Guest blogger, Fiona Sullivan, is a personal trainer based in Sevenoaks and has written a guide for all mums looking to return to exercise after having your baby……..
DO’S AND DON’TS OF RETURNING TO EXERCISE POST-PARTEM
I had two quite large babies (7lbs11 & 9lbs3) and I was pretty big with both of them, putting on
around two stone with each. I, like many mothers was very keen to shift the extra weight as soon as
possible, which leads me nicely to point one:
1. DON’T rush. Patience is most definitely a virtue in this case. The worst thing you can do to
your body is to rush out the door for a run when your baby is one week old. This is an
extreme example, granted and I am sure that not many of you will have the energy after a
week of sleepless nights; running will be the last thing on your mind. Realistically at this
point, all you can think about is your baby’s well-being and SLEEP! Your body has been
under enormous stress during labour, giving birth is one of the hardest things you will ever
do – fact. Therefore we must treat our bodies with respect and give them the time they need
to repair. We can support this process by starting with gentle, specific exercises such as
pelvic floor strengthening. I know the sheer mention of those words may make you cringe
but I can not reiterate how important this is, little and often being the key. The “flower”,
“elevator” and “emergency stop” are all really good exercises, if you have not come across
these and have no idea what I am talking about then do get in touch and I will happily
2. DO your pelvic floor exercises as often as you can, several times a day. If you have trouble
remembering or finding time then try to carry them out whilst continuing your daily routine,
like while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or whilst you are watching your child eat their
meal in that incredibly slow and messy manner that they do! Please note that these exercises
mentioned above can be done standing or seated so you should be able to fit them in at some
point in your day.
3. DON’T start any exercise classes either at home or elsewhere before getting the okay from
your doctor and health visitor.
4. DO focus on your posture. Being pregnant puts enormous strain on your spine and can in
some cases lead to a condition called ‘lordosis’ where the curvature of the spine becomes
more pronounced to adapt to your growing tummy. To encourage the spine to a more
straight position it is important to strengthen the muscles that support it, namely your ‘core.’
This includes abdominal, back, hip flexors and your gluteal muscles. Every time you are
exercising, be sure to maintain correct posture to protect your spine and alleviate any back
pain. Even when you are not exercising, whether you are standing up or sitting down make
sure you tighten your core muscles, relax the shoulders and pull them back slightly, tuck the
pelvis and focus on keeping the correct posture.
5. DON’T do any high impact exercises for at least the first six months, longer if you are
breastfeeding past this point. The reason for this is that your body continues to produce the
hormone relaxin whilst you are breastfeeding. Relaxin is designed initially to aid labour and
is produced when you are pregnant to relax the ligaments of the pelvis but is not restricted
to this area thereby making all your joints more prone to injury. The worst thing you could
do is go hell for leather with some HIIT only to wind up with an injury which means you
can’t do any exercise at all until you have made a full recovery, however long that may take.
Even if you are not breastfeeding it is not recommended before six months because it takes
around three to five months for the fibrous tissue in the body to return to normal.
6. DO swim. Swimming is a great post natal exercise as it has very little impact on the joints
and works a multitude of muscles at the same time, giving you a great, safe, whole body
workout. Do still be careful though and start slowly, giving your muscles and joints time to
warm up. Start with a slow breaststroke for as many lengths as you feel comfortable with,
gradually progressing to front crawl when you feel ready.
7. DON’T weigh yourself too often, it takes time and effort to lose weight (sadly!), leave at
least six weeks between measurements if you want to see some progress. Only weigh