Post-pregnancy training… what's it all about?
We can be bombarded by images of postpartum women seemingly 'springing back' into action following a pregnancy. If the pregnancy has resulted in the safe delivery of a child, the often-used 'yummy mummy' stereotype is bounded around, which can often lead to feeling of shame in others who take a while longer to re-start their exercise routine due to reasons in or outside of their control.
But is it really that easy that re-start your training?
I think we can all generally accept that Serena Williams is not a normal human being! She won the Australian Open whilst pregnant, a feat which most of us will never come even close to when not pregnant! And since giving birth to her daughter, was back playing Wimbledon a mere 9 months later.
So what training should you do post pregnancy? And what is safe?
Here are 3 things to be mindful of to help YOU decide what is best for YOU!
1. Early stages post-pregnancy
Lets be realistic. The first few weeks after giving birth or the end of a pregnancy, training is likely to be the last thing on your mind. There is no “optimal” time to get back into working out after giving birth. None whatsoever....the only key factor is whenever it feels right for you.
You may see other women hitting the gym mere weeks after giving birth or following the end of a pregnancy, others take months. Both is ok!
The key thing is being ready to exercise. If a child is born from a pregnancy then bonding with your baby is going to take pride of place...not your sports bra!
In either situation, whether a child has resulted from the pregnancy or not, getting yourself into a good place emotionally, making sure you’re eating well and have enough energy to do additional extras like working out is vital.
If the pregnancy has resulted in the safe delivery of a child, fuel as a new mum becomes of paramount importance if you want to add training into the equation.
Looking after a little human takes a lot of energy. If you also choose to breastfeed, that can take an extra 500 calories per day. So not only do you need to up your calories significantly if you wish to train, consider what you are fuelling your body with.
It is common after pregnancy for women to become deficient in iron and zinc, so ensure your diet is rich in fish, green veg and nuts. Alternatively, many women take these supplements post pregnancy.
3. What training should I do?
During pregnancy, your body has a significant change in hormones, resulting in increased ligament laxity. This is to allow your pelvis to expand for the process of giving birth.
After giving birth, your ligaments still have greater laxity than previously. They don't just spring back into their tight pre-pregnant state! This means joints are looser and are more unstable. The foundation of your training should include plenty of stability work to make sure joints are stable and to reduce risk of injury.
In term of programming, frequency and intensity should be dependent on training you’ve done previously. Keep to exercises you’ve previously done rather than introducing anything new, and begin at 30-50% of where you were previously at. Build up slowly from there.
Increase volume of your training programme slowly and monitor your fatigue levels. Getting consistency in training is often difficult following a birth as babies have a habit of erratically changing their needs on a whim! Do what you can, when you can and keep it simple.
We can’t all be Serena Williams back to elite athlete status within 9 months of giving birth or being pregnant. But do a bit when you feel ready, consider training as vital 'you time' and you’ll be back to feeling as good as you did in no time.