Just One Thing - Postnatal Fitness
Almost as soon as your baby has left your body, there is a pressure to get your 'pre-baby body' back. There are images of celebrities with washboard stomachs within weeks of giving birth, and a growing proliferation of 'get fit quick' postnatal exercise classes.
Thankfully, there are also people like the wonderful Lulu Adams who encourage women to get their fitness back slowly and with compassion for what your body has been through already.
Lulu, a personal trainer and fitness instructor, takes a holistic approach to fitness and wellbeing - considering not just physical but mental health too. Her 'Just One Thing' message for new mums? "Do not rush"
Do not rush. After labour, your tummy will be very jelly-like for a few days. You’ll feel much softer and have considerably more rolls than you did pre-pregnancy, and for some new mummies, this is enough to stir up a massive panic and a desperate digging out of old trainers from the back of the wardrobe ready for them to pop out for a run as soon as they can hand the baby over to their partner for half an hour. But just because the baby is out of its little, warm cocoon inside you and is now a fully fledged member of the big wide world – does not mean you are expected to get back to normal life straight away.
Please appreciate what your body has been through.
It has grown (from scratch) and housed a 3-4kg little person for the most part of ten whole months, along with a fairly sizeable placenta, amniotic fluid, extra blood, extra water, and in all likelihood, some degree of maternal fat that is required in order to provide extra energy for labour and breastfeeding. It’s also managed to get said little darling out of what has always seemed to be quite a small ‘exit route’, and childbirth in itself (whatever the style) comes with a whole host of physical consequences.
So shut those glossy celeb magazines that seem to worship the yummy mummies who have ‘snapped back into shape’ and are out and about attending glitzy parties just WEEKS after giving birth, and instead, focus on nesting at home, bonding with your baby and nurturing your healing body.
Our bodies are incredibly good at sorting sh*t out on its own, but we need to provide it with the optimal environment to do so. Plenty of water, a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet, and most importantly, REST will give your body the best chance possible of recovering well.
Having said that though, I am also a firm believer that everyone – gym bunny or not – should have some awareness of the need to ‘rehabilitate’ and re-strengthen your body after birth, if anything in order to allow you to cope with the physical demands of motherhood without having to put up with niggling aches, pains and possible leaks, but especially if you do want to resume a fit and healthy lifestyle, and want to get back into regular exercise.
Begin with gentle walks (no more than twenty minutes a day in the first six weeks) and check in with how your body feels as you walk. Notice any areas of weakness, aching, and definitely make a note of any recurring pain. Read up on the simple pelvic floor and deep core exercises that are suitable for early postnatal period – and give these a try if you are feeling up to it. There is absolutely no rush, but just be aware that this should always be your starting point. Even if you wait til 4-5 months after giving birth to start thinking about exercising again, you should ALWAYS start with the basics.
You should be offered a six week check up with your GP, and this is when you should speak up about any persistant pain and/or worries you might have. They rarely do a detailed examination of your tummy or your pelvic floor, so if you have any concerns (if you are still leaking when walking, sneezing, coughing, or if your abdomen still feels particularly weak and you still see some ‘doming’ when getting in and out of bed, for example) SPEAK UP and ask for a referral to a women’s health physiotherapist. If they are unable to offer you a referral, or it looks like it might take a while, there are some amazing private WHP’s out there. Have a look at www.themummymot.com, as they offer a great search facility which enables you to find a reputable WHP near you.
Lulu Adams, Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor