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7 Mistakes Women Make When Training After Childbirth

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When done well, strength and endurance training will support all the transitions that happen in the body and in life following childbirth. We all want to feel strong, energetic, and competent in our bodies and training can give us just that.

However, new moms often jump into exercise after their 6 week follow-up with their doctor without much thought to how their body has changed, how it needs to heal, and how the exercise they choose will serve them in the long run. Postpartum health and fitness must be a long game approach - not a quick fix.

Two primary goals of returning to physical activity and training after childbirth should be to restore the function of the core and pelvic floor while improving overall stability. This can only happen with a graded (slowly increasing intensity and demand over time) approach that is respectful of the healing process.

Healing process? Yes, just like an injury, illness, or surgery the body must heal after the demands that were put on it in childbirth. It should be the primary focus of the fourth trimester. We spend a lot of time, energy, and even money investing in our health and well being during the three trimesters of pregnancy, but must not neglect our body after baby is here.

You can properly heal, return to fitness, and meet your training goals after childbirth by avoiding the 7 most common mistakes I see women make in the 4th trimester and beyond.

  1. Ignoring Current Life Stresses

    It was stressful on your body to carry and deliver a baby - even if you had an “easy” pregnancy. And then you are thrown into one of the most demanding seasons of life.

    Being a new mom can be very stressful. You are now taking care of a whole new human - possibly in addition to other small kids at home. There are new routines, lack of sleep,

    It’s important to recognize these life stressors when choosing the type and intensity of training you will begin with. . / because exercise - although it has many positive benefits - is a stress on the body as well.

  2. Focusing Only on Body Fat Loss

    I know there is a lot of pressure to lose “baby weight” and self confidence tied up in wearing your favorite jeans again. And with proper training and nutrition the body fat loss will come.

    However, when this is the primary focus, we lose sight of getting our body back into proper alignment, restoring our energy, and building strength and resiliency we will need for this new job called motherhood. So, set a few goals for yourself and your training that don’t revolve around a dress size or number on the scale.

  3. Not Adequately Fueling for Workouts and Life

    Pregnancy and breastfeeding literally suck your nutrient stores dry. In addition, the healing process requires more than the “recommended daily allowance” of many vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids, and fatty acids.

    If you aren’t adequately fueling your body you will find your muscles sore, energy depleted, and injury prone. Get some expert help if you aren’t sure if you are fueling optimally as you return to training. This is critical to both feeling great and getting the results you want from your training.

  4. Getting the Timing Wrong

    Too soon or too late can both be a problem with training. It’s best to consider your training goals over the next few months even during the first few weeks after delivery. You can start preparing your body with light movement, stretching, and restorative activities.

    In addition, jumping right back in 100% after being cleared for exercise by the doctor isn’t the best plan either. The key - start early, move often, and progress to higher level exercise only when you know your body is ready for it.

  5. Skip the Basics of Breathing

    Breathing is the first “training” activity you can begin after childbirth. Nearly immediately, you can focus on your breath, expanding your rib cage, and getting oxygen to all the tissues that need help healing.

    When you skip training your breath, you are at an increased risk for core and pelvic floor problems . . . and higher coritsol levels that result in your body holding onto body fat.

  6. Forgetting About Form and Posture

    After childbirth your body isn’t quite lined up the way it used to be. Then we stoop over to pick up children, lug a carrier on one arm, and round our shoulders forward as we feed the baby.

    We need to remember proper form and posture during our everyday life, but it’s even more important when we return to training activities. Starting an exercise program with a trained postnatal specialist can help ensure you are getting this right.

  7. Neglecting the Pelvic Floor

    We want strong legs, flatter tummy, or toned arms from our training but we often forget about our pelvic floor. Even if you were active during pregnancy like I was - and did your kegels like your girlfriends told you too - there is no way that your pelvic floor could go through the adaptations and stresses it did to bring a baby into this world unaffected.

    Returning to training or pre-pregnancy workouts could do more harm than good without regaining function in this area. A specific core and pelvic floor restoration program is the best way to do this, which includes education on body alignment, good breathing techniques, and the most beneficial exercises and stretches to strengthen and relax the core and pelvic floor muscles. Sorry ladies, but Kegels aren’t enough!

Feeling overwhelmed by these “rules”? Don’t just give up on training, because it is one of the best things (next maybe to sleep) that you can do for your body, your healing process, and your mental health as a mom.

The best advise I can give you is to get some health. As a Doctor of Physical Therapy that specializes in Postpartum (4th trimester) health, I work with women to successful return to the level of training they desire without making these mistakes. Send me an e-mail today with your questions and concerns and we can see if working together on this would be the next best step for you.

Just want some more answers to your postpartum questions (all the things that keep you worrying “is this normal?”) . . . request my FREE Postpartum {Mind & Body} Healing Checklist by clicking the link below.