Postpartum exercise…

I have received quite a few messages through my social media accounts around postpartum exercise. The messages have mostly asked questions around how long I waited until exercising again, what I am doing and how do I have the time or energy to do so?
I am internally highly competitive and so knew that I had to set myself healthy and safe boundaries in regard to exercising, particularly after having a c-section birth. My midwife also knew this about me and so she was very clear in what I could and shouldn’t be doing (the importance of a good midwife!!)
I started doing pelvic floor exercises that softly engage the core about a week after Layla was born. I was able to walk to the shop and back three weeks postpartum, around the block at six weeks, and 10 weeks after delivery I did my first barre class (knowing my limits – more on this later). At just on 12 weeks after my c-section I started back on our X-trainer, some light weights and core movements.
It is so important that exercise is about loving your body…it is not a punishment! With that in mind, find movement that you enjoy doing! Barre is the perfect exercise for me, as it is a cardio workout that uses Pilates principles. This means the focus is on wengaging the core for a strong and healthy spine, breath, using the correct muscles for movement e.g not letting my quads do work that my glutes should, and getting the spine mobile. It also develops flexibility and is fun! Unfortunately, with having an exclusively breastfed baby attending these classes is time dependent and so I need to be doing something else as well.
As fitness is a priority for me, we have exercise equipment at home so I am able to workout at home, whenever works for me. We have a room set up and I can go to ‘my gym’ whenever I want, and it removes the excuses of it’s too cold, wet etc! This also means that rather than trying to figure out fitting in an hour and a half plus, and doing it around feeding, and my husband being home from work I can do thirty minutes of cardio at one point, and thirty minutes of resistance work later in the day. Though I have been reminded I need to exercise earlier in the day rather than right before bed…it takes me too long to come down from the exercise high!
When you are time poor, or like me are working around feeding a baby it is important to use your time wisely. I plan what I am going to do before I go into my gym so I spend the time exercising and not mucking around figuring out what I am going to do.
What this really boils down to though is priority and support. This is a priority for me. My physical and mental health is priority – for both me, and Layla. I also have a husband who is an equal parent. When he is home from work it is US parenting, not me with a babysitter. He realises that exercise is important to me, and let’s be honest it makes life easier for him when I am healthier and happier. This has meant he will move things around to ensure I can attend classes, and be a parent while I exercise at home.
There were quite a few questions around how I have the energy to do this? For me, this is simple, exercise gives me energy. When I exercise I eat and sleep better. This gives me a clearer mind and a much more positive disposition. Although some days it is harder to start the exercise, it only takes a couple of minutes and I am happy I am doing it. It is hard to beat those endorphins! I understand this is not the case for some people, and this is where discipline and creating a habit come into place first (before you find and are able to do the exercise you love to do)!
Finally, know your limits! This includes letting your body heal before you even begin getting back into, or starting, exercise. Don’t rush into it too early, check in with your midwife or GP if you need to. When you do start your postpartum exercise make sure you do so understanding and responding to the changes in your body (umm where are you core?). In barre classes I make certain movements smaller, some I do at a slower pace, and some of the intensive core work I modify so it is a completely different movement. Ask the instructor taking a class, or a trainer at the gym if the movement is safe for you, or if there is a modified version you could do. Most importantly though, listen to your body! You may be told something is safe, and maybe it is, but if it doesn’t feel right, stop!
I will keep you updated on my journey on social media, particularly my IG account @melhwellness
Mel H x

Move with love, then you will love to move

As a child I was active, I walked everywhere and was always involved in organised sport/activity; dance, hockey, sprinting, and long distance running. However, as I got older these gradually subsided, until exercise became something I scheduled in; it became a chore.

Looking back, I can see I was doing it for all the wrong reasons, which would explain why it came in spurts; six months with a personal trainer here, a few months doing cross fit there, a painful (on my joints and my soul) year running the streets, and a history of infrequently used gym memberships, and we may as well add in every other fad!

Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved exercise, and realise the physiological and mental benefits. I love pushing myself, the endorphins, the increased oxygen supply, the feeling of worked muscles, the social interactions, setting and achieving goals, and yes, even the sweat! The thing for me though, was having the wrong motivations meant that once the initial spark and newness wore off I was back to hunting the next thing ‘to work’.

What I learnt though, was that is wasn’t about the next thing ‘to work’ which really was code for how can I have abs, a thigh gap and toned arms, that society tells me is how a woman looks best, it is about what I enjoy, how I love to move! Once I really engaged in Pilates and Barre I rediscovered my love of movement, which I had in my youth with the sport and dance.

My focus is now on feeling good, enjoying the movement and the benefits exercise provides, the technique I am using, improving my posture, flexibility and overall fitness. This is a huge change from trying to lift more weight which often caused me pain and injury, beating someone else, or focusing on how I looked in a bikini.

With so many exercise options available today, I encourage everyone to try different things to find what works for you; Zumba, waka ama, cycling to work, hiking, joining your local sports club, yoga, aerobics, swimming, walking, running, cross fit, gym membership, or try my passion and give Barre and Pilates classes a go (contact me if you are interested)!

Let me know what movement you love!

Mel H