Catherine joined our Gym and PT Team in Autumn 2020. She is particularly passionate about pre and post-natal exercise and here she shares her blog - "Getting back to feeling you again"
My name is Catherine, I am a mum to two young boys and have recently moved from Chiswick, London to the coast in Poole.
I have always been active during my life and found it a great tool to manage stress and keeping healthy. I am a true believer in exercise not only for the physical benefits but also for the mental benefits too. Personally for me becoming a parent is the best job but also one of the hardest, and making a little time for me to focus on my health and wellbeing does wonders for my over all wellbeing and makes me a better mum instead of running on empty.
WHEN WOULD BE THE BEST TIME TO START EXERCISING AGAIN AFTER CHILD BIRTH?
The recommended guidelines suggest you can start exercising six weeks after a vaginal birth and ten weeks after a caesarean, but this is completely up to you and how you feel. Personally, it took three months to have the confidence to start Pilates based exercises and walking at a faster pace with the pushchair. It the took a further 3 months to begin running again, my body just did not feel ready any time sooner. The guidelines don't take into account your labour story so remember to set realistic goals and be kind to yourself! There will be days where it is best to nap when your baby naps instead of contemplating any sort of exercise, at least for the first few months!
WHAT EXERCISES WOULD HELP WITH MY RECOVERY?
I am a firm believer in starting with the core, focusing on the pelvic floor first will help enormously with recovery and will allow you to feel strong enough to then continue with the exercises you used to love like lifting weights or running.
Your pelvic floor muscles act like a hammock to support your baby, and they take a while to recover. Gently introduce some of the main areas that have seen a lot of change, for example your hips, glutes and back, keeping all exercises low impact. You still have the hormone relaxin in your body, so be careful with any weight training and stretching.
To begin with even getting to the gym is an achievement so well done there! Start your workout with gentle cardio to raise your heart rate and encourage the release of those important endorphins. This will help you deal with any new anxieties you may be feeling and dealing with that day.
Effective pelvic floor exercises include pelvic tilts, bridges, half-planks, and bird-dogs.
Exercise truly helped not only my recovery but also my mental health. Exercise was the time I had for me, even if just for 20 minutes. It was my chance to look after my body and my mind and to begin feeling strong again. I made sure with each workout I would finish with a few mindful breaths to calm my mind ready for the day ahead with two little humans and their needs.
WHAT DO I NEED TO BE CAREFUL OF?
Make sure you get the all clear from your doctor at your six-week check-up before considering heading back to the gym. Rushing back could cause more damage than good, especially if you had a difficult labour and birth.
If you are breast feeding, feed your baby before heading to the gym. There’s nothing worse than a full and painful chest on the cross-trainer!
Be careful of any classes or exercises that involve high impact movements. Your pelvic floor has just gone under tremendous strain, stick to low impact exercises to begin with.
HOW CAN I LOSE WEIGHT AND FEEL MYSELF AGAIN AFTER HAVING A BABY?
Do not diet. Restricting calories when you are sleep deprived and exhausted is not a good idea. Eating three healthy balanced meals a day will help you have the energy to get through the day with a new born; Happy mum happy baby.
Eating well after having a baby can be tough when you are in a constant cycle of feeding, changing, winding and nap time. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, I would always make sure I would have a bottle of water by me at all times to reach to. Breast feeding can leave you dehydrated and incredibly thirsty so make sure you are always hydrated, you can burn around 400-500 calories a day producing milk!
Try to snack throughout the day on nutrient rich foods. I would make homemade healthy flapjacks and smoothies as I needed the slow releasing carbohydrates and something that was easy to eat when only using one hand!
Try not to skip meals; make sure all your visitors bring food round for you to either store in the freezer or to eat that day!
WHEN CAN I START STRENGTHENING MY STOMACH MUSCLES?
During pregnancy to make way for your growing baby your stomach stretches causing the two parallel bands of muscles to separate, a condition called diastasis recti, this is very common with women who have had children. It is important not to rush into stomach crunches until the gap is a one finger gap and there are no signs of doming when forming a crunch. Get either the GP, a partner, ask a personal trainer or even check yourself. In the meantime stick to pelvic floor tilts, half planks and gentle leg slides, slowly building your core back up. Remember to be kind to yourself, you will recover but your body has just made a little human it needs time, you will get there. Personally it took me a year to feel like me again, I now have the confidence to continue exercising how I did pre baby with slight trepidation to skipping!
I am proud of my body and so should you be, making a little human is incredible, let’s celebrate our bodies and criticise less.