When mums first come to Go Mum and tell me about their postnatal return to exercise journey, it usually follows one of the following themes:
Firstly, I don’t want you to feel bad if you see yourself in any of these options. I did all three myself! We do the best with the information we have available at the time. What I want is to give women access to better information so they can make informed decisions and manage their own postnatal recovery with confidence.
Unfortunately, when it comes to postnatal recovery:
Occasionally, I get a mum that has been seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist since birth, has been diligent with their rehab exercises and is ready to explore more movement. This makes me so excited. Somewhere along the line, she has been given some great advice, or been wise enough to realise her body is not the same since pregnancy and she is giving it the time, strategies and nourishment to heal. While her progress may seem slow in the beginning, her long-term outcomes are likely to be more significant and long lasting. #bighighfive #gomum
So how can you become the master of your own recovery journey?
While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to developing a return to exercise plan, there are a few guidelines every mum can follow to have a successful return to exercise:
1. Know your body
2. Take your time, lay the foundations
3. Do your research
4. Check your trainer’s credentials
Postnatal exercise is a bit like the Three Bears. It can’t be too hard, or too soft. It needs to be just right, FOR YOU!
It can be hard to get that balance on your own. If you would like some help putting together your very own postnatal recovery plan, book in with Christine for a one on one consultation. You can also book in for our Postnatal Return to Exercise Course here, or post a question about postnatal recovery on our Go Mum Closed Group – The Go Mum Community.
Christine Percy is the owner of Go Mum! and an advocate for improved postnatal care for mothers. Her personal experience with diastasis and prolapse have fueled her interest in recovery strategies and the modifying of exercise to ensure women with these issues can still enjoy the benefits of movement.
Christine is a verified provider with Health at Every Size and is a member of the Continence Foundation and Fitness Australia.
Motherhood is tough.
And I am not even talking about the sleepless nights, or constantly being in a state of high alert, or the fact that the work you do as a mum is generally undervalued by society (doesn't that suck!).
I mean it is physically tough.
It may not exactly look like an episode of Australian Ninja Warrior, but when your core has been stretched beyond what you thought was humanly possible and your pelvic floor has pushed out a human (or you have had major abdominal surgery by way of a c-section) the task of lifting a pram into the back of the car can seem as insurmountable as the warped wall!
So once the new mum fog has lifted and you feel like moving again what should the focus be? I vote for "getting shit done, pain free". We want to be moving freely, without daily tasks being a literal pain in the neck/back/butt.
Here are just some of the examples of the physical tasks mums do on a regular basis:
So how to we achieve that?
"Training for the Functions of Daily Life"
It is all about preparing for the physical tasks of motherhood by training for the functions of daily life. At Go Mum, we do this by replicating commonly used movement patterns from daily life into our exercise programs and regressing or progressing the difficulty of those exercises dependent on the mother's stage of recovery. We aim to gradually rebuild the strength and function that allows mums to tackle daily tasks with minimal effort and without pain.
If you are just starting your return to exercise (regardless of how long ago you had your baby) you might like to consider the following steps as a general guide to postnatal recovery progression. However, keep in mind that each step is not mutually exclusive. For example, you can do cardio while still working on your pelvic floor.
1. Shift your Mindset
Acknowledge that it will take time and that weight loss may not be the first step in the process. You are on a journey of healing that will set you up for a lifetime of pain free movement. Just because you can't see the difference doesn't mean you won't feel the difference your training is making. Focus on setting some goals around how you want to feel and what you want to be able to do.
2. Get an assessment
Rebuilding pelvic floor function and preventing further damage should be a consideration in every type of exercise you do as a woman (regardless of whether you have any current pelvic floor issues or not). Having a pelvic floor and abdominal check by a women's health physiotherapist will provide you with useful information on where you are at and give you a great starting point to measure progress.
3. Reconnect with your Core
With a little guidance from a health and fitness professional specialising in postnatal recovery, you can make a start towards reestablishing core strength and function. Your core supports your whole body as it moves and we can only increase the intensity of our exercise to a point where our core can support it. This can be a lesson in patience as abdominal recovery can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. Also, weeing when exercising is a sign that our system is not functioning correctly and should not be dismissed as an inevitable side effect of motherhood (refer to point 2).
4. Build Strength
For all that lifting we do as mums, strength is an absolute MUST. Strength training does not mean getting bulky and through functional movements that replicate daily life you can quickly see the benefits.
5. Add in some Cardio
Nobody wants to feel breathless when they are running around with their kids. A little cardio work can go a long way to making us feel well and allowing us to engage in fun activities with our family. Low impact cardio options are available so you can protect your pelvic floor while still getting a post cardio workout buzz. Your postnatal trainer can guide you on ways to engage in cardio exercise while protecting your pelvic floor.
Some Final Notes:
I hope you have found this article useful and would love to hear what you found most beneficial when returning to exercise.
About The Author
Christine is a pregnancy and postnatal trainer with a passion for pelvic floor and abdominal friendly movement. Her interest in this area was sparked after her own battles with prolapse and diastasis.
Christine holds a Cert III and Cert IV in Fitness and has undergone specific training in exercise for pregnancy, postnatal pelvic floor and abdominal recovery and group exercise instruction. Christine is registered with Fitness Australia (Reg No. 095064) and a member of the Continence Foundation of Australia. She also holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA), a Bachelor of Leisure Management and volunteers as President of Friends of the Birth Centre to advocate for improved maternity services for women in Queensland.
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