Your body is amazing. It has done many amazing things for you, not least growing a whole other human being.
After you’ve had your baby, it’s only natural that it will feel - and look - different. While you may be itching to return to exercise after baby, Pilates Instructor, Nutritionist and owner of Mind & Movement Pilates, Kate Boyle, urges you to first take a step back.
“Until you have a baby, you don’t actually realise the changes your body goes through,” says Kate.
“It’s not uncommon for new mums to want to be worried about returning to exercise after birth. There are so many messages that mums see about bouncing back or returning to their pre-baby body. I always tell them to not feel pressured by anyone else because everyone’s pregnancy and postpartum journey is different.”
Kate has shared some tips for a safe return to exercise after pregnancy. This is really a case of being about the journey and not the destination.
Get clearance to return to exercise after baby
Kate says that before you even consider returning to exercise after birth, you need to get clearance from your OBGYN or Dr first.
“Pregnancy and childbirth is a huge change for your body and it takes time for tissue to repair, stitches to heal and for your body to return to a stage where you can start thinking about exercise,” explains Kate.
“If you’re unsure about what is safe or what you’re able to do, you can work with a professional physio or pilates instructor to design a program for you. For example, if you have diastasis recti (abdominal separation) or a weak pelvic floor, they can change your program to help this.”
Accept that it will take time
Think about what happens to your body while you’re pregnant. Your estrogen and progesterone levels increase significantly, your joints and ligaments loosen, your blood vessels expand and your skin stretches to accommodate your precious bebé growing inside of you. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“It takes 9 months to grow a baby… and it can take 9-12 months to return to your pre-pregnancy level of fitness or weight,” explains Kate. “The length of time depends on a range of factors such as whether it’s your first child, genetics and pregnancy or birth complications. It’s important to remember not to compare yourself to other women.
“It’s really about being aware that you need to give your body time to heal. Exercise after pregnancy can form a part of this recovery but it will take time. That’s completely normal.”
Mindset plays a big role here. Your belly doesn’t instantly disappear when your bebé is born. You feel next level tired and returning to exercise after pregnancy may be the last thing on your mind. Acceptance is key to taking positive steps forward.
Be kind to yourself
“A lot of the time, women go too hard, too fast,” says Kate. “They want to get back into their gym program or return to running. At the same time, they have a newborn and they’re struggling to sleep let alone fit exercise into their day.
“It’s ok to take it slowly. Your body is still healing. You still have pregnancy hormones, particularly if you’re breastfeeding. Your joints may not be as stable as before and you may end up in pain.”
Kate suggests focusing on gentle exercises or exercises you can include your baby in such as walking with the pram or pilates at home with your baby.
“Even if you’ve had a caesarean, the weight of your baby growing can weaken your pelvic floor. Be aware of this when you return to exercise and do gentle exercises such as walking, swimming or pilates.
“Once you start to feel comfortable with your sleeping and feeding routine as well as your energy levels, you can then think about stepping things up. Listen to your body and do it gradually.”
Prioritise your total wellbeing
Returning to exercise after baby is just one piece of the puzzle in your total wellbeing. And that’s what it’s all about. Your overall health - mental and physical.
“Fitness isn’t the only thing we should be doing for our health,” explains Kate. “It’s also important to eat nourishing food and make sure you’re getting enough sleep (or as much as you can with a newborn). Trying to keep stress levels in balance and having self care activities in place, such as journaling or meditation are also important for overall wellbeing.
“A lot of women I work with do get upset that their physique is different after having a baby. But this is just a short blip in your whole life. Relish your time with your baby and know that you will eventually get to where you want to be.”
Kate is a woman of many talents. An elite level dancer, full time level 4 member of the Australian Pilates Method Association (APMA), Nutritionist, Gyrotonic Expansion System® trainer and mamá, Kate is also the owner of Mind & Movement Pilates.
To support mamás with their gentle return to exercise after baby, Kate has developed two online pilates programs. Both the pregnancy series and postnatal series are designed to help you connect with your pelvic floor and deep lower abdominals so you can get back into exercise the right way. She also offers a pilates and nutrition membership with a library of healthy recipes and online pilates workouts.
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