It’s finally time. Your doctor has told you it is okay to start working out now, but it’s not as simple as you thought it would be despite all the 'baby body bounce back' stories you read in the papers!
Unlike before your pregnancy where you could just roll out your mat and begin a sweaty HIIT sesh, your body may not have the same amount of energy right away! It took your body 9 months to ready itself and squeeze a human out of it, returning to your old fitness routine may require time and patience. Additionally, you’re hormonal, you’re sleep-deprived and you have to take care of your baby. How exactly can you exercise?
It helps to start with building a positive body image. Embrace those tiger stripes and your tummy, whatever shape it may be – you just performed the magnificent act of giving birth so start by giving yourself a break! Once that’s off the check list, forget 'bouncing back' instead try the following safe and effective tips for new mothers looking to start getting back to their fitness routine again:
1. START SLOW
According the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), the amount of time you should take before you return to working out depends on the type of childbirth you performed.
Previously, mothers were advised to wait 6 weeks before starting a workout routine, however, the ACOG now states that it is okay to perform gentle exercises even a few days after the baby is born -- if you did not have a complicated delivery.
Having said that, this is possibly the last thing you will feel like doing, so avoid giving yourself a hard time over working out and exercise. Every body is different so start when you feel you are ready and make sure you check with your doctor when it is safe for you to workout.
2. RESTORING DIASTASIS
Separation of the rectus abdominals in your core (also known as the six pack muscles) is common among women who just gave birth. Your doctor will check for this during your six week checkup. If the diastasis is severe enough, you may have to work with a physiotherapist to pull the muscles back.
Therefore, when returning to an ab routine, make sure you do not overdo it. Perform planks instead of crunches and avoid deep twisting postures as they may slow down muscle repair. If you are unsure, don't be afraid to seek the advice of someone who is experienced in post-pregnancy fitness.
3. PERFORM PELVIC FLOOR
Pregnancy causes pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles to stretch. To fix this, experts recommend performing pelvic floor workouts. Nowadays, pelvic floor is much talked about so the chances are you would have been performing these exercise throughout pregnancy. Don't stop now and it is also not too late to start if you didn't do them during pregnancy (so don't worry). These exercises can be performed anywhere, even on your bed or couch, but you can take it a step further by including them into your fitness regime.
Try contracting “down-there” as you hold a plank or each time you rise following a squat or lunge. This trains the pelvic floor and the entire core, helping them to work in harmony.
4. AVOID PLACING BODY WEIGHT ON YOUR WRISTS
Nursing, holding and carrying a baby is all the exercise required for your wrists and for some mums this can result in wrist pain. This is due to hormone induced tendon weakness. So be sure not to overwork your wrists by utilising your them too much during workouts.
Try modifying your workouts that require wrist work, for example, by performing planks on your forearms.
5. SLEEP WHILST YOUR BABY IS SLEEPING
One of the greatest fitness mistakes most mothers make is not getting enough rest. A baby’s requirements can lead to a weird sleep cycle, which can disrupt your metabolism and make it difficult to lose weight.
Having low energy can also increase sugar cravings. Sleeping when your baby is asleep will help prevent long-term sleep deprivation, keeping your energy levels in check. In addition, not getting enough sleep may cause you to not have enough energy to workout during waking hours. For many this is a lot easier said than done, but the chores can wait! In the early days prioritising sleep (where possible) really will make the world of difference!
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