Today we get to see our new trainer’s post on exercise post pregnancy.
There is so much pressure with the media for mothers to lose all of their baby weight using extreme weight loss diets. Not only will you not get long lasting results. It is foolish. This is why at the Healthy Mummy we advise a healthy and safe weight loss post partum with plans like the Healthy Mummy plans.
Supermodels, celebrities, we can not compare against them. We cannot compare their dramatic weight loss and body transformations in a matter of weeks, as they have chefs, nutritionists, nannies, cleaners, housekeepers plus a whole entourage of minders. But what they do do, is make time for themselves.
And this is what you have to do is make some time for yourself. There are a multitude of things going on post pregnancy such as sleep deprivations, exhaustion, hormones changing let alone the general recovery from labour. Slowly you will regain some energy and you slowlyyou will be able to exercise more and you will reclaim your pre pregnancy figure along the way.
If you were active during your pregnancy, you can pretty much start with some gentle stretches as soon as you are ready.
My general rule of thumb is the time you took off before giving birth is going to be roughly the time it will likely take your body to return back to exercise – bearing in mind that everyone is individual and that rule goes totally out of the window if you’ve had any complications. It is always best to check with your doctor, midwife or physio, and follow their advice. Most importantly, listen to your body.
When you feel ready to start exercise, a great idea is to start from the stabilising muscles of your core, like your pelvic floor and transversus abdominus. Not only will that help you work back to stronger exercises but it will also protect you from any postural problems due to the strain of carrying around your newborn and often sitting in awkward positions.
Provided you do not have muscle separation over 2cm (see how to measure yourself below), there is no reason why you shouldn’t start doing Pilates exercises to strengthen your core provided you stay in a neutral position with your spine and try not to activate the rectus abdominus – the six pack muscle that can separate during birth. So no crunches, but plenty of Hundreds – see our video below.
Core Exercise – The Hundreds
You can also do some arm, leg and back work.
Walking is also a great way to get your body back to some weight bearing exercise, get your cardiovascular system working as you get some fresh air. Start slowly with ten to twenty minute walking or Pilates breaks here and there. You’ll feel your motivation lift and you’ll be able to increase your intensity, length and frequency quite naturally.
And don’t forget you can get your walking in and try and do 10,000 steps a day
In regards to swimming, although it is gentle and normally a good exercise post injury or rehab, it is NOT recommended for the first 6-8 weeks ( you need to make sure you have stopped bleeding entirely before you hit the local swimming pool or ocean).
We know it can be hard to make that first step towards exercise but it’s worth snatching ten minutes here and there when your baby is asleep. You’ll be a happier, healthier mummy for it.
To sum it up: start at the level that you left off and give yourself roughly the same amount of time post as pre pregnancy to ease back into exercise. Integrate Pilates and walking as soon as you feel ready and build up to anything that feels good or was on part of your routine before at a steady level.
Any symptoms such as shakiness during ab work, bleeding after or during exercise, lightheadedness etc are a sign to back off. If you have specific exercise concerns, make sure you work with a qualified professional who can asses you on a one to one basis and always listen to your body.
How to examine yourself for muscle separation
Your core is more than just the six pack muscle we quite often refer to when we say someone has a ripped core.
In fact, this is the most superficial and perhaps least important muscle to strengthen when you’re looking to get a more functional core, cinch your waist in and tone up or let your separated abs heal. (it’s also the muscle that separates – which is why doing sit-ups until the cows come home to help you lose your baby weight would be a terrible idea and make your rectus abdominus bulge and it could separate even more and is why you should avoid crunches and standard Pilates 100?s).
You should examine yourself to find out what degree of muscle separation you have experienced before undertaking any post partum-exercise (needs to be under 2cm) or receive clearance from your Doctor.
Step 1 – In a lying position with knees bent, place your right hand behind your head.
Step 2 – With your left hand position your index finger and middle finger together and place them horizontally in the centreline of your stomach between your abdominals.
Step 3 – From this position slowly raise your head slightly off the floor using your right hand (positioned behind your head) for support. Make sure not to simply lift your head with your hand as this is a comman error – you must perform one basic crunch to fully contract your abdominal muscles to get the best assessment of your separation.
Step 4 – Your abdominals will now be slightly contracting allowing you to see exactly how far your abdominals have separated.
Step 5 – If your index finger and middle finger (on your left hand) can still fit between your abdominals you will have Diastasis Recti of between 2 – 2.5cms. For every additional finger you can place inbetween your abdominals you should add 1cm extra to your total abdominal separation number. If you can only fit one finger between your abdominals you effectively have 1cm of separation and will be nearly healed.
If you discover you have more than a 1 – 2cm separation you should refrain from doing exercises such as crunches, sit-ups or pilates 100?s all of which can put too much pressure on the abdominal muscles which have become separated during pregnancy.
Next week we will be looking at the Pelvic Floor – stay tuned!
*Please note that we do not advise beginning any exercise plan post pregnancy until you have had clearance from your Doctor of Physiotherapist. Also, do not attempt the video demonstration of the “100?s” until you have clearance from your Dr or physio post birth”
This article was written by Sol Walkling, the Lose Baby Weight Pilates and Healthy Mummy expert and Trainer – to see Sol’s credentials and read more about her click here
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