Your baby’s birth marks both the end of your pregnancy and the start of your body’s recovery journey. Credit has to be given to your body for the work that it has done. But sadly after baby arrives, your needs will often take a back seat to your baby’s. It is disheartening also to see images of the stars walk out with new baby, back in their skinny jeans, when the only things that work for you are PJs.
But before you rush out to get a gym membership in order to get back into shape, be aware that the exercise program you did before your pregnancy, is not suitable for you right now. It may be in the future, but give your body the love it deserves and the time it needs to repair and re-strengthen itself.
If you find post-natally that you are leaking a little (or a lot) of wee, you are not alone… one third of all women are affected and that equates to about 4.8 million women in Australia alone. Also, around 50% of post-natal women will suffer from prolapse. (Statistics released by Continence Foundation of Australia). The good news is that both of these conditions can usually be improved with pelvic floor muscle training and learning how to incorporate this training into your daily routine of lifting and moving.
Training to the weakest link in your body means there is a hierarchy of importance in the exercises you return to after giving birth.
Here are my top 5 exercises for exercising post natally :
1. Pelvic floor first!
Don’t underestimate the power of the pelvic floor! It is vital that you practice your contractions daily. Make sure you do quick, snappy holds as well as longer holds, aiming for around 10 seconds. Practice them when you are quiet and still and when you are active and lifting.
A correct pelvic floor contraction requires good posture and try not to hold your breath! Start your contraction by squeezing your back passage closed, vagina and urethra (from back to front), then lift and release. Your pelvic floor can get strong relatively quickly with regular practice and the benefits will be not leaking wee, improving the appearance of your lower abdominal and stronger orgasms!
2. Lower back pain be gone! Flat belly here I come!
A good pelvic floor contraction will also activate the Transverses Abdominus muscle, which runs across your hips and feeds into your lower back. The TA is responsible for giving you a flat belly and protecting your lower back. It is a good idea to avoid sit ups and crunches and have your abs checked to make sure they have not split (abdominal diastasis).
Standing and sitting with tall posture, (neutral spine) and drawing in your abdominals will also activate the TA muscle and make it stronger.
3. Rowing for upper back strength
All that bending over and holding your little one coupled with larger than normal breasts means your upper back really cops it! We need to strengthen the upper back as well as lengthen the muscles in through the chest (pectorals), which tend to be tight. Use hand weights to mimic a rowing action, where your shoulder blades are drawn down from your ears and into the centre of your back. Or even better… invest in a Theraband and attach to the door handle and row a few sets each day.
4. Squats for weight loss!
You don’t need to go to the gym to squat! As a mum you can be squatting all day long as you get up and down or pick things up from the floor. Avoid bending at the lower back and use your legs instead. Power up through the heels and activate your gluteus (butt muscles) and don’t forget to also activate your pelvic floor and practice a contraction as you push up to avoid bearing down internally.
5. Tuck shop ladies arms? No thank you!
Our biceps get lots of use from lifting baby and all their paraphernalia, but sadly our triceps don’t get much of a look in. And it’s not till we wave good-bye that we are reminded. A simple way to practise your tricep exercises is incorporate a few tricep dips off the edge of the bath. Remember to keep your wings in so your triceps do the work, not the biceps. Start with shallow dips until they get stronger. Don’t forget to breathe, keep your back tall and include your pelvic floor activation!
If you are unsure if you are correctly contracting your pelvic floor, loose the guesswork and see a women’s health physio. If they use Real Time Ultrasound you can be guided to correctly contract both the pelvic floor and transverse abdominal muscles. Usually with just one session, you will be confidently contracting correctly!
And remember… you are post-natal for a lot longer than you are pregnant and it does not mean that you will never be able to return to the sport or exercise routine that you loved before you were pregnant. But it really does pay to find a trainer and an exercise program who fully understands and teaches pelvic floor and Transversus Abdominal exercises and who can check your tummy for diastasis.
About mish (Michelle Wright)
Mish is the founder and CEO of mishfit. mishfit mothers is a specialised personal training program designed for pregnant and post-natal women, educating women on how to exercise safely and where their babies and children are welcome. mishfit is truly a family friendly small business and is now available as a franchise.
pregnant & post natal exercise specialist