Exercising after giving birth is something that the ‘fit mum’ wants to do as soon as they feel up to it. Expectations and motivation are high to return to that post pregnancy body. But what should be expected in the first few weeks of returning to exercise and what exactly is the best route to take to return to some level of fitness?
I have asked my long term client Kat to write about exactly those things. Here she gives an honest insight into what it was like returning to exercise and how she has made progress over the last couple of months. As a brief background on Kat, I have trained her for around 7 years now. I trained her throughout her pregnancy (right up until 39 weeks!!!) and started training her around 8 weeks after giving birth. These are her words…
“My daughter was born in February this year and after my 6 week check up with the midwife, I was keen to start training again. I’d been doing lots of long pram walks in the first 6 weeks to help with keeping active whilst letting my body heal and recover from labor. In the early days it was also important for me from a mental health perspective to get out and get some fresh air and do some very light exercise, even with nights of broken sleep!
At the start of training, I gingerly stepped on the scales and registered just over 74kg – my usual weight pre-pregnancy was around 61kg so I realised I had quite a bit to lose but figured it would be relatively easy to do! By this time we were in corona virus lock-down and Adam had switched his PT sessions to online using zoom. I logged in the first session around 8 weeks after giving birth knowing it would be hard, but determined to just do what I could and to not work too hard in the session! At the end I felt a real sense of achievement in having made it through the workout and I felt so good to be back doing what I love. Instead of using any weights, Adam instructed that I did body weight only on the main exercises and with any abdominal exercise, I started off very light. For example, push ups were performed on my knees to ensure my abs and pelvic floor were strong enough to manage the exercise. As well as starting to exercise, Adam set me a nutrition plan with a good balance of protein, carbs and fat and gave me a lot of coaching on the types of foods to aim for.
We’re now nearly 4 months down the track and my body-weight is down to 63.5kg which is great progress and I am only 2.5kg from my goal weight. As I’ve lost weight, Adam has adjusted the nutrition macro plan as we’ve gone along when it’s been needed – usually when my weight loss has plateaued for a couple of weeks or so. My ability to train has increased week on week and I’ve been able to add weights in using kettlebell, dumb bells or a medicine ball which has made me feel like my strength is returning. Adam instructed when I should start to increase the weights I was lifting in the training sessions and when to start to push the intensity of the workouts.
This process has definitely been a lot harder than I imagined, both mentally and physically. Some weeks the tiredness got to me and I just didn’t have any energy or motivation to train. Some weeks my weight went back up and I felt so disheartened and that my efforts weren’t working. Adam assured me that this was normal and that my body-weight would fluctuate from time to time. Over the last few months I’ve learnt to pull back on the amount of exercise I am doing (another thing Adam was nagging me about) to give my body a chance to rest, recover and adapt from the training and dieting.
Mentally I’ve had to coach myself to focus on the end goal and not beat myself up when the weight wasn’t dropping or push myself for perfection. It’s very easy to get caught in a trap of wanting to be back to my pre-pregnancy weight and to be able to be the fittest in the class, but the reality is my body has changed having grown and carried a beautiful little human for 9 months. I’ve accepted that there are some things which have changed about my body which probably won’t change back and I’m ok with that, as I have a beautiful daughter to show for it and my body did an amazing thing in keeping her healthy & safe for 9 months. For me exercising and being a healthy weight is about feeling good mentally and physically. Its my release and gives me energy and also helps give me structure on a day to day basis – having been used to working full time in a busy job, switching to being a mum has definitely been a huge adjustment.
I’m going to keep being consistent with my food and exercise and hopefully the last 2.5kgs will shift, but I also want to let myself have fun and enjoy life and not feel I have to take it too seriously which is sometimes easier said than done!
Adam has been a real support in helping me get back to training ensuring the works outs are adapted as required. He’s been amazing at picking me up when I’ve had a bad week and haven’t felt like I’ve achieved what I wanted to and reminded me I’m human, I’ve recently had a baby and to give myself a break! The journey continues 😊”
Everything Kat has said above is 100% true. We often try to get back in shape far to quickly and think that doing more and more exercise whilst eating less and less food will make this happen. If you are smart with your training and nutrition plan and PATIENT enough to allow the positive changes to take effect slowly, then you’ll reap the rewards (just like Kat is!!!). Although this is written from the viewpoint of returning to fitness after giving birth, a lot of you reading this will be able to associate with what Kat and I are saying with regards to going too hard all the time. Rest and recovery are as important as the training you’re doing and the food and drink that you are consuming. Doing too much can actually be detrimental to your body composition goal and leave you feeling tired, run down, irritable and looking worse for wear!
If you need any help in your own personal fitness journey then don’t hesitate to get in contact with me.