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Getting Back To Training After Birth! Where To Start?

Congratulations, you’re a new mum! Your body has just performed an amazing task and it can feel a little daunting to know where to start again after giving birth, so giving your body time to heal, rest and recover is really important for those first few weeks. Each individual case is different, however generally if you have been cleared by your health care practitioner you can begin to re-introduce more formal exercise anytime from 6 weeks post birth, although it completely depends on how you feel in your body.

You will have gone through some big changes and so it is important to know that your hormones will shift in the post-partum period, including your oestrogen and progesterone which will have risen steadily throughout pregnancy, then fall sharply to pre-pregnancy levels, which may induce feelings of lethargy, fatigue and emotional ups and downs. Exercise can help balance these changes and improve your mood as well increasing your stamina, mobility and strength. When sleep deprived it may feel counterintuitive to then exercise but it can help improve the quality of your sleep when you do manage to nab those precious hours!

There are many benefits to post-partum exercise including;

· Supporting your healing and recovery

· Improvement in mood and mental wellbeing

· Reducing aches in neck and back

· Control over pelvic floor

· Stability in joints

· Sleep quality

· Reduction of fatigue

· Quality of life

The aim is to start small and build up gradually so you increase frequency, duration, and intensity over time. Addressing the foundations is where you want to start, below are the four top aims of focus in those first few weeks and months:


· Pelvic floor- Strengthening the pelvic floor is one of the key foundations of training after giving birth, as improving control and stabilising those muscles will help speed up the healing process as well as allow you to move on to higher intensity exercises earlier. Within those 6 weeks before beginning any formal exercise you can start to introduce some engagement and build in frequency and duration over time. The NHS Squeezy app is a great one to use as you can follow along with their guided instructions of short and long contraction sets and reps.

· Core stability- Whether you have had a C- section or a vaginal birth, the core is going to be again one of the first foundations to focus on in your recovery period. If you have experienced some abdominal separation (diastasis recti) which is extremely common and nothing to worry about, you will need to make some adjustments to your core exercises before jumping back into planks! Exercises like Bird Dogs, Cushion squeeze, and Hip Bridge with scooping are some good exercises to start with to build engagement without strain across the mid-line. There are some great videos on Youtube to identify first if you have ab separation and also some great short routines designed to close the gap.

· Back strengthening- With pregnancy the postural centre of gravity shifts as bump grows. This can increase the discomfort of upper and lower back pain which will need to be supported once you have given birth, to reduce pain and re-align. Alongside this, you will be carrying your little one around, bending, picking things up, and generally putting regular and repetitive strain onto your back so it’s a large part of post-natal training to focus on this area for support. Back strengthening exercises are any vertical or horizontal ‘pulling’ exercises such as Lat pull downs, DB/Cable/TRX Rows, Band/Cable face pulls. Start to incorporate these into your routine whether at home or at the gym once you have resumed your more formal exercise routine.

· Low impact movement- In those first few weeks post birth you will be taking your recovery and healing a day at a time, and walking is a great place to start to gently get your body moving. Start with as many stops and rest as you need and alongside your pelvic strengthening exercises you will be able to gradually increase the duration and speed. Each individual is different but in terms of aerobic exercises, start with the low impact movements such as walking, cycling or cross trainer, (swimming if you have been cleared to do so). This will allow you to build up your fitness, endurance and stamina, before then moving on to higher intensity and higher impact workouts such as jogging or hiit. You will want to make sure that your pelvic floor, your core and your posture is in good shape and feeling strong before moving back to these kinds of movements, but once they are, and you feel ready then begin in intervals and gradually increase over time.

There is no exact timeline for how long these foundations take to build, each person is different and you should feel no pressure to hit any deadlines or unrealistic goals. Your body will thank you for giving it time, plenty of rest, and regular positive movement to help nurture it back to your full strength. The benefits are numerous and can only help support you as you navigate your new schedule and routine! Most of all, be kind to yourself and know that it takes time but building yourself these solid foundations will stand you in really good stead for your future fitness goals.

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