The Gym 101: P11: Postpartum Exercise to 4 Weeks
If you have recently had a baby, congratulations to you and your growing family! This is quite an experience and you are a stronger woman for it. No really! The Mayans and Aztecs likened child birth to going to war. Women who were mothers were just as much warriors as the young men who fought to preserve the tribe.
This is a delicate time for your body. Unfortunately western medicine is waaaaay behind the ball when it comes to rehabilitating a postpartum body. Doctors are simply not trained in exercise or postpartum issues. We tend to help a mother along through pregnancy and birth, then wave goodbye 24 hours after. This is legitimately completely backwards.
Don't just start doing kegels - they are NOT enough to start the rebuild process and do nothing to restore the abdomen to its normal mechanical function of breathing and bracing.
Pregnant women need to work harder through their pregnancy and smarter after birth. Your body has greatly changed. It is not the same body as it was before and it training needs are quite different. In fact, I give another fitness/ mobility assessment when a new mom and I resume training after birth.
It takes 16 weeks to recover from a orthopedic surgery, so who would it only take you 6 weeks to recover from childbirth? The truth is, your body is acutely postpartum for one whole year after birth.
If you embrace this fact and work with your new body, you will have a much more enjoyable year ahead. You will never have your pre-baby body back. It doesn't exist anymore. You can get a slender and fit figure after you give birth, but don’t ever expect it to be, feel, move and look the exact same after birth.
Nine months in, Nine months out and a year to fully recover. Remember that you being patent and progressing slowly will actually ensure a quicker recovery.
Follow the 3 week rule: one week in the bed, one week next to the bed and one week around the bed. This is to ensure that you give your uterus time to shrink back down to its normal size without risk of a prolapse.
Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
Every pregnancy is different. If you have done this ideally, you would have been in the gym, training for pregnancy for about a year before you got pregnant. Few women do this. But many of us are fit before pregnancy. And many are not.
The first thing you need to focus on after birth is bonding with the baby, slowly being able to walk and stand for longer periods of time and making a connection with your pelvic floor through focused exercise breathing.
Work on walking for ten minutes at a time once a day. do this for a few days. Then up it to two sets on walking 10 minutes, then one 20 minute walk, two 15 min walks. Take it like that.
You maybe itching to do more but you are really risking injuring yourself. If you have had a c-section, this would be even more critical that you take it slow the first month.
It takes 16 weeks to recover from a orthopedic surgery, so who would it only take you 6 weeks to recover from childbirth?
I am pretty conservative when it comes to after birth recovery and I encourage all of my clients to follow the 3 week rule: one week in the bed, one week next to the bed and one week around the bed. This is to ensure that you give your uterus time to shrink back down to its normal size without risk of a prolapse. Also, taking the time to just rest and recover is extremely important to healing, breast milk production and bonding with the baby.
Again, some women want to walk around very soon after birth and feel up to it. And some can. But, most (like very close to ALL) of us are at risk of a prolapse when we don't take a week to lie still and flat. When you have other small children you are especially at risk of a prolapse.
It is vital that you get your diaphragm and pelvic floor moving in sync again and start firing the muscle fibers to properly prepare it and the core for upcoming exercise.
I can tell women all day not to lift heavy things in the 3 weeks after a birth but when you have another toddler running around the house - just try and NOT pick up your baby!
Another thing you need to do is connect your breath to you pelvic floor. It is vital that you get your diaphragm and pelvic floor moving in sync again and start firing the muscle fibers.
Many women actually sync their PF and Diaphragm backwards. They inhale through the chest and tighten up the vaginal canal, then exhale and bare down the pelvic floor, trying to relax it. WRONG. This is a disordered breathing pattern.
To correct it: Inhale, expanding through the bottom ribs and belly. Let your pelvic floor expand and relax. Imagine your labia opening and blossoming like a flower. Then exhale, contracting from the bottom of your belly and ribs. Imagine gently flexing your hip bones together and pulling tissues from a box with you vaginal canal, and/or pulling you clitoris into your body.
The Mayans and Aztecs likened child birth to going to war.
You do NOT have to flex hard. You will be sore in the morning and feel some cramp -like sensations. Just activate your PF enough to move it and get it in proper sync with you breathing. Do this for 10 breaths once or twice a day. Don't just start doing kegels - they are NOT enough to start the rebuild process and do nothing to restore the abdomen to its normal mechanical function of breathing and bracing.
Here is where you start, ladies. recovering from child birth is no joke and should be done gently, with purpose. Don't rush it the first month as you will have plenty of time to kick it into gear soon enough
Your body will thank you greatly for your patience and reward you with a hot, functioning, healthy body!
Coming up in the next article: 6 week check up to three months postpartum. Cant wait!
Learn all the basics and insider knowledge
Check out The Gym 101 Series
Part 1: Exercise Selection
Part 2: Set and Rep Schemes
Part 3: Training Splits and Organizing Your Week
Part 4: Creating Fun Workouts
Part 5: Training Around Injuries and Imbalances
Part 6: Menstruation and Muscle
Part 7: Finding New Gyms
Part 8: Navigating the Gym
Part 9: Gym Rules
Part 10: Fitness and Pregnancy
Part 11: Postpartum Exercise, Birth to 4 weeks
Part 12: Postpartum Exercise, 4-16 Weeks
Part 13: Recovery