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Returning to fitness for new mums

By Darren O'Toole | In Fitness, Health | on January 19, 2017

Waking up at 4am for the third time in a night, eldest child running wanting to run and climb when you thought you had found a 20 minute window for a nap and added to this the expectation that you should be out ‘exercising’ too.

Not my thoughts, but those of a friend, previously a keen exerciser but whose mojo has subsided of late due to the full-time job that is childcare. I have a sneaky suspicion that for any mums reading this blog, it may seem like an all too familiar scenario.

In this blog post, I will provide some sustainable and safe ways to get fit when postnatal and watching out for some of the pitfalls to avoid.

We all know that the celebrity that is in their small lululemon outfits six weeks after their newest arrival is an anomaly. Firstly, don’t put yourself under pressure to lose weight based on what others were able to do. In the same way that every pregnancy is slightly different to the next, your recovery, hormones, fatigue, mood will differ to your best friend’s experience.

The first step: Wait for the six-week check-up. If given the all-clear, then you should be good to go. If you’ve got to wait a little longer, ensure that you heed the doctor’s advice.

Cardio

It doesn’t need to be running pushing your new-born in a buggy; however going out for a brisk walk will do wonders for your metabolism, mood and your heart and lungs – not to mention that it is great for your little one too. Here’s the little bonus too – your child will get used to this routine which will motivate you to keep getting out, no matter the weather. This can be progressed into a jog further down the line but for starters just enjoy being outdoors. Swimming is another super option. It reduces the strain on the joints and provides a great cardio boost. Stick to front crawl if your pelvic girdle is still experiencing some pain. If childcare is an issue when swimming, why not combine your own swimming with a baby swimming lesson – benefits for you and baby. Indoor cycling instead of outdoor would also be a decent low impact alternative.

Strength

Lifting and carrying your little one will likely suffice at the early stages, however through breastfeeding and carrying your child on your front, you may develop some imbalances which could result in a kyphotic posture. Strengthening the movement patterns will decrease your risk of injury eg, shoulder retraction movements such as a banded rows, supermans and prone raises to counteract the potential kyphosis. Also strengthening the lower back and lower limbs through deadlifts, squats and calf raises will help to prevent any injuries occurring when picking up your little one as they get bigger. Type any of these exercises into YouTube and you’ll soon find a video tutorial.

Core

Let me first make a clear distinction between ‘core’ and ‘abs’. The abdominals are one of many muscles which contribute to core control. Some are muscles which we can see eg, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, obliques; whilst others will never be seen, no matter how defined you could become eg, transverse abdominis and multifidus. Therefore when we talk about strengthening the core, we are not simply talking about doing crunches.

An important part of core stability training is awareness of what a neutral lumbar spine position is and the ability to maintain that position while the legs and arms are performing various movements.

A neutral lumbar spine is roughly defined as halfway between a flat lower back (pelvis tilted fully backwards) and an arched lower back (pelvis tilted fully forwards). In addition, there should be no lateral (side) flexion of the spine. The starting point in all core stability training is to confidently maintain this neutral spine.

Progression on to other exercises such as bridge, superman, plank, side plank can be the next stage as greater confidence and strength return. To add to the challenge, these positions can be held for longer, decreased support or even adding movement to the exercises.

Before doing traditional abdominal exercises, it is vital that the rectus abdominis has realigned and the linea alba has healed. To check for diastasis recti, you should do the following:

  1. Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor with knees bent and the lower back not too arched
  2. Contract the rectus abdominis by raising head and shoulders off the floor
  3. Run fingers across the abdomen above and below the belly button

If the gap is less than 3cm, the healing has likely taken place. Any more and abdominal exercises are not ready to be done. If you do, then an abdominal bulge may result forever more. For caesarean births, this process may take a little longer – so be patient.

Pelvic floor

This could have easily been included in the core section as the pelvic floor play a pivotal role in core control. Hopefully these were being strengthened throughout the pregnancy, so it’s back to that postnatally too. Fast and slow contractions, 3 times a day, is the goal on this one.
As with any fitness routine, jumping straight back in and going full tilt will only result in injury and disappointment. Slow and steady wins this race! Be patient, set achievable targets and work towards them. Also don’t be too down on yourself if you are too tired occasionally – you were up at 2 and 4am remember….you will be tired!

Starting a training programme after giving birth can be scary. Knowing what you can and can’t do, the correct intensities, the ideal exercises etc. If you are unsure, seek advice from those in the know.

And remember, you will get a good night’s sleep ……eventually!

Calling all new mums

Dynamic Fitness Training offer a FREE trial where we chat about your goals, anything from shifting baby weight to toning and strengthening. Plus we will find out more about your fitness levels and see how well we’d get on together. Book your free trial today.

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