I am 6 weeks post baby and starting to get back into a regular exercise routine. You will find various answers on when to resume exercise after birth. Some say that you should wait 6 weeks for a vaginal birth and 8 weeks after a C-section to resume exercise if you have no obvious complications. This is often the norm for a vaginal birth because that is when most women’s post-delivery doctor appointment is scheduled. And most exercise plans/books/trainers do not want and will not recommend working out without a clearance from a doctor. However, many of the more recent books on post-natal fitness state that exercise can be resumed after a few weeks for a vaginal birth as long as there is no vaginal bleeding or other obvious complications. They all state to start out slowly and stop with any pain or bleeding.
My doctor knows me and my activity level and knew I would not be waiting 6 weeks. She told me to rest, recover and do not do anything that hurts. She was not going to give me a specific time frame. I completely agreed with her advice as I think every women is very unique in this area as it depends on if they had any complications during pregnancy or labor, were active before and during pregnancy and so forth. Some women might feel great a week after, some maybe need three weeks and some might want to wait a few months until they really feel like exercising. I think even small amounts of exercise such as leisurely walks as soon as a woman feels up for it can help with balancing hormones and hopefully baby blues.
With both my first baby and this baby, I did not do any type of exercise for a week. Just completely rested and recovered (which I know sounds silly to some since I just gave birth but I am used to doing some form of activity, even easy walks, every day). After a week, I started adding in some walks and light weights in my basement. Since then I have slowly started getting back into a routine. Right now I am going to CrossFit 2-3 times a week. I was still modifying everything at first but am now able to do most movements but am not even close to lifting the amount of weight I was pre-pregnancy. The other days I am working out at home either in my home gym with weights and some rowing/treadmill or simply doing body weight exercises at a field by my house. I hope to return to yoga but am not able to attend any classes since I have Madelynn with me all the time. (I am not good at doing yoga DVDs in my living room…I get too distracted.. “look a squirrel!” 🙂 ). I am still trying to stay away from a lot of jarring movements and have only added core in the terms of planks and some low back work.
I was thinking about how different this recovery feels vs. my first post-natal experience. After you give birth, your uterus will shrink back to its original size. This takes usually about 6 weeks to complete but the first few days it will shrink the most (and feels like cramping), especially during breastfeeding. Breastfeeding signals to your uterus to shrink, which I think is just one of the many amazing things our bodies does during and after pregnancy. I remember the cramping with Caleb during breastfeeding but the cramping this time around (not just during breastfeeding but in the middle of the night) was SO much worse. On the 2nd night home from the hospital I literally woke up moaning it was to so bad. However, it was then suddenly so much better. At times I think I feel stronger and that I am recovering a little bit quicker. However, at other times, I am not feeling quite as strong as I am having pretty bad headaches, carpal tunnel and my hip and knees ache. I will say the entire process seems a bit easier as I am not as stressed being a first time parent or constantly anxious about my newborn. However, I do also now have 2 children, one of which is a very busy toddler, which is no joke. So really this recovery is just different.
Even though I feel that I am recovering a bit quicker every workout post-baby kind of sucks. Everything seems to be jiggling or leaking :). Some of my joints hurt, my boobs are way bigger than normal, and I have absolutely no core strength which makes the majority of lifting difficult and makes many exercises just plain hard. I feel pretty weak all around and at times feels like I did not workout once during my pregnancy.
Completing a CrossFit workout last week.
Every workout is also humbling. Because I love fitness and have worked in the fitness field for the past 12 years, I always stay in relatively good shape. Though I might not be racing or competing in anything, I always work out regularly and really have since high school. So now I am starting from a place of ‘getting back in shape.’ Though I am not a crazy good athlete, I work hard in the gym and therefore am always fairly fit. So for me to go to the gym and barely be able to complete a push-up or have to run really slow is humbling. I also do not think I am going to lose the weight as fast which is very humbling. Though I got back to my pre-pregnancy weight after about 4 months with Caleb, I do not seem to be losing any (or at an extremely slow rate) this time around after my initial large amount of weight loss. You will lose quite a bit the first few weeks with the weight of the baby, water weight and retention, the placenta all making up quite a bit of mass. I was looking at my pregnancy and post-pregnancy fitness journal with Caleb and started getting a little down on myself about how I am not losing as fast. I had to really check myself and my attitude as who cares if I am 5lbs heavier than I was at this time post-baby with Caleb? Who cares if it takes longer to lose the weight? I now have 2 kids and a newborn and a toddler! I am not able to rest as much since there is always something that needs to be done or if one kid is sleeping the other always seems to be awake. Maybe it’s because I am 2 years older? Maybe it’s combination of a lot of things. I write that I shouldn’t care or that those thoughts do not serve me in anyway but sometimes I need to remind myself that I just GAVE BIRTH and need to be compassionate with myself. It is also a hard balance of keeping my milk supply up (which is very important to me), trying to lose some weight slowly and the hunger than comes from breastfeeding and exhaustion. My point in sharing this is even fitness professionals who understand all the science between exercise and nutrition and might have all the tools still struggle with losing weight and the mindset that comes with it. Though it is very hard for me to share this, here are a few pictures of me post-baby body. One taken one week after, 2 weeks after and now, 6 weeks after. Though I have a hard time taking these, let alone posting them on my blog, I want to be real with my followers that though I have a home gym, teach classes and work in fitness, it is a struggle for me too.
Honestly, it is probably good for me to start from what feels like zero be able to relate to people who might be starting up again after an injury or time off or who have never really worked out before. I think it makes me a better fitness professional, teacher and personal trainer to know what it is like to start from the beginning again with some weight and body fat to lose and having to learn to modify exercises and workouts.
Every workout is gratifying. Gratifying because of what my body did to bring my beautiful children into this world. I know that I am incredibly blessed to have 2 healthy children. I know that so many people cannot have children or were not as lucky to bring home a healthy baby. So there is not one workout or day that goes by that I do not feel an immense amount of gratitude…not matter how much weight or body fat I have to lose or how hard the workout feels, I am grateful.
And finally every workout is awesome. First, it honestly feels good to move without my belly in the way. Second, my body truly amazes me. I was lucky to feel pretty good throughout my pregnancy and was active the entire time which I do believe helped me start working out and recover faster than if I had not worked out. I cannot believe I was able to grow a human, birth a human and recover from it and get back to my workouts. It feels good again to workout intensely without having to constantly worry about my heart rate getting too high or a certain pose in yoga that is not recommended for pregnant woman. It feels good to move.
So as I go along this 2nd post pregnancy journey I will try to embrace all the suckiness, humbling, gratitude and awesomeness of each workout.