It's safe to say that pregnancy and its effect on a woman’s body is as intense an experience as it is unique and more often than not did I find myself questioning all kinds of advice I’d read online or received from a friend who’d had a baby at the same time as me. Don’t get me wrong, exchanging our experiences and sharing with others has been incredibly helpful but at the end of the day, our experiences vary - and sometimes greatly.
So, when I had heard my friends’ stories about getting back into a workout routine post-baby, I was curious how my experience would be.
I had always been fairly fit and had developed a love for running years ago, so I was anticipating grabbing my running shoes and hitting the park once I had recovered. On top of that, I’d been so good with my Pilates that I thought my pelvic floor would be just fine. In my mind, I’d pretty much be running again soon enough.
Before I dive into my journey returning back to running, I just want to say this: Don’t underestimate the power of your pelvic floor training. While it may not seem like you’re doing much, you will thank yourself later for exercising them by simply contracting and releasing your pelvic muscles while you’re on the bus or watching TV, because your pelvic floor quite literally keeps your organs in check when running and controls other bodily functions because…
1. You might just pee yourself during the first couple of laps around the block
I remember how free I used to feel when I ran. It wasn’t quite like anything else and made me feel invincible. Post-baby, those feelings were quickly replaced by at first not feeling like myself closely followed by being extremely embarrassed. But after all, I had just peed my pants in a public place! Something that hadn't happened to me since I was a little kid myself. That needed a bit of processing, BUT, it got better.
For me, it took a while but I took it day by day to adjust slowly. I tried to overall run lighter to avoid hitting the ground too hard with my feet causing my body to tremble more than was necessary. I also simply changed up my outdoor workout and instead of running, did stair workouts. Simply walking up and down a set of stairs felt more easily controllable to me while still being challenging.
2. Core exercises will not be the same - for some time to come
I have two words for you: diastasis recti aka abdominal separation. It’s extremely common, which is why it deserves to be part of my "Post-baby Hall of Fame of Weird Stuff Happening During Post-natal Workouts".
Back to the aforementioned abdominal separation. Due to your growing baby, your abdominal wall separates and will need significant training post-birth to grow back together. Some of my fellow postnatal Pilates friends haven’t given birth in years and still struggle with ab work due to never rehabbing their diastasis recti.
3. You will - most likely - need to invest in some new sportswear (bras in particular)
Being comfortable while working out is so important and can influence your motivation a lot. In my case, I had to stock up on a few new sports bras because my seemingly tiny exercise bras suddenly didn’t have enough room for the set of bigger boobs I was now equipped with. Also, depending on the days, you might need to up your shoe size because your feet can swell up quite a bit.
4. Getting your workouts in will be much more challenging
It literally takes a village to get a lot of stuff done now that you have a newborn at home. Everyone had told me about it, I had read about it in magazines and blogs but never truly knew until I was in the situation myself. Since I am currently on maternity leave and my partner is working from home full time to comply with safety measures due to Covid-19, I have someone in the house with me all the time who can support me and look after my little one while I do my exercises.
Having a schedule helps us structure the days which makes me feel more accountable, and most importantly, helps me remember what day it is in the first place.
5. Doing very different kinds of workouts for some time to come
If you were used to hitting it hard before you became pregnant and were hoping to get back to your high-intensity workouts rather sooner than later, you have my sympathy. I, too, was overly excited to feel like my pre-baby self again but nine months of being pregnant definitely helped create a different kind of mindset and changed my approach to exercise. At first, I felt disheartened that I wasn’t going to be able to smash out the famed Bodypump workouts that I loved so much but you know what? I learned to love new kinds of working out. I had always loved being in the water, so water aerobics became my new favorite. Trust me, it is the best form of exercise, especially in the summer, and is so gentle on your joints - your body will thank you. And the best part? Feeling sweaty isn’t really such an issue when you're in the water.
Whether you've already been really active before becoming pregnant or are just warming up to exercising post-baby, checking in with your doctor should be the first step toward a fitness routine. Our bodies have done incredible things bringing new life into the world so we should respect them and treat them lovingly, which sometimes means taking a step back and easing into things. You'll get there, Mama.
Share with us in the comments below: What have your experiences post-baby been when getting back to a workout routine?