A Fitness Expert’s Guide To Navigating Post-Partum Exercise
This article was guest-written for Gro-To by Christina Traychevska. Christina is a Wellness Hub Trainer at Keep It Cleaner and an all-round pilates, fitness, and strength expert. For more from Christina, head riiiight here.
Navigating life after your baby is born is no small effort. Amongst the wonder and beauty that is the postpartum period, so too is there a world of change and challenge - an abundance of new skills to learn and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Bringing your birthing body back into movement and exercise, in my opinion, should be approached with as much grace, tenderness and loving care as you give to looking after your newborn. In the same way that you are learning how to be a parent, you are also learning and welcoming a new body.
It will feel immensely different, and for many of us, the deep-rooted desire to find our way back to how we felt before we grew and birthed our babes, will be intense. I think as a society, we have still not let go of the unforgiving “bounce-back” culture, which so often can lead to us rushing back to exercise in a way that does not honour the massive transformation we have been through. As a pilates and fitness teacher, and now a first time mother to a radiant baby boy, I am deeply passionate about guiding, educating and supporting pre and postpartum movement. I hope that I can give you a glimmer of clarity amongst what can be a very confusing space to be in, and that I can help instil a sense of confidence in your bodies ability to adapt and grow.
When To Return To Exercise
I often get asked about where to start when it comes to returning to exercise. It can be such a point of confusion, especially with so many differences in opinion on what best practice is. First and foremost, I am of the opinion that your six week checkup with your GP is not an adequate indicator of whether or not your body is ready to get back into a full-blown fitness regime. If it is available to you, find a women’s health physio who you feel comfortable with to accurately asses your pelvic floor function. Your body has been through over nine months of change and growth, taking it as slowly as you can postpartum, be it with a gentle walk or light stretching to get some relief from both the physical and mental aches that can come with newborn life, can be a really valuable way of re-introducing movement back into your body.
For those who are anxious to get back on the gym floor: putting the brakes on will be tough, and it will probably feel like a part of who you are is missing. So much in your life has changed, and you may find yourself looking for anything that makes you feel like your old self again. I encourage you through this time, to embrace who you are becoming, and remember that everything has its season. Right now you may be glued to the couch feeding, or elbows deep in diapers and wipes - but its not forever, and I promise, the gym or studio is not going anywhere! Take your time, your body and soul will thank your for it in the long run.
How To Return To Exercise
Now that we’ve covered the when, lets talk about what and how I do this around feeds, naps, growth spurts, work and all the other things we juggle as parents. Some days it can seem impossible to fit in time for ourselves and our bodies, and truthfully, some days it actually will be impossible. When those days happen, I find it helps to put some things in place for the next day to set yourself up for success. That might look like communication with a partner or family member to schedule in time for you to step away and go through a quick home workout, or it might mean calling on a friend to sit at cafe near a studio with your little one while you get a class in.
Movement and exercise has been shown time again to do amazing things for our mental and physical health, and we know that the happier and more well we are, the more we can show up for our little ones and be the best parents for them. Calling on your village so you can have time to move is no selfish act; the more we allow ourselves to feel nourished, the better we can nourish our children. If you’re attending classes or sessions run by a coach or teacher, it’s so important that you find ones that understand and fully appreciate the magnitude of pregnancy and birth on the human body. Too often I hear stories, and have even experienced first hand, the unnecessary pressure that some professionals put on their clients to “get into shape” or increase fitness or strength too quickly. Try to have confidence in advocating for yourself. If your intuition or body is telling you that a movement or load is not right for you, honour that and let your teacher know that it’s not right for you right now.
If you’re looking to get moving without too much outside help, then I highly recommend signing up to an online fitness or movement platform. There are so many amazing apps out on the market. Ones like Keep It Cleaner (shameless self promotion coming up) have a plethora of at-home workouts that require minimal or no equipment, they’re short, sharp workouts for every fitness level. We even have pre and post natal programs designed by myself, and two other highly qualified and talented practitioners. Platforms like these make it easily accessible, especially to new parents who don’t have a lot of time to spare, to build your strength and fitness without having to budget in for studio memberships or work around someone else’s schedule. They can be done anywhere, any time, and for so many new parents, can be an invaluable tool in feeling stronger and more empowered to move.
In terms of the modality of movement you do, there really is no one method that is better than another. The best movement you can do is the kind you enjoy! Remember to take it slow, ease into shapes and make use of supportive props or variations. Listen intently to what your body is telling you, whether it be to pull back or push a little harder. Know that you are capable and worthy of feeling strong and empowered in your movement. Lean into the support around you if it’s available, be brave in taking time for yourself. It may take time, and lots of trial and error, but finding ways to move that work best for your lifestyle will serve you, and your family, for years to come.
After personalised advice? Get in touch with a trusted healthcare and fitness professional to help you tailor the right regime for you.