11 Essential Tips for New Mums Returning to Exercise
It’s important to establish that every woman is different, each with different ante and post-natal experiences and varying levels of fitness. Here are some essential DO’s and some important DON’T’s for any new mum contemplating exercising.
DO: Remember that your body won’t snap back into its pre-pregnancy state in a few months.
DON’T: Focus on that celebrity that had a baby 2 months ago and has her 6 pack back already! They’ll have most likely had a lot of help along the way – nutritionists, personal trainers, some form of non-invasive surgery perhaps? Oh, and a cracking photographer and good lighting will make a huge difference.
DO: Respect your body, give it time to heal and recover from the amazing yet physically and emotionally demanding nine month journey.
DON’T: Assume you can go straight back into the training regime you did pre-pregnancy. Your body has been through immense changes and will struggle to jump straight to that level of training.
DO: Be aware that your mood/energy levels will change on a daily basis. After ten weeks of motherhood your focus should be on having an enjoyable workout and one that puts you back in tune with your body.
DON’T: Overdo it - this point is an important one. Often women feel pressured to lose weight quickly, and will embark on all sorts of mad training regimes. In actual fact, you’re not helping yourself at all. Too much too soon will only hinder your progress.
DO: Ensure you do some low threshold training first to re-establish your mid-section and your dynamic stability. For approximately 3 to 6 months following pregnancy your joints and ligaments are still looser than normal, meaning that you're more prone to certain injuries. The effects of relaxin are still present so strengthening the muscles around your joints is a must!
DON’T: Run and jump for approximately 6 months (some will be less, some will be more). Your ligaments are still softened and stretched from relaxin. This means that the framework supporting your ankles, knees, hips, pelvis and spine isn’t as strong as it should be and is vulnerable to injury under excessive loads. Your pelvic floor has also been weakened by the weight of your baby, and when you run or jump increased pressure is exerted on these muscles which may cause stress incontinence.
DO: Focus on good technique and alignment – go for quality rather than quantity.
DO: Get sweaty! The best way to reduce your excess baby weight in support of a good diet is to get up and move, plus it releases a surge of endorphins (feel good hormone) and actually gives you more energy!
DON’T: Opt for exercise classes with fast dynamic moves. Ligaments are there to support a joint but will still be susceptible to injury in high-impact fitness classes. It’s easy to think these types of classes will rid you of your ‘mummy tummy’ but be careful not to fall for the marketing hype. Take your time and ease yourself in to training – this includes running.
DON’T: Starve yourself. Too often women cut out vital nutrients to lose weight, but this can cause more problems than it solves. Usually ‘juice diets’ or quick shakes don’t have all the required nutrients you need, instead you just shed water (hence the weight loss) but you’ll soon put it back on again. It’s relatively straight forward to alter your diet so you’re getting the right nutrients, and by making small lifestyle changes the results will be longer lasting and sustainable.
DO: Eat food that is full of slow releasing non-starchy carbs, protein and an array of vegetables (vitamins and minerals). The carbs to give you a sustained energy supply for your daily tasks, protein to support tissue healing (tearing from vaginal birth or caesarian section) and your vitamins and minerals to sustain healthy body functionality.
DON’T: Eat quick and easy food full of preservatives or saturated fats. Times to eat properly can be few and far between when you have a little one to care for. Therefore, it is really important to take extra care of yourself nutritionally to support your hectic lives, as well as getting good nutrients to share with your baby if you are breast feeding. It may be worth cooking in bulk and freezing food if you're really stuck for time.
DON’T: Do sit-ups and crunches as these are not ‘core’ exercises. Oh…and they don’t flatten your tummy either! In fact, if done incorrectly they’re more likely to cause problems such as low back or neck pain. If your 'core' wasn’t working well before pregnancy then you could end up damaging yourself.
DON’T: Lift heavy weights too early. Make sure you have a trained professional to help ease you back in to weight lifting when it’s right for YOU.
DO: Lift a weight that is specific to you. Always get an assessment to establish what weight (load) you should be lifting; you may be able to lift something heavy but you may be making compensations elsewhere to do this. Exercises specific to the demands of being a mum are good, such as ‘hip-hinging’ (see below image) to avoid your back ‘seizing up’ when your baby wants their 3am feed!
DON’T: Force your stretches. Your flexibility will come back in due time with correct stretches but remember that you may still have relaxin in your system (especially if breastfeeding) so you’ll get a false sense of your joint flexibility and could damage something.
DO: Target muscles that shorten as a result of pregnancy, such as your hip flexors and low back muscles. Your posture would have changed over the 9 months so will need the correct stimulation to return to its prior state.
DO: Enjoy this chapter of your life, but remember to look after yourself during it too – the after-effects can be long lasting, both positive and negative. Targeted workouts have more benefits than negative effects so it’s worth finding time to do them – your body will thank you for it!!
The benefits of post-natal exercise are huge. Whether it’s to get back into sport or to prepare you for another baby, post natal exercise is a diverse and in-depth subject so it is always worth discussing your desired outcomes with an expert. If you do want to know more or know someone who does, then please DO contact us.