The world of health and fitness is confusing for most people. Throw a brand new baby into the mix, as well as sleep deprivation, hormones and a post-baby body that’s a far cry from your former physique, and you have a recipe for potential disaster. I see a cycle commonly form when previously fit women become new mums. They go easy on themselves for the first few weeks as they adapt to their new life, but as they start to come out of the fog they find this drive to go hell for leather in a bid to get their ‘pre-baby body back’.
First of all, can we forget the ‘pre-baby body’ thing! You are not going to get your pre-baby body back. Your body has done an amazing thing; it has grown a little person; nurtured, molded and protected your baby for nine months… Then birthed it! Like it or not, this incredible feat has an impact upon your body. Face it. Your body will never be the same again. You may have stretch marks and loose skin; your weight distribution might have changed; your breasts could be larger (or smaller)… Your feet can even permanently change size!
It’s not all doom and gloom though – far from it. A lot of women find that having a baby gives them more respect for their body. They learn to connect with it and nurture it better than they ever have before. This newfound knowledge and appreciation can help you become stronger and fitter than you have ever been if that is what you want to achieve, but you have to listen.
If you listen, your body will tell you exactly what it needs. Listen carefully and it will guide you. It will stop you from doing anything that is too challenging or intense as you recover. Be careful not to shut your instincts down in the quest for a certain image or to ‘bounce back’ like the celebs do in the pages of glossy magazines. If your pelvic floor is weak, if you leak when you run or cough, then listen to that – don’t push through it. If your tummy sticks out in a funny peak when you do core exercises and you can put your finers through the gap in your abdominals take notice of that and seek advice. If your pelvis or hips hurt, pay attention.
There are no absolutes; no right or wrong, your recovery will be unique to you. Put your blinkers on, forget what everyone else is doing and set about strengthening and nurturing your body. I 99% guarantee that the exercises you were doing prior to your pregnancy are not what you need right now. Recognise that there are no quick fixes and take the time to rebuild from the inside out. Get it right now and you will achieve your goals; in fact, with your new body awareness, I dare say you can go even further than before.
If you’re working with a trainer, bear in mind that a good fitness professional should pull you back, as well as push you forward. Our job is to remind you where you are at right now and continually ask the right questions at the right times so you can make changes that propel you forward. Your trainer should adapt workouts to support your recovery and build strength where it’s needed, rather than focusing on weight loss or getting back to half marathon PBs. Our value as you recover is in giving you a little bit of what you want and a lot of what you need, with a bit of education thrown in so you learn and enjoy it (kinda like hiding veggies in your kid’s pasta sauce and continually telling them how good veggies are for them – one day they will appreciate the great foundations you have laid for them!).
Remember to look after yourself in the same way you look after your child; with all the time, love and care you possibly can. With the right care, approach, expectations and some hard work, you can return to your former glory and, potentially, even reach new goals. Stretch marks and all.
‘Safe Return to Exercise’ workshop
I am excited to be launching my ‘Safe Return to Exercise’ workshop in Melbourne on Saturday 24th May and Sydney on Sunday 15th June.
Help yourself make the best possible decisions if you decide to take on a trainer or learn how to exercise safely by yourself. Personal trainers are also encouraged to attend to discover how best to work with mums-to-be and women in the post-natal phase.
You can find out more information and book your spots here:
Please send any questions or enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org