Frame and Mumhood founder Pip Black shares her tips for easing back into your fitness regime post birth
So often we forget to appreciate how much our bodies have been through during pregnancy and birth, and therefore how important it is to spend time putting ourselves back together. In order to have a healthy, pain-free active lifestyle – not to mention potentially going through another pregnancy – the postnatal rehab phase is key to getting you back on track.
1. Demand more from your six-week check
It’s vital you leave your six-week check understanding how your body is recovering. Ask your GP to look for abdominal separation so you know what you’re working with, and ensure they check any stitches. How well your body is recovering will affect what type of exercises you can start to do.
2. See a women’s health physio
To put things into perspective, women in France get free postnatal physiotherapy sessions to help with their rehabilitation. We don’t have this option as standard on the NHS, but if you do have significant ab separation or you want to ensure optimum recovery, a women’s health physio can help you to understand the current state of your body.
3. Little and often is the best way to begin
I can’t stress enough, don’t put yourself under pressure to lose weight quickly, especially if you are breastfeeding. You will see significantly better results long term by creating excellent foundations – that means a strong pelvic floor and deep core connection. The key to these strength exercises is little and often, so do 10-15 minutes a day, four times a week. This will be much more beneficial than a 60-minute blowout once a week.
4. Press that pelvic floor
A strong pelvic floor is key, and there’s no reason why you can’t start these exercises straight after birth. Aim to do these daily – you could even pop some post-it notes around your house to remind you!
5. Don’t aggravate your abs
Any exercise that causes ‘doming’ (a ridge or bulge down the centre of your stomach as you come into a crunch position) should be avoided. As a rule of thumb, any exercises that work your six-pack muscles, such as old-fashioned crunches, should be avoided. These will only cause the muscles to stretch further apart.
6. Find a class near you
Get out, get a sweat on and meet likeminded mothers, and know that you’re working out in the presence of an expert who can ensure you’re performing the exercises correctly. Local classes are more affordable than paying for a personal trainer, and many are designed so you can bring baby with you.
7. Keep exercise low impact for the first six months
This doesn’t necessarily mean low intensity; you can still get your heart pumping and break a sweat. It’s more about reducing the pressure on your pelvic floor before you’ve found your connection. You can still attend HIIT-style classes, but take the low-impact option, which any good instructor should be able to provide.
8. Invest in a running buggy (post six months)
Once you’re back to feeling like your old self and your pelvic floor is strong, a running buggy is a great investment. It’s a great way of fitting in exercise when you don’t have childcare. A run around the park while baby sleeps is one of the best ways to start the day and once you’ve got the kit, it’s free!