By: Guest Blogger – Kristen Herlihy
On January 16, 2019 at 1:30pm EST PHRC Cofounder Elizabeth Akincilar and Baby Boot Camp instructor Kristen Herlihy will be discussing postpartum fitness! For information on how to tune in and listen, please visit their Facebook page. In the spirit of this talk, Kristen wanted to share her thoughts on our blog.
As a Baby Boot Camp perinatal fitness specialist working with moms who are pregnant or newly postpartum, I often see moms who struggle with what is commonly referred to as the “mummy tummy,” or “the pooch.” Whether they have a brand new baby, a toddler or even an older child, many women find it difficult to feel comfortable and confident with their postpartum body.
In addition to adjusting with the new responsibilities of motherhood, it can be a challenge for women to recover safely and effectively from pregnancy and childbirth. Their bodies respond differently to the exercise that once made them feel strong and capable, and with a weaker mid-section, tight muscles and new mommy fatigue, getting into any exercise regimen can seem daunting. Sadly, many women believe that their bodies will never be the same and that they should simply accept the state of their postpartum body.
But it does not have to be this way. Through proper movement, professional guidance and time, women can not only recover their pre-pregnancy body, they can be stronger than they ever thought possible. Here are five safe and effective ways to recover following pregnancy so that your can return to your pre-pregnancy fitness and health levels.
As you return to exercise following child birth, time is something that all women should take into consideration. So often, we are driven by social media or societal expectations to get back into fitness too early. When I was having my first son, I was overwhelmed with magazine covers showing the latest Kardashian mom in a bikini, two weeks postpartum, making it all seem so easy.
However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 14-16 weeks following childbirth before moms return to impact fitness. During this time, moms can take care of these muscles that have been working for 9 months non-stop by walking, stretching and gradual muscle conditioning. Please note that any pelvic pain, discomfort or leakage can and should be treated by a trained professional, such as a pelvic floor physical therapist. These medical providers can guide a new mom on movements, stretches and modifications that can be done to alleviate symptoms and discomfort.
Second, moms need to think about their bodies from head-to-toe, and not just on individual areas of concern. Posture is how you sit or stand, or more easily, how your body looks. As for alignment, this is the relationship of the muscles to each other, and how they line up whether you are sitting or standing. When your alignment is off, as is common during pregnancy and when newly postpartum, you may experience a sore neck, upper back discomfort, lower back pain or even knee pain.
Two cues that I give to all moms returning to fitness is to think of your front and your back – what does that mean? Try this when standing or sitting – inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth and draw your belly button in towards your spine. This helps to engage the deep, inner abdominal muscle known as the transverse abdomnius, which is the muscle that you can feel but not necessarily see. This is the muscle that helps with posture and will allow you to sit or stand straighter. Next, roll your shoulders down and around, opening up your chest and relaxing your upper back. With so many of new moms having forward oriented movement, i.e. changing diapers, washing dishes, feeding baby, etc., they tend to have a forward rotation of their shoulders, resulting in pain or discomfort in their upper back. Just changing the way that you sit or stand can help alleviate a great deal of discomfort.
Next, moms need to take care of their entire body when returning to fitness. When our abdominal muscles are weaker, we tend to overcompensate with our lower back, bringing it out of alignment. This type of misalignment can take time to repair and should be done by a trained professional such as a Baby Boot Camp trained instructor through a Core9 Diastasis Repair workshop or StrollFit class. When returning to exercise, whatever form you choose, you want to remind the muscles of their proper alignment and then add in higher intensity such as weights or resistance bands, only when you are ready.
For the fourth method, modifications should also be considered for the range of motion and types of movements that a new mom should be attempting. Not only can this include reducing all impact fitness until 14-16 weeks postpartum, but also to be avoiding any twisting exercises, such as a bicycle abdominal exercise and also limiting range of motion for such moves as deep squats or lunges.
Finally, I encourage all moms to be selfish. This is a difficult time as you adjust to your new role in life, whether this is your first baby, your second or more. Take the time to find a trained professional if you are having any discomfort or pain when exercising. All Baby Boot Camp professionals are specifically trained for the newly postpartum fitness mama, and can help you safely & effectively return to fitness. In addition, utilizing local resources such as a pelvic floor physical therapist can help to alleviate symptoms and educate moms on their new, strong bodies.
Interested in working with a Baby Boot Camp professional? Head to www.babybootcamp.com to find a local class near you, as your first StrollFit class is always free. Concerned that you may have an abdominal separation that needs more attention? Our Diastasis Repair program is a 4-week in-person intensive workshop that helps you to alleviate back pain, strengthen your core muscles, and repair diastasis recti after pregnancy. Diastasis recti develops when the connective tissue (linea alba) between the right and left rectus abdominis separates during late pregnancy. Our Diastasis Repair Workshops are taught by our licensed & certified Diastasis Repair Instructors, and our next workshop will be coming on Sundays to Arlington, MA starting on February 3rd. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for your spot in the next Diastasis Repair workshop.
Congratulations on your new little addition! Be sure to enjoy these precious moments with your new baby and we look forward to seeing you at a Baby Boot Camp class soon.
Kristen is a mom to two very active little ones. Following the birth of her son in 2011, Kristen wanted to regain her fitness and connect with other moms, so she found Baby Boot Camp stroller fitness classes and has not looked back. This mom & baby fitness solution has been the key for Kristen to both connect with other moms and regain fitness. With a background in psychology and social work, Kristen has an appreciation for the challenging jobs that new moms take on every day. She will look to support you, both as a parent as well as a woman who wants to be in shape to keep up with those active little ones. Kristen is AFAA certified as a Personal Fitness Trainer, as well as in Group Exercise, Barre Above by Leslee Bender, a Dr. Sears Certified Health Coach and has extensive ongoing training in Perinatal Fitness. You can find her on social media here and @babybootcampwoburnwinchester on Instagram.