Mums often ask me "When can I return to running?, How long does it take for abdominal separation to heal?". These are tough questions to answer. Every woman's body, birth and lifestyle is different and will all have an impact on postnatal recovery. For some it will take 6 months, for others, it can take years.
The important thing is to be patient, know your body and how it has changed and to take a progressive planned approach to postnatal recovery. Getting quality, personalised advice from experts such as physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and qualified postnatal trainers will ensure you don't do damage that will delay your recovery and you will be able to lay strong foundations for future health.
There are lots of mummy exercise options out there but unfortunately some of them are downright dangerous. If you are a mum looking to return to exercise (regardless of when you had your baby) here are 5 indicators your exercise class might be doing you more harm than good:
1. No Pre-Activity Questionnaire
If there was no pre-activity questionnaire (PAQ), or the PAQ didn't include questions relating to pelvic floor and abdominal separation then run (or walk) for the hills. Trainers use PAQs to get information on their client's health status and to modify exercises accordingly. If they are only asking you about heart disease and joint pain, then they aren't getting the full picture and it may be an indicator that they aren't equipped to provide postnatal safe exercise.
2. They Get Embarrassed Talking about Vaginas
If your trainer can't discuss pelvic floor issues without whispering and looking at their feet, then they probably haven't been participating in pelvic floor education or hanging out with women's health physios. And if they look at you blankly when you ask them about modifications for prolapse or diastasis recti you are definitely in the wrong place.
3. They Worship Burpees
If your exercise class includes high impact exercises like box jumps, burpees, heavy lifting and running without providing low impact options then it isn't a pelvic floor and abdominal safe environment. A good trainer will be able to advise on techniques to reduce intra-abdominal pressure and get you results without placing you at risk of injury.
4. They think Core Work is all about Sit Ups
If you haven't got the memo yet, crunches (aka sit ups) won't give you a flat tummy. In fact, if you have abdominal separation sit ups could make it worse. Postnatal core training should avoid full planks, crunches or twisting while holding heavy weights and should focus on functional exercises and posture that encourage the transverse abdominals (deep abdominals) to to activate correctly.
5. They Love Competition
They use competition between participants as a motivation strategy. This might seem like harmless fun, but the only way participants can listen to their body and adjust their exercise accordingly is if they feel supported in doing so and wont feel pressured to "keep up". Motherhood is a tough gig and having an environment that supports your mental as well as your physical health will have you feeling good and enjoying your time exercising.
When looking for a postnatal provider, check their qualifications, trial a class and don't be afraid to refrain from doing any exercise that you think is dangerous or counterproductive. As always, we recommend mums get a thorough assessment from a women's health physio before returning to exercise so they have a good understanding of where their body is at and can pass that information onto their trainer.
At Go Mum! Group Fitness we aim to provide you with the knowledge and physical foundations to return to your pre-pregnancy fitness activities sooner and safer. Check out our range of postnatal exercise programs and group fitness classes and if you have any questions about postnatal fitness, join our closed group on Facebook - Go Mum! Community.
About the Author
Christine is a mother of two and the head trainer at Go Mum! Group Fitness. She is passionate about restoring health and balance to the lives of mothers. She is a member of the Continence Foundation of Australia and is registered with Fitness Australia.
You can find her on Facebook or Instagram @GoMumGroupFitness.
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