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