Let me first begin by saying that losing weight has NOT been my main focus since becoming a mummy. My attention has 100 per cent been on my daughter and husband and enjoying this magical time. Added to this, I’ve always had a bit of an issue with how so many women feel pressured to fit into a pair of size eight jeans while walking around with a six-week-old. That said, like most women, there is a part of me that laments over my pre-pregnancy body. Now three months in, I finally feel ready to tackle my muffin top and banish the bulge. But with so much conflicting information about post-natal exercise, it’s difficult to know when to begin. For that reason I caught up with pre- and post-natal exercise specialist, Amy Saunders of Urban Energy Fitness and asked her to answer all those niggling questions that surround the issue of post-natal fitness.
How to get post-pregnancy fit #1: Give your body time to heal
Pregnancy and labour really put your body through the mill. Your hips, pelvis and spine can be put out of alignment due to all the stretching and you may also experience diastasis recti, which is a very common condition where your stomach muscles separate during pregnancy. For this reason, it’s important to wait until your body has healed, before you hit the gym. The general rule is that if you had a natural delivery with no complications, you can begin gentle exercise after about four weeks, assuming your doctor has given you the green light. If your delivery was complicated you may want to wait around eight weeks, depending on the amount of stitches and tearing you have experienced. For a C-section it is recommended that you wait up to 10 weeks, depending on how the scar is healing.
How to get post-pregnancy fit #2: Don’t rush it
Your pelvic floor muscles need time to recover after pregnancy and labour, and high-impact exercises like running and jumping can not only hinder that recovery, but also cause more damage, which may result in incontinence issues. Abdominal exercises also have their issues, as working out too soon can cause further separation of the stomach muscles or even an umbilical hernia.
How to get post-pregnancy fit #3: Begin with walking
You don’t have to go to the gym to shape up. Instead, try walking, which is a great way to shape up and will help speed up the recovery after a C-section. You can also try gentle core work to help those tummy muscles, but you should always consult a post-natal exercise specialist first.
How to get post-pregnancy fit #4: Try exercises at home
Of course! Weight lifting is a great way to speed up the metabolism and help you get back in shape, but in the early days it might be tricky to get to the gym. Instead, incorporate baby into your routine and you can burn some calories and spend quality time with your little one. The exercises I recommend are lunges, which you can do whilst holding baby, and squats, which you can do whilst lifting baby above your head. Another one to try is push-ups over your baby. You can give them a kiss each time you lower yourself, which most babies love.
How to get post-pregnancy fit #5: Exercise three to five times a week
Assuming you’ve been given the green light by your doctor, you can begin exercising three to five times a week, for around 30 minutes at a time. However, it’s important not to put pressure on yourself to lose weight, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
How to get post-pregnancy fit #6: Have extra calories if you’re breastfeeding
You should be having an extra 500 calories a day while breastfeeding. Some people believe that breastfeeding actually helps you to shift the weight. I have never found this to be true and I think it comes down to the fact that your body stores fat while you’re breastfeeding, so it can be hard to lose the weight during this period.
How to get post-pregnancy fit #7: Eat the right stuff
When you’re breastfeeding it’s tempting to reach for the empty calories, such as sodas and crisps, but these should be avoided, as there is nothing nutritional in them for mummy or baby. I advise making smart choices like having wholegrain bread, pasta and rice, rather than white. Also, plan ahead and make lots of yummy, but healthy snacks so when you get a sweet craving you have something on hand that isn’t going to load you up with empty calories. One of my favourites is Paleo balls, which is a mixture of dates, coconut, nuts, honey and eggs. Delicious!
How to get post-pregnancy fit #8: Opt for a post-natal class, over a regular gym workout
The instructors at a post-natal class will talk to you about your delivery and recovery, while also doing an abdominal separation check. This enables them to advise you on how to get back into shape safely.