‘When can I run again’?’ ‘When can I go back to my HIIT workouts?’ If you’re wondering these yourself then this is the blog for you.
We’re always very keen to get back to ‘what we used to be like’ but your body has altered in a way that you should be both open to and proud of. It may sound horrible to you but this is the thing…your body has changed; what you have now is a new body, one that you can shape into whatever you desire. Let’s please put down the notion that you can get your body ‘back’. You have a new one, so let’s work with this one and get to where you want to go to.
Ok, the juicy stuff…
STAGE 1: MOVE
After giving birth it is important that you simply just move at a level that is comfortable for you. As the days go by you might feel strong enough to go for a walk, which is a great option to start with. We always say to our clients walk, stretch a little and just get used to your new body. Find out where you feel stiff, what positions feel comfortable and less comfortable. During this stage, be mindful of your breastfeeding position as well. The first 8 weeks of your post natal journey are when your tummy muscles are working their way back, so focussing on a decent breastfeeding seated position will help them.
STAGE 2: CONNECTION THROUGH FOCUS AND BREATH
We advise that stage 2 happens at some point during stage 1; when you feel that ‘down there’ feels less sore. Stage two is squeezes, breathwork and specific stretches. We need to start to connect the pelvic floor, core and other muscles together. Pregnancy altered your posture, centre of gravity, your lungs and ribs get squashed right up to make room for the baby and labour puts a strain on the pelvic floor. So, stage 2 is just learning to make the connection between breath, core, pelvic floor and get strong posture again. Try 10 short squeezes, and then 10 long squeezes, try this sitting down and standing up. Then try the breath work with it – exhale as you squeeze – and try to squeeze for the length of time of your exhale, repeat 10 times. Stretch your chest, biceps, hip flexors and front of thighs.
STAGE 3: CONNECTION THROUGH FUNCTION
Now we need to teach your body how to reconnect that pelvic floor to your moving body; walking, reaching, lunging, twisting, lifting, pressing and pulling. Lying on the floor doing hip raises is not going to get you anywhere. We spend 90% of our time moving not lying down. Stage 3 is all about incorporating that breathwork and ‘squeeze’ with some specific full body movements. What we mean by specific is not just burpees, sitting on the bike or press ups; these do very little to actually support post natal goals. We are talking about body movements that will actually help your body remember how to activate your pelvic floor without having to think ‘ok squeeze and then lift’, as well as strengthen your posture and tone you up (because let’s face it you’re all dying to get that!). No-one wants to have to think ‘squeeze and lift’ their entire life!
The positions you put your feet in when doing a squat will most definitely help to do this, we use a variety of different foot positions in our classes to help this. Also using small weights to work on lengthening movements and avoiding movements such as press ups, sit ups, burpees, and planks will put you in a much quicker position to strengthen the body, core and pelvic floor. This stage should get you sweaty and out of breath but without impact movement or weights that are too heavy for you. Revive is one of the best classes for this. We have worked with some highly trained post natal specialists, osteopaths and movement specialists on this programming. If you want to book a free Revive class then click here.
STAGE 4: INCREASING OPTIMAL LEVEL OF FUNCTIONALITY
Ok, so now it’s time to increase the level and intensity of all that you have been doing. You can do this ANY way you please but please do not go into high impact movements. Your body needs to increase its level of optimal function i.e. the level that your body is capable of performing an exercise or technique without failure or injury. If you move to high impact (i.e. jumping and running) at this stage you are going from 10mph to 99mph. Before high impact moves you have so many ways to increase your tone, strength, fitness, pelvic floor function and core. For example; increasing length of the exercise (lunge further), add more weight (heavier), change direction (doing a side lunge instead of forward), change up the height (higher box step up) and so on. Get strong before you get jumping.
STAGE 5: MOVING TO HIGH IMPACT
Before you go running, start to add in some plyometric ‘jumping’ exercises to your workout. This way your body has had short sharp bursts of having to stay strong in impact. Once you have done this you’re ready to run!
Please note that each stage and moving on from one stage to another is individual to each person. Births are different, so are pregnancies. Only move on stages when you feel yourself that you are not having any issues with pelvic floor. And lastly – diastasis (separation of the abdominals) means there is more pressure on the pelvic floor, so get advice before progressing if you know that you currently have diastasis.
There you have it. The 5 stages. If you want and advice or to talk through what we have at Beattitude that can help you then just give us an email or a call. We’re all experts in this, so just ask us. We would love to help.
WHERE TO GET SOME HELP
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Siobhan is Beattitude’s founder, Women’ health and fitness specialist. She is a CAFS certified movement specialist, Personal Trainer and straight talking Yorkshire girl. She has trained women for over 10 years, and helped hundreds with pelvic floor issues, incontinence, diastasis and weight loss.