Have you just had a baby? In the list of your new priorities, you’ve probably placed many things higher than a fitness routine, and we can’t blame you. However, if you’ve ever been active, you know when you exercise, even just a little, you feel great. When you stretch your tired, achy muscles, when you take care of your body and give yourself permission to carve out the important ‘me time’ that you crave, it’s better for you, and your baby.
If you’re beginning to feel recovered post-birth, you may be excited to get active again, but many forms of exercise aren’t recommended until after 6 weeks postpartum. And even when YOU think you’re ready, you’re BODY isn’t likely ready to get back to running or to a fitness class, even if it’s made especially for moms, like FITMOM classes are. Instead, here are some exercise recommendations for three areas you CAN focus on in those first few weeks:
1. Your Pelvic Floor:
Your pelvic floor muscles have lost elasticity during pregnancy and you will likely need to recondition these muscles, regardless of the type of delivery you've had.
Begin by contracting your pelvic floor for a series of 10 x 1 second contractions. Follow with contractions where you hold your pelvic floor contraction for a longer period - begin with holding for about 3 seconds and work your way up to 10 seconds.
To be sure you're doing them correctly remember:
• Don't hold your breath
• Don't tighten your tummy, thighs or buttock muscles
• Don't squeeze your legs together
Try to complete 10 short and 10 long contractions a few times a day, remembering that pelvic floor muscles fatigue easily. If you need to, complete fewer contractions more often in the day to prevent fatigue.
2. Your Shoulders:
Your tired shoulders really do take the brunt of so much both during pregnancy and with a newborn. Between growing bellies, feeding and holding a new baby, and the poor posture that often comes with all of that, your shoulders are always hard at work.
Try simple shoulder rotations to relieve some of the stress. Begin by inhaling and lifting your shoulders towards your ears. Exhale and roll your shoulders back and down, allowing your shoulders to fall as far from the ears as possible and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Release to normal position and repeat.
This exercise will remind you to correct your posture, open your chest and strengthen your upper and middle back at the same time. Try to complete 10 repetitions a few times a day, while you are watching television, sitting at the computer or even when feeding; once a good latch and breast feeding is established, you can practice this exercise as baby is snuggled in your arms.
3. Your Abdominal Muscles:
We know that core muscles are affected during pregnancy, but we also know that they don’t just go back to what they were like pre-pregnancy the moment baby arrives.
Give pelvic tilts a try. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Inhale to fill your belly with air. Exhale while pulling your belly button towards your spine and slightly rolling your hips towards your ribs, but not lifting your hips or glutes off the ground. Release and repeat.
Try to complete 10 repetitions a few times a day. Work up to 20 or 25 repetitions as you begin to feel stronger. You can practice pelvic tilts after you finish nursing as you are cuddling with your baby.
Your body has gone through so many changes since becoming pregnant, and it continues to do so in the weeks after your baby arrives. By focusing on these three areas and incorporating some simple exercise, you’ll help reduce tension and relieve some pain. Of course, the most important thing in these first few weeks is spending time as a new family, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel better also!
When you’re ready to begin exercising again, find some classes to join in. FITMOM offers FITMOM and Baby or FITMOM Stroller Strength (depending on the season) and FITWOMAN classes five days a week. Check our schedule, find the class that works for you and Join the Motherhood!