ups were probably a bad idea right away, but I wanted safe options to substitute in my own workouts and classes.
Over the past few months, I’ve learned so much about prenatal and postpartum fitness, and am excited to share this with all of you. It’s one thing to take suggestions from a person but its whole other experience to go through it personally. It’s important to remember to check with your doctor
before making any fitness changes and honor your body. Our bodies will tell us what they need; it’s up to us to listen.
I thought I’d share a little list with you of some of the worst exercises you could do in the immediate postpartum period (after you’re cleared to work out again), and what to do instead.
1) Sit-ups or crunches
Why this isn’t a great choice right now: Sit-ups and crunches can cause intra-abdominal pressure, and put stress on the linea alba (the connective tissue that stretches as the belly expands). While everything is working to heal back together, it’s a better bet to call these off especially if you already have some diastasis recti.
A great modification option: classic marches, bird dogs, light yoga stretches. Starting very easy here is key. The most important thing you want to do is rest for at least the first 6 weeks postpartum. Time & rest are really key to any journey. Try your best to start slow and start one step at a time. If you were active during your entire pregnancy like I was, you’d be surprised by how much your body will appreciate the time for recovery.
2) Full planks
Why this isn’t a great choice right now: this exercise can put a lot of stress on the linea alba, which can make diastasis recti (abnormal levels of ab separation) worsen or prevent it from healing. We want to protect and give the core plenty of time to heal: you just had a baby after all.
A great modification option: cat/cow or spinal balance. Once you start to regain core strength, you can try some modified planks and make sure that you don’t feel stress or pressure on the midline of the abdomen. Modifications at the barre are also a great way to increase the resistance after cat/cows or spinal balances.
3) Overhead resistance or dumbbell exercises
Why this isn’t a great choice right now: these can put downward pressure on the pelvic floor, during a time where everything is working to heal up and in. Overhead resistance can also cause strain on your back which can definitely hinder your healing through your entire body, So let’s take it slow. If you’re looking to strengthen the pelvic floor after being cleared from your doctor, see if there is a pelvic floor therapist in your area! They are incredible and truly do wonders!
A great modification option: keep the lighter weights at chest height or lower. For example, if you want to do shoulders, try upright rows or lateral raises instead of overhead presses. For triceps, instead of overhead triceps extensions, do bent-over triceps extensions, kickbacks, or wrist twists.
4) HIIT training
Why this isn’t a great choice right now: since HIIT is an advanced training option, it’s not one that we want to start to jump right back into after we’re cleared to exercise again (even though I know, it’s really tempting). The impact can cause pressure on our pelvic floors (which are still weak and healing from birth) and the cardiovascular workload can be too high to jump back into. It’s smarter to work your way up to consistent moderate endurance training before jumping into intervals. I promise, the healing is more important in the long run and will improve your journey both mentally and physically.
A great modification option: walk, walk, walk, walk. Put your headphones in with an awesome podcast, strap the baby into his/her stroller, and go for a stroll. Those extra pounds will definitely add an extra boost if you are using a carrier and choose to babywear. Focus on working up your duration (up to 30 minutes, most days of the week) before you start to add in intensity (speed drills or hill training).
5) Wide heavy squats
Why this isn’t a great choice right now: These can also put downward pressure on the pelvic floor. After the birth, relaxin is still present in the body, which can make us more susceptible to overstretching and injury. This relaxin in your body has been there throughout your entire pregnancy and allowed your body to move and adjust to your growing baby. It won’t go away overnight, over even the next few weeks after birth.
A great modification option: Hip raises for the win. These will still challenge your glutes and encourage core strength, while facilitating healing.
So tell me, friends: what did you do postpartum that felt amazing?? For me, the simple acts of getting dressed in real human clothes and feeling sunshine on my skin from being outside worked wonders. It was tough for me to even get a shower in sometimes (rough I know) but taking even 5 or 10 minutes really changed my mindset and helped me feel more like me after such a life changing experience.
If you have any questions about prenatal or postnatal care/fitness, please email us. We would be happy to help you through your new journey of motherhood and fitness.
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