Postpartum Exercise - When is it safe to Resume Exercise?
Question: My baby is 3 weeks old and I am itching to exercise.
Answer: At 3 weeks your body will be tapping into sources that have not fully recovered. At 6 weeks your body is considered “normal” in the fact that everything is back in it’s place. Your blood volume, uterus size, diaphragm etc. have all returned to their original size/place. A lot of this happens rather quickly, but as you can see your body is going through a lot of changes. 12-20 pounds usually goes within the first four to six weeks. The 12-20 pounds comes from baby, amniotic fluid, placenta, blood volume, breast tissue, fat storage, swelling & urination and the uterus involution (the uterus returning to it's normal size).
ACOG’s most recent guidelines find no problems with resuming exercise quickly, assuming there is no surgical or medical complications. You know your body best, so be mindful of all the changes, including your wrecked sleep schedule.
You can resume exercise once your doctor gives you permission.
Vaginal deliveries - this usually happens at the 4 week postpartum appointment.
C-Section deliveries – this usually happens at the 6 or 8 week postpartum appointment.
Weeks 0 – 6 postpartum
1. Walking is a great activity.
2. Pelvic floor exercises like kegels can be done in the first few weeks. According to SOGC a mom can reduce the risk of future urinary incontinence by starting Pelvic Floor exercises immediately postpartum. To perform a Kegel: act as though you are stopping the flow of urine, hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat as often as you like-reach for at least 10 times a day. The pelvic floor is not meant to be “turned on” all day.
3. Perform the TA breath, to reconnect with your inner core. The TA (transverse abdominis) helped your belly support your baby and it's important you know how to cue this muscle. When you are ready for traditional ab training like crunches, you need to cue the TA muscle. Why? You can do crunches until you are blue in the face, but unless your innermost core muscles are cued, the quest towards a flat stomach is nearly impossible.
Start from a sitting or lying position - a lying position is the easiest way to learn how to cue your inner core muscles. Place one hand below your belly button and one on your chest. Take a deep inhale while letting your belly button and lower rib cage expand. Now as you exhale pull your belly button towards your spine, without letting your hips tilt or letting your posture change. That is action of the deep core muscle – the TA – as you exhale it is working. You might have felt the hand on your chest move, but the goal is to keep that hand still so your diaphragm ( the top of your core) can fully engage.
This is an exercise all in itself. Try 30-40 seconds of the TA Breathe, followed by rest, then repeat. For me, I love to learn by watching a demonstration! If that's you - we have a 4 minute video on activating the transverse abdominis.
4. Listen to your body, it carried a baby, it’s smart! If you feel pain, nausea or light headed – stop and contact your doctor.
5. Fuel your body properly, with food and water. Stay well hydrated. If you are breastfeeding the IOM recommends 16 cups of water - keep in mind that 20% of water intake comes from foods and non-caffeinated/non-surgary drinks. If you are breastfeeding you also need extra protein (the same or more as during pregnancy). If you want more information on Pregnancy/Breastfeeding nutrition, check out the Meal Plan for Pregnancy/Breastfeeding.
Week 6+ postpartum
1. Fuel your body, listen to your body and perform kegels, as diccussed in week 0-6 above.
2. See the diastasis recti self –test to check for an abdominal separation. If you think you might have it, confirm with your doctor.
3. Use the prenatal workout you were doing or start a postnatal program. It is unwise to jump into a routine not catered to gaining 30 pounds in 9 months. If you need a postnatal exercise program, try our Postnatal Slimdown.
4. Connect with the muscles that supported your baby. Activate the transverse abodminis by doing the TA breath (we discussed this in point 3 above). These are your deep core muscles and knowing how to cue them during exercise will help you get a flat stomach again.
5. Incorporate this exercise into your daily routine.
Week 8+ postpartum
1. Start incorporating cardiovascular and strength training. This will help you increase your endurance, as well as move your body along in it's quest to find it's former self.
2. Know that you can get back to your prior self, or even better self. But don't expect to just "bounce back". Think of it this way, you don't train for a running race by not running. So you cannot expect to get your body back by not exercising it.
If you need a blueprint to get your body healthy again, try our Postnatal Slimdown. If you are like me, I like to have a plan. A fully laid out template that I can follow to get from point A to point B. Kinda like the time we desperately signed up for a Parenting class...with 3 kids 3 and under I needed a template for discipline, rewards, and getting the crazy under control. Well Love & Logic gave me that - a template - and my body and mind went ahhhh.
The Postnatal SlimDown is just that, a blueprint to get your body back. Complete with a 12 week program and mix n' match 10 minute workouts for the crazy days.