New Mums.. pondering a return to exercise.. some things to note!

By August 1, 2018Updates

With international qualifications in both pregnancy and post natal exercise; alongside years of experience training Mums in exercise and fitness, and building a strong supportive community for Mums to connect with other like minded Mums.. I believe a big part of my job is educating new Mums on how to move safely in their everyday lives, prioritise themselves every once in a while and take some time out for themselves when needed.

Each month I host a course for new Mums at the Onewa Parents Centre titled “Mum Movements –  to rest, to reset, to recover, to retain confidence, to restore and realise your new potential”.  A lengthy title but it says it all!

Essentially, my goal is to ensure Mums take time out for themselves, acknowledge the changes they have gone through over the past 10 months or so, know how to activate and strengthen their Pelvic floor and Transverse Abdominis muscles and have the knowledge to move safely in their everyday life before even thinking about reembarking on their fitness journey.

The Onewa Parents Centre recently asked me to write a question and answer format article addressing some of their most asked questions from new Mums.

What advice / suggestions /guidelines can you provide around exercise during pregnancy?

General advice is that if you are healthy and your pregnancy is ‘normal’, it is considered safe for you to exercise through your pregnancy, although some alterations may be required as you progress through the trimesters in terms of dropping intensity levels, lowering weights or eliminating certain exercises depending on how your body copes with pregnancy.  Throughout your pregnancy exercising your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis muscles through essential core breath work is super important. This keeps these muscles strong through pregnancy, allows muscle memory to form prior to having baby, helps during delivery and makes these muscles easier to activate and strengthen after birth also.  Above anything else; listen to your body and if you experience anything out of the ordinary (eg. bleeding, dizziness, chest pain, calf pain or swelling or regular contractions) be sure to contact your health professional for advice.

When should I return to exercise after baby and what should I be aware of when starting exercise?

Although many personal trainers will ask for you to have had your 6 week check before starting back at the gym; this actually has very little to do with you and is more about your baby.  It is important to acknowledge that your body has changed over the past 10 months and in this 4th trimester, taking time to adjust, learn your new role as a Mum and return to exercise safely when you feel ready is so important.  Resetting expectations after Bubs is crucial and starting with essential core breathwork and adding in some walks is the perfect way to re-embark on your fitness journey.  Depending on your pregnancy and your birth experience, there are a few things that you may need to consider moving forward;  Abdominal Separation, Pelvic Floor Weakness, Pelvic Girdle Pain, Carpel Tunnel, Knee pain, Pubic Symphosis to name a few; all of which can be worked around, you just have to know how!  We do suggest that all Mums visit a Womens Health Physio for a full post natal check before starting exercise again and highly recommend the team at Plus One Wellbeing in Northcote.

Will an abdominal separation heal? How long does this take? Any special exercises to avoid or that would help it heal?

Abdominal separation is very common in pregnancy and in most cases, does heal. The best way for this to happen is to do your TA breath work daily to strengthen your abdominal wall once again. This takes time to rebuild from the inside out and you need to be mindful not to do any movements or exercises that require flexion / extension. Situps, crunches etc make this worse and this is something to be mindful of in everyday life also (sitting up from breastfeeding, getting out of bed etc)

When should I start pelvic floor exercises after baby is born?

You can start your pelvic floor exercises very soon after you’ve had your baby but with a high percentage of people incorrectly activating their PF and doing more damage than good, it is important that you know how to correctly.  Inhale for the count of 4 and on a longer exhale of 8 counts; draw your pelvic floor in and up, holding for a few seconds and then releasing with control until fully relaxed.  Complete a few breaths a couple of times a day (easily done while breastfeeding or sitting at traffic lights if that works as a good reminder for you)  There are many cues we use to help teach this core breathwork correctly and various positions and progressions that you can implement as these muscles strengthen. It is this PF and TA essential core breathwork that is crucial to Mums rebuilding their fitness safely and we cover this thoroughly in our OPC Safely Return to Exercise class as well as our Active Soul Mums and Bubs classes.

What exactly is covered in the ‘Mum Movement’ OPC class?

Knowing how to move safely in everyday life from a functional point of view is crucial and the tips provided in this class are important not just for everyday movement but for resetting expectations, understanding your post pregnancy body.  The following is covered in this class;

  • the importance of taking time out for yourself
  • the change in your thinking and body post baby
  • stretches and mobilisers to lengthen and loosen tight ‘mum’ muscles
  • checking for abdominal separation
  • activating pelvic floor and TA
  • suggestions for starting your exercise journey safely

The perfect opportunity to make your health and wellbeing a priority.  We give you the skills to rest, to recover, to retain confidence, to restore and realise your new potential. After all, happy mum = happy baby!

 A little bit about Active Soul and what we offer new mums!

I speak to so many women who want to get back their post baby bodies and don’t know where or how to begin and I am passionate about helping mums through this process safely.  Our Mums and Bubs sessions are programmed to cater specifically to our Mums individual needs.  Our specific way of training encourages the knitting back together of abdominal muscles, strengthening important postural muscles and stretching out tight muscles. Add this to our cardiovascular and resistance exercises and you have a fantastic well-rounded post natal workout.  We cater to all fitness levels and make sure Mums understand what’s going on with their bodies as well as ensuring they enjoy a challenging workout with us that leaves them with a sense of achievement. It is through this support, education and understanding that we offer, our Mums have the opportunity to become fitter, stronger than ever before – all while their little ones are being cared for by our onsite childcare.