Having a baby is one of the biggest life changing events that can ever happen to a woman, both emotionally and physically. It is one of the most wonderful experiences but can also be very demanding on your body.
Luckily during my pregnancy I was fit and healthy and able to train throughout the duration of the training, (see my blog on exercising during pregnancy). I trained up until 36 weeks, both cardio and weights, and stopped at 36 weeks due to pure discomfort as baby was fully engaged and I was finding sitting and walking difficult let alone anything else! Prior to this I felt great whilst exercising in my pregnancy and due to this I had no back pain, swelling or joint pain and I am adamant this is down to exercising. As a fitness instructor myself I exercise for a number of reasons, mainly for health benefits, emotional and physical and also as it is my job. I like to be a positive role model for my clients and I was desperate to exercise again once I had given birth.
Initially once I had given birth I was in immense discomfort (understandably), and as I had to have an episiotomy the stitches were a lot more uncomfortable than I anticipated and although I was keen to get back to exercise as soon as possible I was fully aware that I needed to allow my body to heal first.
I got out the house the day after I came home from hospital and having a dog that needs regular walking ensured I got off my backside and remained active. I began with short walks on flat terrains and gradually as I began to heal, I lengthened the distance and tested myself a bit on the terrain and ensured as I walked I was out of breath and increased my heart rate.
Happy baby, happy doggy and happy mummy as the endorphins were pumping allowing positive emotions rather than any negative ones which a lot of mums suffer from after giving birth. Luckily I did not suffer from any of this and again I put a lot of that down to remaining active and allowing those endorphins to flow.
I took photos of my body the day after I gave birth so I had a target to work towards. As a breastfeeding Mum I was very aware that I needed to eat regularly and graze throughout the day. Luckily I anticipated the madness of becoming a new mummy in advance and had cooked and froze some healthy meals in advance which I found extremely helpful. I have a massive sweet tooth and love cakes and pastries and I found for the first 4 weeks I was eating cake pretty much every day and although I was eating healthy meals I had massively relaxed on the ‘healthy eating’ with regards to the snacks. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t eating crisps or chocolate back to back but I was having a slice of cake pretty much on a daily basis. After about 6 weeks I decided I was ready to get back on the ‘healthy eating’ regime.
On week 4 after birth my husband was working away so I had to deliver our bootcamp session. Although I didn’t join in fully by any means, I did however do some light exercise with some squats and lunges. The next day I felt great and enjoyed feeling that my muscles ached slightly. I grew in confidence after this as I felt no contrary indications and my stitches felt fine so 3 days later I tried again and pushed myself a little bit more. Unfortunately this time I pushed myself a little too far and to say the least I had definitely done too much and internally I felt like I had done some damage to my stitches. The following week I rested totally to allow my body to rest and I tried again on week 6 and was just very careful to listen to my body and to take things steady.
I was very surprised at how weak my pelvic floor was, especially as I had done a lot of work on it during pregnancy, but I think my forcep delivery left me with damaged nerve endings. This but a massive spanner in the works with regards to my pelvic floor that I had worked so hard on making strong. I ensured after delivery that I continued training it and every time I fed my baby I performed some pelvic floor exercises which helped me to remember when to do them.
Gradually I upped my exercise and started on body weight exercises before introducing additional weights and started with a 5k run and tried to increase my pace each week. I found the more I exercised, as long as I listened to my body, my pelvic floor strengthened through leg and glute exercises as well as pelvic floor specific exercises.
By listening to my body and pushing myself very gradually and increasing the intensity by the week I was back participating in all my regular activities before I knew it. This however is not to be misunderstood by everything was as it was pre baby! Things are very different anatomically! Pelvic floor is still weak so jumping and bouncing exercises are a challenge! It is important to empty your bladder before attempting any type of exercise I found! Gradually as the weeks went on my pelvic floor has strengthened but still 5 months down the line it is still not as it was pre baby!
It is not just the pelvic floor muscles which have changed! As a breastfeeding mum it is crucial to drink plenty in order to keep up the supply and this is even more prevalent when sweating during exercise. I found it was a lot more comfortable to feed my baby before exercise and to ensure that I wore a decent sports bra! Very important to look after your boobs now more than ever before! Exercise can also increase your milk flow so ensure that you don’t wear a grey t shirt and ensure that you wear breast pads!!!
Hormones are a crazy thing and as well as how you feel mentally they also affect how you are physically. Relaxin is a hormone which is released during pregnancy and can stay in your body after birth for a while, in particular stays longer in breastfeeding mums. Relaxin does what it says on the tin and ensures that your body relaxes anatomically in preparation for birth. This includes your ligaments and tendons holding your joints in position. It is really careful that whilst relaxin is still present in your body that you are careful not to over stretch and careful during bouncing (ballistic) type activities as there is a slight risk of dislocation.
I have found there are plenty of excuses that I could find not to exercise pre baby, but I can guarantee there is plenty more to be found post baby! This being said one of my favourite sayings is, ‘you will never regret a workout’ and you always feel better afterwards! If your baby is anything like my baby and sleeps during motion, exercising with your baby is one of the best ways to ensure that baby has a good nap. For me it is a fail safe way to get my baby to sleep. On an evening before bedtime when baby can tend to be cranky, I have found a home work out entertains baby as well as ensuring I get a sweat on!
The pros will always outweigh the cons when it comes to exercise!
Healthy Hearts 4 All Staff
Healthy Hearts 4 All specialise in Fitness, Nutrition, Weight Management and Health improvement. We deliver fitness, exercise, nutrition, weight management and health improvement programmes and advise for people who want to achieve and/or maintain a healthy lifestyle.