POSTPARTUM EXERCISE: START HERE
Where to begin Postpartum exercise…
Our bodies are amazing, that’s all there is to it. No matter what shape they are in, how much you weigh, if you have a Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) or Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, they are all amazing. If you have been pregnant and felt a baby grow inside of you, you were privileged to a day to day example of the abilities that your body is capable of.
Everybody’s amazing body is different and unique in their own way.
It doesn’t matter if you have children in your 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. If you have 1 child, or 12. We don’t get to know how our bodies are going to recover from each pregnancy. Sure, there are greater probabilities for certain pregnancy related issues with multiple pregnancies or age, but there are no definitive rules for what your body will do.
We know that working out in pregnancy can be very beneficial, and if you are able to you, absolutely, should. We also know that working out Postpartum can help with energy, hormonal balance, postpartum depression and overall quality of life.
What is not always known is HOW best to begin working out Postpartum, when your body has been through A LOT;
you may have Diastasis Recti, weak or over-tight pelvic floor muscles causing bladder leakage, overall weakness or muscle imbalances, all of which should be addressed before you start working out again.
Now, when I say working out, I’m talking about sweating, elevated heart rate, moderately intense working out.
Walking (or some low-intensity workouts) are great, as soon as you have been cleared by your doctor, but if you want to start doing crunches, planks, burpees, even lunges, let’s address those postpartum issues first.
If you push against the Diastasis Recti making it worse, then you just have more healing to do down the road. Also, if you are peeing when you are doing burpees, it will not go away on its
You will thank yourself later!
No matter what issue you are healing from (even someone that has never had a baby or been pregnant) you can benefit from starting with work on your breathing pattern.
In our stressed-out world, we often move into a dysfunctional breathing pattern. Short, shallow breaths that only involve your lungs and ribs, will not only affect the entire system negatively but put added pressure on the Diastasis and Pelvic Floor (not to mention the neck and shoulder pain associated with short, shallow breaths!)
While proper breathing mechanics use your primary respiratory muscles which include your core musculature, help to balance hormones and pH, flush your immune system, aid in digestion, constipation, Diastasis healing and even stop you from peeing when you sneeze!
Here’s what you do –
~ When you first start out, try to do this after the kids have gone to bed, when you can, hopefully, not be distracted.
~ Lay down on your back, with your legs bent, or even better, supported under the knee.
~ Take a big inhale, not pushing against anything (abs or pelvic floor). Just start with a big, gentle inhale, with the lower abs, back and ribs expanding as the breath reaches them.
BONUS if you can already feel the inhale expansion in your pelvic floor!
Feeling for this gets easier the more you do it! If it doesn’t happen on the first attempt, you are just sending the signal, it can take a bit to get that signal resent. Try again another night and be easy on yourself.
~ On the big exhale, you want to initiate the exhale from the pelvic floor. This isn’t like a full kegel, this is just about 10-30% contraction, and, again, if you can’t feel it at first, that is OK!
~ The rest of the breath is pushed up and out by scooping from under the belly button. This is not pulling the belly button to the spine, it is really more of a scoop from the pubic bone up toward the belly button, again, imagining that you are pushing the air up and out.
~ The ribs are the last piece of the puzzle and can be added later if it gets to be too much to think about, OR if you feel like the final push through the ribs is “pushing down” on the abs or pelvic floor.
A couple of tips to make this easier ~
>When practicing, take your tongue off the roof of your mouth…don’t be surprised that it’s there. It actually is beneficial for resting tone, but when trying to feel your pelvic floor expand on the inhale, it will be easier with a relaxed tongue. Crazy, I know, but, man just proof that it’s all connected, right?!
>Make sure that your back is not pushed into the floor, that kind of alignment doesn’t allow for as much expansion through the pelvic floor. You can find a nice neutral spine by doing a few pelvic tilts, forward and backward, and see where you end up, that is your neutral for now.
>Be patient with yourself – you’ll get it – and in the meantime, you get a couple of moments of relaxation, at least! Try to get it in every night, 5 minutes or 10 breaths. Then try to do it when you are waiting at stop lights… You’ll likely get it sooner than you think but definitely, practice BEFORE your first workout session. If you haven’t practiced and start putting your body under workout stress, it will automatically use the compensations and could make your symptoms worse.
If you are able, it is highly advisable to go to a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist before starting your workout routine or find a Certified Personal Trainer that has been specially trained to work with postpartum women. No matter who you go to, if you are seeing doming through the abdomen, you know it when you see it, stop what you’re doing, practice your breath, and see if that doesn’t take it out of there. If it doesn’t, don’t lose hope, but the exercise that is causing the doming is just a little too advanced, keep practicing the breathing and seek help.
You can find Postpartum Corrective Exercise online at www.momathomefitness.com.
In Health, Tonie Lough CPT, PPCES Mom Home Fitness firstname.lastname@example.org
Tonie is a Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist. After the birth of her son, and subsequent Pelvic Floor issues, she decided to pursue her CPT (Certified Personal Trainer) and PPCES (Pre/Post-Natal Corrective Exercise Specialist) hoping to help moms to feel stronger than ever!