So you’re starting to think about getting back into exercise postpartum?
This post will cover some exercises to help get you started. They will ease you back into movement and provide some much needed support to your postpartum body.
In these first 6-8 weeks, we can begin by connecting your breath, activating your core, addressing tightness in those muscles that work overtime compensating for poor abdominal strength (back and hip flexors), and addressing tightness from nursing postures and holding the baby.
While these exercises are ideal for weeks 2-8 postpartum, you can be 6 years postpartum, apply these exercises for the first time and feel the benefits – even if you are in relatively good shape already.
You may find that the exercises below are every bit as mental than they are physical. We need to get your brain talking to your core muscles again!
Speaking of brains, often it’s our minds that are ready before our bodies. This whole getting back into exercise thing ends up being more like a “should” than what’ your body and mind actually need. Running is part of your identity - I get that! Trust me; I’ve been there.
Taking it one purposeful step at a time and learning to tune back into the needs of your body will get you back too 100 the fastest even if it feels slow in the beginning!
In the first few weeks focus first on REST. Relearn how to take care of your most basic needs now that you are also caring for another human life.
Drink plenty of water.
Practice, asking for help (more than you think you “should”)
As you start to feel better, you can go for very short walks. BUT also remember, even though you can't see it, you are recovering from a very large injury on the inside. The area where the placenta was attached is now very much like an open wound on the inside. It takes an average of 4-6 weeks (and can take up to 10) for this to heal.
All of this is to say… recovering from pregnancy and birth is a big deal both mentally and physically.
Give yourself grace. It can be both beautiful and traumatic AT THE SAME TIME and that’s ok!
It's important to note that you don’t have to be doing anything, but if you feel like you need to be doing something these suggestions are for you.
Take it day by day, don't even let the word “should” enter your vocabulary.
Or 2 -6 with cesarean.
The goal of these exercises: mobility, connecting with the breath, and reducing tension/pain.
Focus on breathing deep, expanding into your side and back ribs and relaxing your pelvic floor.
Inhale open, hold for a few deep breaths, exhale closed.
Supine Arm Slides
Breathe as you slide your arms over your head without arching your back.
Hip Flexor Release
Feel the release in the hamstring of the bottom leg.
Focus first on more subtle motions, moving through the pelvis. Can you move into flexion (the more rounded spine) without squeezing your glutes (aka. using your core)?
...and make an appointment to see a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Click here for my Postpartum Exercise Blueprint with a print out including pictures and additional details and cues for each of these exercises.
Or following the previous set where applicable.
The goal of these exercises: mobility, activating the core and pelvic floor, extending and activating the glutes, and reducing tension/pain.
Side-Lying Rib Expansion
Curl into a ball to block the expansion of your belly and allow your air to stretch your sides and back from the inside.
Set yourself up with a really good inhale, exhale forcefully as you squeeze the ball between your legs, engage your pelvic floor and then your core from the bottom up.
Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Stay square. Don’t drive the hips forward, if you don’t feel the stretch, don’t force it. You simply may not need it.
Engage the back glute and slightly tuck the bottom to prevent arching your back.
Arm Wall Slides
Breathe as you move your arms overhead without moving through your low back.
Practice this movement pattern throughout daily life. Bend by extending through the glutes not through flexing the spine.
Like the hip hinge, move with your hamstrings and glutes not your low back.
Keep your torso aligned, ribs stacked over the pelvis as you sit back into your glutes.
***note when I put my hand on my belly in the videos it is NOT to say suck in your belly, it’s a reminder to take the arch out of your back with slight tension in the core.
...and go see a pelvic floor physical therapist!!
Click here for my Postpartum "Ready to Run" Checklist to progress from here!
Once cleared for exercise, it does not mean go right back to running or other high impact exercise from here (sorry).
These exercises here are the foundations for the full strategy we follow in my RUN Moms Strong: Postpartum Foundations Course.
...so that you can return to running with strength and confidence (and without postpartum symptoms).
I put "Re" in parenthesis above there because it's something that many people never master - having babies or not. That's what makes this time an OPPORTUNITY to slow down and build a better foundation to run on!