It's been ages since I had a chance to add anything to my blog but today I felt incensed enough to need to share.
The internet is FULL of things that aren't always reality, that don't provide the full story or that mislead us in some ways. Post-partum bodies and fitness is absolutely one of these things. Time and time again I see both famous and non famous women give birth and "get their pre-baby bodies back". It's local, it's online, it's people you know and people you don't - everyone seems to immediately feel this pressure of wanting to regain themselves again.
I get it 100%. In fact in truth I found it with my first pregnancy and even more so with this one that it was HARD to "give up" my gains so to speak. It was HARD to accept my body needed to slow down, that I needed to modify exercises to suit either not physically being able to perform an exercise or knowing that I wasn't being helpful to the already strained body I had growing a baby.
It's that age old saying of "you don't appreciate what you have until you no longer have it". Because with fitness and strength you are always a work in progress I don't think that you'll ever be truly happy with your level of fitness - because there's always another level. When I look back at some videos I took before I fell pregnant this time round I'm in total appreciation of some of the high level things I was doing at the time I didn't even appreciate. I definitely to some extent despite having worked hard for that ability took it for granted it was easy to perform.
When you become pregnant it's obvious that you won't be working towards the same goals you had before - but in your head that's sometimes hard to hear because you have to let go of the achievements you've gained thus far. Of course you can continue to exercise and you should continue to exercise throughout pregnant for all kinds of amazing reasons but ultimately yes at some stage it will be a lesser level (although once you have a huge bump you might not feel it's easier of course haha)
Then we watch the press go mad over post birth women who've slendered themselves down within 10 days to look the same as before. Chuck that in along with feeling as lost as you can be in new motherhood it's not surprising we often feel that pressure to regain ourselves as soon as we can
I am not afraid to say that I miss my pre-pregnancy body - for function, for fitness, for clothes that fit and for simply being able to reach the sink to do the washing up. I am not afraid to say that I'll be wanting to recover it as soon as possible and there's absolutely nothing wrong in that. There's a difference however in the want and the journey.
So I would LOVE if on day 1 post birth I was performing life tasks like I was the day before I fell pregnant. Just imagine how much easier post birth recovery would be - new motherhood would be and general life with a newborn (and this time a toddler too). Reality is that that's of course completely out of the question unrealistic and any of those demands I might expect on my body are equally unrealistic and unhelpful.
I'm not even speaking from an aesthetic perspective here but from wanting a body to perform the way it did before. You wouldn't run a marathon and then expect the second you finished to then pick yourself up and say "Ok, let's do it all over again".
We know that current exercise guidelines dictate that you should wait until your 6 week GP sign off check to begin exercise. This is because your body is still healing. Regardless how you birth - whether straight forward or not, maybe a c section, maybe an episiotomy, maybe forceps, maybe even some greater trauma that extends past the physical body and affects you mentally also.
Many women take this 6 week appointment as clearance to go back to exercise - in particular those who were exercising beforehand might consider themselves to begin as they left off. The trouble with this is that the body is not the same machine it was even prior to birth. Often I see those women back to running, HIIT training, impact exercise and traditional abdominal work.
Again let's look at that marathon example - you've just completed one - but you were doing it beforehand so why not just run 18 miles again - you've still tapered it down so it must be ok, right?
Your GP sign off appointment is clearance that medically speaking you are safe to consider your rehabilitation programming - not that you are safe to join in the next HIIT class your gym has to offer. Your joints and body system including your hormones are just not geared up for this. Everyone is different of course and everyone's journey will be different depending on their conditioning prior to birth and their bodies response post birth - that means that you don't have to do nothing but to find the appropriate level for you.
Low impact exercise should be considered for the first 3 months at least - not least because the internal core will need rebuilding but your entire body needs it's posture re-jigging post pregnancy. For example your pelvis tilts during pregnancy to allow for the bump to grow - this means stretched out abdominals and a weaker posterior chain (everything from back of your ankles up to your neck) - without both of these things firing optimally it places more stress on your pelvic floor, core, back, knees and other joints.
It would be reasonable to expect Usain Bolt - one of the most conditioned individuals around right now to consider that if he had an injury he would rehab his body prior to competing at the next high level event if he was to avoid further injury and potential long term damage
It's a fine line to tread for some women because whilst you don't want to discourage exercise early days (the benefits to physical and metal health are amazing no denial in that and also worth noting "early days" refers not only to early days in time but also early days in terms of being symptomatic - ie. if you have a leaking pelvic floor but your children are 4 years old you would still be early days) sadly that long term damage can be done in a very simple action that seems harmless. How many people do you know that injured their back lifting their children out of the bath or they just felt their knee give way randomly one day. It doesn't have to be during high level exercise that you injure yourself
A little back story on that one - about 10 years ago I tore a tendon in my leg simply shifting my weight onto it. I'd been in the gym running on the stairmaster and I had 20 minutes to complete my workout - I considered it not worth my while to cool down, stretch or mobilise my joints post run because I wanted the benefits of running the extra 5/10 minutes that would've taken. Sadly in my naiviity all those years ago it meant a long time out from any impact exercise and an injury I could've avoided
There's a brilliant saying "80% of any exercise is fine and 20% of it needs to be modified to suit you". I am an absolute believer in this and yes of course let's keep this real word problem and not over-egg the issue - getting back running post baby shouldn't be completely avoided because you are too scared to do it. It's just that the prep work needs to be there first, you need to be strong first and that you need to LISTEN to your body. There is absolutely no sense in throwing yourself into HIIT and running workouts if your body is symptomatic of a weak pelvic floor - leakage, urgency, back pain are all your bodies way of telling you it's not ready for those levels of demand.
It's common to believe that pelvic floor issues are part and parcel of motherhood or getting older - they absolutely aren't.
What are my plans post birth?
- Healing from inside out with nutrition and hydration
- Energy levels
- Assessment and strengthening work of the pelvic floor and total core system
- Whole body re-jigging (must come up wit a better word for that!) - stregthening weaker areas and loosening the tighter ones for better posture
- Whole body strength for performance of daily tasks and demands
- Whole body fitness for performance of daily tasks and demands
- Body strength for preparation for fitness gains
- Starting back into a fitness regime
At this stage whenever that may be i when I would contemplate getting back into impact exercise and pushing my body again because you wouldn't build a house on a foundation of water or a sink hole. I'll be making sure every level is concrete first. This is positive progress and i'll be working on this daily when time and energy allows so it's not about me saying "do less" and more about me saying "do the right things first"
You might have noticed I've spoken about all this from a functional perspective rather than a weight loss perspective. That's actually what incensed me to write this post because I'd seen a post online about "wanting to lose the baby weight" and instead of following the journey above that that person probably actually knew she should've done it became more important to her to skip to the end stage.
That actually makes me sadder than many other things going on in the world that a woman could feel so low about her post baby body that she would choose to ignore these steps because she wanted the end goal. There's no denial again that those feeling are common and again nothing wrong with wanting to regain yourself post birth at all - I can 100% appreciate that but we have to move away from the physical aesthetics and think about the functionality of what your body is ready for.
Your body has grown a human, it's run marathon after marathon and then the ultimate marathon of birth. It's now caring for a newborn and trying to survive general life at the same time and all of those demands. It is ok to give yourself time. It is more than ok to be kind to yourself. It is even more ok to allow yourself the patience you'd give to your child.
After all would you expect your newborn to get up and start walking at 1 day or even 6 weeks old.. we afford them all the time they need because we understand that they need time, the right access to the right exercises and practice practice practice. Yet most women don't afford themselves the same kindness or patience.
Be kind to yourselves, allow yourself to enjoy the journey - because you likely never reached the top level of where you wanted to be last time anyway (because fitness and strength is always that work in progress), you likely didn't appreciate it until it wasn't there and this time you really can. You can celebrate every stage of strength an fitness along the way, every small thing becomes a big deal - just like those newborn moments. Celebrate your first run, your fitness abdominal work without bulging across your tummy, celebrate your first time you weren't in a rush to reach the toilet when you needed it and celebrate your lack of back ache. Be pleased with the progress instead of always wishing the journey away.
"Never be scared to start a journey because it will take time. The time will pass anyway"
For more information on how to get started on doing those foundation exercises right from the off why not take a look at the range of online programmes - everything from specific rehab to full fitness
Afford yourself the time and kindness you give to your children