In my work, I often see women rush right back into exercise after they have their babies. I understand the urge– pre-pregnancy jeans are calling and the mental kick of a good workout can’t be beat. However, I’ve seen lots of women return to exercise too early or without a plan and end up injured. In an effort to learn from them, I did the following things before returning to exercise:
1. Doctor’s clearance
Even with a very easy recovery (thanks prenatal exercise!) I didn’t do anything besides walking before my doctor cleared me at 4 weeks to start exercising. A lot of women think, “I feel fine!” and exercise before they see their doctor. They then are surprised when they bleed or hurt afterwards. I was strict about really not doing anything and giving my body plenty of time to heal.
2. Kegels and transverse abdominal work
I’ve talked quite a bit about how important these two exercises (along with chest stretching) are for those first weeks postpartum. I started all three of these exercises while at the hospital, knowing that getting back to cardio and plyometric/jumping exercises (my favorite) would need a healthy pelvic floor and core.
It might seem odd, but massage was part of my pre-exercise plan. I’ve had many clients who have serious back problems because of the physical demands of the first months of motherhood. (My husband threw his back out while we were still in the hospital from all the leaning over and changing baby– it’s no joke!) I wanted to be sure back pain didn’t keep me from exercising, so part of my recovery has been getting out of the house a few times to see my massage therapist which has been good both physically and mentally.
4. Postpartum check in with a physical therapist
Women in my classes have heard me speak of the “Pelvic floor Whisperer”- I scheduled a visit with her at six weeks postpartum. She checked my abs for diastais recti, my pelvic floor, and gave me the all clear to start back running, along with some specific exercises to help ensure I stay healthy. In many countries a visit with a physical therapist is a standard part of postpartum care, and I think a check in with a PT, especially for very active women, is a good idea.
5. New sports bra and new shoes
The final thing I did was invest in a new sports bra (I can’t tell you how many clients spend their first workout back clutching their chest— you need a supportive bra!) and a new pair of shoes. My feet grew a little bit during pregnancy, but more important I wanted to be sure I had a good pair of shoes so that I don’t risk injury as I return to running.
So now that I’ve checked all these things off my list, I’m headed back to exercise! I went on my first run this week and am excited to get back to regular workouts. I’ll share more in the weeks ahead about how it goes- and I’d love any advice about working out with a newborn in the house. Do you workout early in the mornings? Besides Oh Baby! classes, how do you incorporate your little one into exercise? Any tips you have would be great as I start back to exercising!