In this blog post, we explore the 5 different stages of postnatal fitness and talk you though some movements and workout options which can support you through this transitional period.
STAGE 1: GENTLE MOVEMENT & PELVIC FLOOR CONNECTION
After giving birth, it’s important that you begin to move and workout at a level which is comfortable for you. In the first few weeks, this might simply be a case of feeling strong enough to go out for a walk with the stroller. This is a great option to start with as you start to introduce gentle exercise into your daily routine. It’s also valuable at this stage to focus on small reconnection kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This involves contracting these muscles and can involve holding for a few seconds and releasing or you can try for more rapid contractions. You don’t need to worry about how strong you feel or how long you can hold these contractions for at this stage, just start to reconnect with your pelvic floor muscles and gradually build up your repetitions. It can also be nice time to practice simple breathing exercises or small daily meditation practices involving deep belly breathing, whilst lying down. All in all, just give your body time to recover, move a little when you feel ready and start to reconnect with your core muscles.
STAGE 2: STRETCH, RECONNECT & BREATHE
As you start to feel stronger and more energised, you can bring some more intense movement back into your fitness routine. It’s valuable at this time to focus on strengthening your overall core muscles with a focus on additional pelvic floor work and breathing practises. It’s also a good time to introduce some dynamic stretches to start move and mobilise the muscles and joints which may have become stiff during pregnancy.
Pelvic floor exercises (try these lying down, then sitting down and finally standing up)
- Try 10 short rapid squeezes (repeat 3 times)
- 10 long squeezes (holding each for 5-10 seconds)
Connecting this to your breath…
- Exhale as you squeeze
- Try some deeper belly breaths and then hold the squeeze for the full length of your exhale (repeat 10 times)
- Chest mobiliser
- 3D matrix stretch – version A
- 3D matrix stretch – version B
- All fours thoracic twists
- Kneeling quad stretch
These are shown in the video below…
STAGE 3: FIT FOR FUNCTION
The goal is now to get your body and your pelvic floor muscles ‘fit for function’, without you really needing to think about engaging these muscles each time you move.
It’s a case of trying to teach your body how to reconnect your pelvic floor muscles when walking, reaching, lunging, twisting, lifting, pressing and pulling. At Beattitude we don’t believe that lying on the floor doing hip raises is going to help you become ‘fit for function’. As a mother you’re lifting your baby up and down, moving around a car seat, carrying shopping and attempting to do many tasks one handed whilst your baby is balanced on one hip. Therefore, we believe in getting you on your feet, performing some full-body movements whilst incorporating the breathing and pelvic floor practises that you explored in stage 2. Getting you ‘fit for function’ means integrating exercises which elevate your ability to connect to your pelvic floor, with the addition of more dynamic movement and work with weights.
Moves that are really good for this…
- Dumbbell swings
- Bent over row
- Side lean over
- Kneeling to standing
- Using 5-10kg dumbbells
- 8-10 reps of each exercise
- Repeat 5 times thorough
STAGE 4: ADD A SPRING TO YOUR STEP
The aim of this stage is to improve the overall strength of your body and your pelvic floor muscles to prepare you for bouncing movements. This is not yet the time for high-impact jumps, but we are introducing controlled bouncing and increasing the level of impact and intensity of your movements.
The impact level moves from more stationary and static, to bouncy and travelling and you can also start to use heavier weights. Weights are such a great tool to strengthen your body and bouncy movements enable you to retrain your pelvic floor to withstand impact, but without overloading it too much.
Before you do eventually move back into more high impact moves, you nee to increase your muscle tone and strength. This can be achieved by increasing the length of the exercises you perform (more reps), using heavier weights, introducing change of direction (side lunge rather than forward) and increasing the intensity and range of certain movements (higher box step up or longer lunges for example). All of these shifts will prepare your body for more hight impact movements such as those found in HIIT classes, so that you can return to working your body in a safe and efficient way.
STAGE 5: MOVING TO HIGH IMPACT
Now is the time to move towards higher impact movements. It’s a good idea to start to add in some plyometric ‘jumping’ exercises to your workout. This way your body experiences short sharp bursts of having to stay strong whilst performing impact exercises. This will help prepare your body for if you want to start running, spinning or retuning to HIIT workouts.
Please note that each stage which has been outlined in this article is only a guide and when to move from one stage to another is individual to each person. Every woman has a different experience of pregnancy and birth, so it’s important that you only progress through these stages when you feel yourself that you are ready. It’s important that you consult your health practitioner to check that you are safe to return to exercise and that you are not experiencing any issues with you pelvic floor or with diastasis (separation of the abdominals). If you do have symptoms of diastasis, this means there is more pressure on the pelvic floor, so it’s important that you seek medical advice before progressing through these stages of postnatal fitness.