Image by Dain Sandoval
By Dr. Lindsey Mathews, Contributing Writer
Most of the women I work with are athletes. Meaning that they participate in regular athletic events from marathons to crossfit to yoga to pilates to swimming. Majority of these women participated in their respective athletic events throughout their pregnancy. Of course, they had modifications here and there based on how they were feeling on a particular day, or how big their baby bump had gotten. But, they remained active throughout their entire pregnancy.
So, once these athletes had their babies, it was only natural to for them to be anxious about getting back into their routine, which includes the gym or studio. Within days, some women will go to the gym and quickly become discouraged because their fitness levels do not match what they were even during pregnancy. Within a few weeks, some women will beat themselves up emotionally because the ‘baby weight’ has not vanished yet.
YOU JUST HAD A BABY. You just spent 40 works creating a human inside of you. You just experienced a major event. Think you just won the CrossFit Games or you just won an Olympic gold medal. This involved every dimension of your soul from the physical you, to the emotional you, and the spiritual you. You mind, body, and spirit need time to process and recover.
Stop and breathe. Remember that each pregnancy is different. Your first pregnancy is definitely different than your second and third. Your pregnancy as compared to your best girl friend or sister is even significantly different. Approach each pregnancy, labor, and delivery with an open mind and open heart.
After the birth, allow yourself enough time to get to know your little one. There is no rush to get back in the gym or on the trails or in the water. All of that will still be there when the time is right for you to return to your desired activity.
The amount of activity you did prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy will definitely have an influence on your recovery. The time between one child and the next will also have an affect on your recovery. And, of course, nutrition prior and during pregnancy will affect your recovery. Don’t beat yourself up now if you slacked off on working out or did not eat as clean as possible. Just know that it is a factor and be aware of the food you are consuming now.
My firm requirement, black and white with no negotiations, is to not step foot in a gym to workout if it has been less than six weeks. I do believe that mom is a superhero. However, I want the new mama to spend time bonding and cultivating a relationship with her new baby. Watching your partner workout or walks with the baby are fine.
My soft requirement, as in there is wiggle room, is to let 12 weeks play out and see how it goes. If week eight rolls around and you are feeling good, then try out your usual class. Keep in mind that it will not feel the same. You may only want to do half of the workout or class. Keep your focus on your baby and slowly integrate your workouts.
Once you are back in the gym, eight weeks or even twelve weeks later, focus on movement. Just as during pregnancy, this is not the time for PRs. This is the time to re-introduce correct biomechanics to your body. This is the time to activate your glute muscles. This is the time to teach your lats to engage and to set your shoulders. This is the time to find and establish the hollow position, so that when you do start to move weight again that you do so correctly and efficiently.
Activating your glutes and engaging your whole core are probably the two most important things you can do throughout your pregnancy and again in the postpartum stage. Exercises such as squats and glute bridges are great. Finding the hollow position is a great full body activation. Click on the two links to find out more.
If you are worried about dropping wait after the baby, you shouldn’t be. But, I do understand it is on some women’s minds. Breastfeeding, walking, and the natural physiological processes within our bodies will contribute to getting rid of baby weight.
Be present. Don’t rush it. You will know when the time is right to return. And, above all don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes you 12 weeks or even 16 weeks to do any sort of fitness methodology. Respect and be grateful for your time you have with your new little special spirit.