When and how should I start working out after pregnancy? This is a question I hear all too often, especially now that I’ve had two of my own children. You have mixed emotions between enjoying your time with your sweet addition but wondering how to get back to your pre-pregnancy body and activity level. The main point is to take it easy and take it day by day.
Each pregnancy is different, and each birth is different. You may or may not have had your child naturally. If you did, great! If you had a Cesarean (C-section), it might take a little longer to get back into it, but you’re awesome just the same! You brought life into this world, and by-gosh, you can take it out! (Didn’t your mom always say that? No? Well, mine did. Gulp!)
The main thing you need to start with is focusing on your core. Sit-ups are not the answer. Not to mention there’s no way you will be able to do them! Start with things like planks, bird dogs, bridges, and the dreaded kegel exercises. General core activation exercises are a good start as well. If you go back too fast, you can risk Diastasis Recti (the separation of the abdominal muscles) and other internal damage, causing increased healing time and decreased core strength over time.
Here are 5 tips that will increase your chances of success:
- Start slow. Generally, it is recommended to wait about 6 weeks to get back to pre-pregnancy activity, but you can start with easy walking as early as 1 week if you are up for it. If you had a C-section, it may take a little longer. Also, if your nursing, going back too fast may affect your milk supply, so just be aware of your body. And if you start bleeding, a little more than normal, your body needs more time to heal. Consult your OBGYN or primary care provider if the bleeding is more persistent or heavier than normal – not WebMD, Google, Wikipedia, or your favorite mommy blog. Seriously, please ask a professional.
- Get proper nutrition. You need about 600 more calories per day if you are breastfeeding. Make sure that includes plenty of protein, as it will help with muscle recovery and re-building. Make sure you are hydrating adequately too! So keep drinking lots of water!
- Breastfeed if you can. It will help you lose weight faster. Remember those extra 600 calories?
- Be happy with where you are. Don’t obsess with where you were. It will take time to get back to what you used to do. Don’t push it.
- Rest. Proper rest is the body’s best recovery method. You’ll be up and down with your new wee one at all hours of the night, but if you can sleep when the baby sleeps, it will help that much more. Those extra chores can wait until you are fully recovered.
Remember to take it day by day and listen to your body. Being a stubborn athlete with an insatiable drive to be bigger, better, stronger, and faster can come with time. For now, enjoy the time you have with that little human you just made. They grow up way too fast to be in a hurry.
Dr. Lauren Cortjens is a practicing sports chiropractor at 1st Choice Sports Rehab in Johns Creek and a level one CrossFit trainer. She is an avid Ultra runner and CrossFit athlete. She and her husband just brought their second little boy into the world in late June. While she is getting back to competing on a level that fits her present goals, Dr. Cortjens is returning to work and planning on her next adventure.