There are days as a mum, and especially as a new mum, when you are merely in survival mode. Your own needs and goals are placed on hold to care for and nurture this gorgeous new addition to your family.
I want to reach out and chat to you today about the realities of balancing it all and still taking care of yourself. The low down: staying healthy is hard. Staying fit is hard, whether or not you were before your pregnancy. But it can be done with a few tweaks and an open mind.
My first baby two-and-half years ago was the start of an incredible new chapter. He brought a level of joy to our whole family we did not know existed.
As a trainer and Pilates instructor for many years, I maintained exercise as best I could during that pregnancy, with respect to dizzy days, low blood pressure, extreme fatigue, nausea and cholestasis.
The birth caused severe injuries to my lower back, coccyx, and pelvic floor. I was grateful to know how to rehab myself (over a two-year period) back to 100% pre-birth fitness, excluding the ability to do high-impact moves which still affect my pelvic floor to a degree. But that’s OK, I have become grateful for what my body can do and grateful for any short bouts of time I could fit anything in that first two years.
Oh, yep, and during this time I was still managing a wellbeing business, clients and staff. It was exhausting. I fell into postnatal depression and had a relapse of adrenal fatigue, where my energy was below zero, emotions were volatile and I found basic, everyday tasks really difficult. It was also really hard to get out as anxiety was through the roof.
See that’s the thing. There is so much pressure on women to ‘bounce back’ after giving birth. Lose the ‘baby weight,’ get your ‘tummy back,’ and have not only your health working perfectly but your entire home, lifestyle, business, work. Um yep. And pigs might fly (I think Peppa Pig did once?!).
There are undeniable limitations after having a child that will affect your time, energy, stamina, mental clarity and increased workload in every area of your life.
So how can you get fit and strong post-baby without it taking up too much time and energy?
Here’s my tips:
4 tips on getting fit after baby
Allow time to heal
Wait at least 6 to 8 weeks before doing any exercise to ensure you have healed internally. Get your doctor’s OK, whether or not it was a natural birth or c-section. Seek expert advice from a physio who has experience in treating women as they recover from birth to give you the right guidance and support.
Check for abdominal stretch
I have a video on my YouTube channel explaining how to do this or get your doctor or physio to ensure you do not have an excessive abdominal stretch. This is often something overlooked and can linger for years, affecting your core strength, back pain and more. This will also determine the type of exercise you do.
Create time to exercise
Allow time to exercise anywhere from five minutes to 30 minutes, especially that first year. Even three days a week is great if every day is not possible. If you can do more then do it, but it’s not necessary if you are working effectively and with good technique. Five minutes is not something to be dismissed either. That five-minute walk, stretch or meditation may be the very thing you need that day to break your fatigue or clear your headspace.
Be open to being a beginner again
Appreciate and be open to different disciplines of movement. What you did pre-baby may not be suitable for you now. If it is, great. But if not, allow yourself to try low-impact, bodyweight movements like Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, bodyweight exercise.
Only add load (like weights) when you are fully capable of lifting and controlling your own bodyweight. Be happy with going back to beginner level. I had to swallow my pride and certainly be OK with below-zero strength and movement after years of exercise.
Be grateful for your body and what it’s done.
-written by Vanessa Bartlett