The Exercise-Phobic's Guide To Postnatal Fitness

The Exercise-Phobic’s Guide To Postnatal Fitness

Anyone that knows me well, will know that exercise ain’t my bag. Don’t get me wrong, I eat healthily (most of the time), I am really interested in nutrition, and I walk a lot. But, I usually shy away from organised exercise, and anything particularly strenuous.

Until I started Buggyfit.

In the last 4 months (I’m currently 7 months postnatal), I have enjoyed 40 hour-long outside exercise sessions, come rain, snow and shine, and I am totally hooked. I have gone from a wobbly, bendy, relaxin-filled baby giraffe impersonator, to a strong, TONED, squat-lover, who trots off to classes twice or three times a week, and misses class on off days. I have some lovely upper arm definition, and my thighs and butt are not cellulite-ridden anymore, nor do they wobble like a jelly. What has happened to me?! Whatever it is, I’m loving it.

In this guide, I will touch upon the benefits of exercise, the issues your postnatal body might experience, my top tips for exercising with a baby in tow, and how to feel great after exercise.

3 reasons (that you might not have thought of) to try a little exercise after childbirth

It’s not just the obvious physical effects of exercising that do you good when you’ve had a baby:

  1. Exercise can do the world of good for your mental health. Simple things like getting out of the house for a little while to breath some fresh air and look at something other than your home’s four walls can really boost your mood.
  2. Exercise can relax you.  It’s a great way to calm your mind, and allow yourself some space from family conflicts or stressful atmospheres in the home or at work.
  3. Exercise can energise you. Feeling knackered from your baby’s all night crying session? Probably, the last thing you feel like doing is power walking, lunges and stretching resistance bands, but getting out and doing a little exercise when you’re tired, can actually help to make you feel more awake.

I was initially anxious about attending exercise classes with my (then) 3 month old baby in tow. The main questions running through my head were, “What if my baby gets hungry? What if my baby cries? Can I breastfeed during class? Can you buy nursing sports bras? What if my body isn’t ready yet?”

Turns out I needn’t have worried, as Helen, the Basingstoke Buggyfit instructor, was super-welcoming, understanding, very well trained and knowledgeable.

I didn’t know much about postnatal fitness, or, really, even the extent of what growing and birthing a human does to the female body, so going to someone who knows how to train a postnatal body is very important.

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I had a relatively straight-forward birth this time around, so I was feeling quite well after a few weeks. But, I did have a 2cm Diastasis Recti that I needed to repair, a tear along a previous episiotomy, and a very weak pelvic floor, so I needed to take it easy until these improved.

The following tips are from Helen Hill, who’s a Postnatal Fitness Instructor:

5 clear signals that your body’s not ready (or strong enough) to do what you’re asking it to do

It is every woman’s right to choose what she does with her postnatal body, but here are a few tips to help you make the right choice for you. Regardless of your postnatal stage…

  1. If you ever leak urine (or worse) when working out, or immediately as you stop; it is not OK or normal to pee yourself just because you had a baby, and you don’t have to live with it.
  2. If you experience pelvic or lower back pain during or after exercise.
  3. If you feel unstable in the core or like you’re ‘falling-out at the front/pulling’ when you perform any exercise or afterwards.
  4. If your body shakes or trembles lots during any move or hold. You need to take it back a stage. A good trainer can show you how.
  5. If there is bulging, straining, protrusion or doming anywhere on or from within your abdomen or pelvic floor when you work out. That includes what you can feel but nobody else can see.

If you’re getting ANY of the above, then some exercises will make your mum-tum, recovery and core strength WORSE, not better! A good instructor knows what exercises to avoid.

And remember…

  • Following a vaginal birth without any assistance, it takes AT LEAST 3 months for the soft tissues to repair.
  • If you were cut or had any assistance, it can take AT LEAST six months.

As long as you have chosen an instructor who’s trained in postnatal fitness, they should be able to advise you as to whether or not you’re ready to start exercising, and to what extent. I also think it’s key to

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listen to your body, and to make sure you’re not overdoing exercise, or any physical activity, for that matter. Even the rage-hoovering might not be great for you 😉

13 top tips for surviving outside exercise classes with a baby in tow

  1. If you’re a breastfeeder, and you don’t want to invest in a nursing sports bra, wear two normal nursing bras – it works!
  2. Wear some supportive workout gear. If you’re anything like me, everything wobbles post baby, which is distracting when you’re moving around!
  3. Eat a healthy and filling breakfast. Banana, peanut butter, beans, eggs, muesli & yoghurt – these are all my favourite pre workout brekkies… obvs not in the same bowl…!
  4. If you can find the time (which is tough if you have other children), feed your baby as close to the start of class as you can to avoid interuptions during training. Though, if your baby does get hungry, it’s usually not an issue to have a little break to feed them.
  5. If your baby is eating, bring ALL THE SNACKS!
  6. Cover yourselves with a good quality sun block before you leave the house.
  7. Don’t forget a dummy (if your baby has one), and toys. I find that babies tend to get a bit fed up with less attention than normal, so distraction for them is the key to you being less distracted by them.
  8. Bring your buggy rain cover just in case it rains or is mega windy and cold.
  9. Bring a blanket so that your baby is snug and comfortable. I also find it doubles up as an exercise mat when you do the floor work!
  10. Bring a sunshade for your buggy. If you’re working out in a big park where there is little shade, this is a must for keeping your baby cool and comfortable in the warmer weather.
  11. Bring a big bottle of water. Come rain or shine, being exhausted from your life with a baby will leave you thirsty enough, let alone adding a workout too.
  12. If you’re breastfeeding, make sure you up your calories on the days you work out, so you give your body the fuel it needs at this important stage.
  13. Be kind to yourself. Take your time, don’t rush, and a fitter, more toned you will appear sooner than you think. (I’m setting myself a year to feel body confident again.)
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How to feel great after exercise, and get rid of that ache

I was so unfit, I ached for a week after my first ever Buggyfit class. But now I probably only ache for about 24 hours after. No matter how many classes I have been to though, I seem to discover new muscles that need a bit of a helping hand if I am to carry on my daily tasks. I don’t know about you, but I need my arms and legs to work as normal whilst carrying a heavy baby around on my hip, skateboarding (or some other dangerous activity) with my son, or tackling the never ending story that is my pile of washing.

To minimise the ache after a fitness class, or after exercise in general, that old chestnut of a warm up and cool down is the order of the day.

To help with the aching from my exercise classes, I’ve been trialling Movelat, which is a topical analgesic that provides targeted relief for local pain and inflammation. You can get Movelat Relief Cream/Gel from Boots, Tesco, and most Pharmacies, and it’s under a fiver for a tube. It’s really handy, as you can just apply it to the bit of your body that’s hurting, which means less of the medicine circulates around your body. It’s fine to use if you’re breastfeeding, which is a major plus in my book! For more information about the ingredients, you can read more here.

I wasn’t sure if a cream would really help muscle aches, but it actually really does! I am a bit of a painkiller-phobe, I don’t really like to take them unless I’m really suffering with something, so Movelat is a great alternative, and can be kept in your exercise/changing/handbag.

And, finally…

I’m by NO MEANS an expert on any of this exercise malarkey, but I am really enjoying becoming strong and fit. I have seen some awesome changes in my body so far this year, physically, and visually, and I am now a convert.

All Buggyfit images are from here.

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