Just 4 years ago I had a completely different perspective on what postnatal training consisted of and how I would train myself and clients.
If you would have spoken to me then I probably would have told you that I would train the same right up until I had the baby and jump right back in it at the 6 week mark after I received clearance from my doctor.
I also had trained clients in the past in a way that I would not currently do so.
It makes me grimace a little but when you know better, you do better. And that is what I am doing now.
Be aware of pelvic floor dysfunction and what options you have.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction is not discussed nearly as often as it should be. In fact, I did not even receive one mention of any of the following to be on the lookout for during my pregnancy or after from and Doctor or medical professional.
PFD can act in many different ways such such as Pelvic Organ Prolapse, Incontinence, and can lead to issues like pelvic, low back, and hip pain or make conditions like Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) worse.
These are all conditions that many moms deal with that are not often addressed. They are very common but do not have to be the new normal. Meaning you do not have to live with these conditions and symptoms.
There are more options such as getting a referral or seeking a women’s health physical therapist. We get therapy if we have a knee or shoulder surgery why not get therapy when we have a baby?
I am tired of hearing women say, “Why didn’t I know this?”
“Why wasn’t I aware of this?”
“No one told me.”
Ease back into exercise intensity and get back to basics.
Again in regards to having a surgery. If you had a knee surgery would you be told not to do anything for 6 weeks and then resume normal activity at the 6 week mark? No, you wouldn’t. You would start with physical therapy and then ease back into activity over months.
Why in the world is this different after giving birth?
The 6 weeks clearance given by doctors doesn’t mean women can’t ease back into activity sooner but it also doesn’t mean they should go full force at 6 weeks. Think of the return to exercise as a progression. Start slow and build upon month after month.
It might look something like this.
1-2 weeks postpartum: Begin gentle stretching, work on breathing and alignment.
2-3 weeks postpartum: Slow, short walks (5-10 minutes), pelvic floor connection with breath and alignment with exercises like bridges and clams.
3-4 weeks postpartum: Continue all the above. Add squats and split squats with no weight if appropriate.
4-12 weeks postpartum: Walk longer. Start basic postnatal strength program if appropriate, 1-2 days a week.
What will determine how quickly a women progresses? Everything from hormonal health, to how she is feeling physically, mentally, to how much sleep she is getting to her stress levels, to how much support she has around her.
Overall I believe if stress is high in any of these areas, exercise intensity should be lower.
Understand the demands of motherhood on the body (stress, nursing, lack of sleep).
The demands of motherhood on the body are very high, physically and emotionally.
It is a very physical job, even with a little baby, you are holding, swaying, feeding and picking up and putting down constantly.
It can also be highly emotional and if a client is not managing her daily life well or does not have a strong support system, exercise maybe be stress inducing instead of stress relieving.
Chances are that mom is not getting all that much sleep and spending a great part of their day in awkward positions whether holding, nursing, or caring for baby.
These are all factors to consider when training a mom who is early postpartum. The answer is not to kick her butt in a workout the first day back, or several months after that for that matter.
It is important no matter the where you fall in the support system (trainer, partner) to be compassionate, understanding, and to take the full picture into consideration.
Whether training a client or yourself ask yourself the following questions.
What is the need for the specific exercise?
Is the exercise supportive of pelvic floor health? Are the core and pelvic floor being taken into consideration.
Is the training supportive of a healthy, sustainable mindset?
How is mom’s sleeping and eating habits?
Is she breastfeeding?
These are all factors to consider.
Change the conversation.
One of the best things I think we can do for moms is to be a part in changing the conversation around “body back” messaging post baby, reducing the urgency to return to a certain weight or look a certain way.
It is actually ok to like like you had baby because you did.
Postpartum bodies may be bigger for awhile and that is 100% fine and normal. They may carry more fat. This is not necessarily bad. Let yourself be postpartum. Let your body do what it needs to do to recover from 9 months of pregnancy and bringing a child into the world.
I invite everyone to change the conversation around pre and post natal bodies, and all bodies for that matter.
We can make less comments about bodies and more inquires about how mom is doing. We can make less judgements.
We can exercise to feel strong physically and be strong emotionally not just to have smaller bodies.
We can talk about what we love about our bodies even it that is our squishy bellies that just housed a baby or the extra meat on our thighs that came about from pregnancy.
Let’s start to change the conversation: you, me, everyone.