When I found out I was pregnant with our first child, I set out to train for this birth like it was a marathon. I respected my body by cutting out high intensity training and kept my heart rate in a safe zone, but I was determined to prepare my body like it were a competition.
And the prize at the end. . . my sweet bundle of joy!
My goal was to be flexible, strong, and agile enough to make it through this season of my life with as few battle wounds as possible.
I was surprised though that despite my work to stay strong through pregnancy, I shared the same experience as all new moms. My muscles felt weak in my midsection, I acquired bad posture, my body ached, and I experienced general fatigue.
By combining my experience with my expertise in how the body moves and heals I found three areas that can’t be skipped on the road to post partum recovery. Here are the three strategies I recommend new moms incorporate into their exercise routines to regain strength, an optimal level of activity, and remain pain free.
The “12 weeks to a Rockin’ Post Baby Body” (or whatever plan you can find on Pinterest) can wait until you master these areas first.
1. Gently work your core
For many moms, the first sign of lack of strength comes when your back starts to ache while holding that tiny baby. Since the abdominal muscles aren’t providing their usual support, your back is working overtime to keep your body upright.
Before hitting the floor for crunches or planks, we must first work on abdominal bracing. Lying on the floor with knees bent and feet flat, contract your stomach muscles while pulling your belly button in toward your spine. The hard part. . . don’t hold your breath!
From this same face up position on the floor, try a pelvic tilt by pressing your low back into the floor. Hold this position for five seconds and then repeat.These may sound “too simple” but they are the best way to tighten, tone, and strengthen the weak core muscles.
2. Retrain Your posture
It’s natural and normal for your posture to change during pregnancy. Post partum feeding, changing, and holding a baby affects your posture as well. So be sure to incorporate exercises to strengthen the back and postural muscles.
To find a good sitting position, sit with your feet flat on the floor using a stool if necessary. It is helpful to use a rolled towel or pillow across your low back to help hold the natural curve of your back.
To improve standing posture, work on gentle wall or ball squats with a straight upright posture. This is also the posture you want to maintain when lifting your baby. Improved sitting and standing posture will improve aches and pains, as well as decrease injury.
3. Involve breathing in exercise
I know we breath during all exercise, but I am talking about intentional breathing. Belly breathing involves allowing your stomach to expand and contract while you actively inhale and exhale as deeply as possible.
This is a great exercise in itself. It sends relaxing hormones to tense muscles and can help manage stress. In addition, the diaphragm is the top of your abdominal cavity and plays a role in assisting core and pelvic floor muscles to do their job correctly.
There is so much I could so about breathing, so to learn more, check out these previous posts . . . Are you a chest or belly breather? (. . . and why it matters!) and 3 Ways Breathing Leads to a Flatter Stomach .
Ready to Progress Your Training?
As your body recovers and you progress your training, don’t forget about these basics. You can continue to utilize these techniques as part of a warm up or cool down for a strength or cardio session.
If you experience pain during a class, or any postpartum exercise please know this is NOT a normal part of recovery.
If you want to dive deeper into how to best heal your body in this 4th trimester (or any period postpartum), request information about our next 4th Trimester ReBoot Class. It’s a 5 week program that discusses everything from optimal postpartum nutrition and fitness progression to pelvic health and digestion.
All your questions will be answered and you can move more confidently into this season empowered to live your ideal postpartum lifestyle. Just click the link below for the details.