Following on from our recent posts about the arrival of lovely royal baby Archie we thought it would be timely to find out more about postpartum fitness. So many of the new mothers we know feel under immense pressure to ping ‘back into shape’ immediately upon giving birth – we did ourselves - but it shouldn’t be that way. Giving birth is immense – both physically and mentally and we get no recovery time. NONE! Realistically what should we be doing? And how soon? And what if we don’t feel like it?
Postpartum fitness: Feeling the pressure
We asked our good friend Meg, Personal Trainer and Founder of Move By Meg, to help…
You hear about celebrities starting to exercise straight after giving birth but I really don’t feel like it. When should I start exercising again?
Every woman’s journey through pregnancy, birth and healing post birth is unique. Our bodies are individual – I always say to my clients, ‘You know your body better than anyone else’. What has worked for one celeb may not be what works best for your own body. It’s important to always consult your doctor before returning to exercise and remember that the celeb mums probably have a fulltime PT, chef and nanny.
What should I start with first?
Ease yourself in by trying new things. Your body might not be up for the training you did nine months ago or even six and that’s okay. Give yourself permission to ease in gently - start with walks, stretching and pelvic floor exercises. As you start to increase your strength, try a gentle Pilates or Yoga class. Pace yourself and rest when you need too.
How often should I be exercising?
After your postnatal check there’s no set target but rather a case of taking each day as it comes and re-gaining strength and stamina (at the pace your body wants too). Whether you’ve given birth or not when I’m coaching clients I’m a firm believer to move in a way that feels good for your body. Don’t put pressure on yourself, when your body is ready to move more, it will tell you.
I’m really struggling to fit in exercise, it’s an achievement to get me and the baby dressed in the morning. How can I manage to do more?
Personal training and classes are great however there are some helpful apps and online trainers that can provide you with exercise to do in your home or anywhere with minimal equipment . Try to set aside time for you – this is a form of self-care and self-respect to your body. Try taking your baby out in your new stroller and enjoy the benefits of being active outdoors – both you and baby will love it.
My body is not snapping back into shape. What on earth am I doing wrong?
Regardless of how your body is healing post-birth it is important to embrace, appreciate and celebrate your body. We are often so caught up in our current culture to compare ourselves to strangers online. The ‘super mum’ transformations you see are an unrealistic goal for most women and often don’t reveal the whole story behind the image. Celebrate your body for the miracle it’s been through – it is a gift and so is your baby.
I had a C section, how soon can I exercise? Do I need to do anything special to protect my scar?
If it feels right for you, start sooner rather than later. You’re not ‘exercising’ in the first 0-6 weeks, you’re breathing and re-connecting your brain to your tummy and this is laying a foundation for regaining abdominal strength. A current client of mine who neglected core exercises after her C section has found it much harder to regain core strength a few years later. Getting her first unassisted sit up has been challenging and I can understand why the research suggests starting small but soon after. Scarring is different for everyone as is healing: always contact your GP to get the okay on beginning more vigorous exercise.
I’m finding I don’t have much energy, what should I be eating to fuel me up properly?
A dramatic cut in calories is not recommend, especially to those mums breast feeding as you’ll be short changing yourself and your baby. Try and make sure you are having a balance or carbohydrates, protein and essential fats to keep you full and fuelled as your body repairs. Stress, lack of sleep (unavoidable for a new mother) can trigger sugary cravings but will only hinder the healing process. Drink lots of water, herbal teas and water-rich foods to stay hydrated. What you consume plays an important part in your body’s ability to heal post-birth. Ideally you want to ensure your diet is rich in good protein, with plenty of green and deep coloured vegetables. To ensure your fuelling your body with micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) include berries and fibrous vegetables and fruits.
All my friends are doing classes, going running, doing all sorts, they’re fighting fit after giving birth, but I really am not. Do you have any advice for me? I feel like I’m failing.
Set small goals in the beginning – stay positive and be flexible. Just because you can’t train for a marathon right now doesn’t mean you can’t stay active. Never compare yourself with anyone else. While each pregnancy journey has a common thread that connects women, your personal experience and relationship with your body will always be your own.
More about Meg
For as long as I can remember fitness and dance have always been a huge part of my life. Following this passion led me to graduating from Bath Spa University with a First Class Degree in Dance in 2016. On returning to my family home in the Lake District, I spent two years as a freelance dance artist with a portfolio career and I found myself wanting to merge my enthusiasm for fitness and dance. After qualifying as a Personal Trainer I opened a private personal training studio in Penrith, Cumbria. Alongside the bespoke training in the studio, I offer all-female fitness classes and boutique fitness events. Through Move by Meg I aim to empower women to move into their strongest, fittest and most confident selves.