8 SENSIBLE WAYS TO GET BACK INTO EXERCISE AFTER BIRTH
Frame gym founders Pip Black and Joan Murphy offer some excellent postnatal exercise advice
We created Frame’s postnatal exercise programme Mumhood as a direct result of our own experiences, firstly during pregnancy and then postnatally; when we were trying to juggle life as full-time working mums with young families. We have both been hugely active throughout our lives, through childhood, our teenage years, and as adults. Frame was launched in 2009 on the basis that ‘getting fit shouldn’t be a chore’ and was a consequence of the fact that there was nothing inspiring and fun talking to women back then about how great exercise makes you feel, and prepares your body for the stresses and strains of normal life.
Pip and Joan, the founders of Frame and Mumhood
In the same way, Mumhood is a way of us talking to women about the many benefits of staying fit and healthy while pregnant and as a new mum, concentrating not on having a amazing figure but actually on how it can reduce pain, give you more energy, prepare your body for labour, and help you to recover quicker after birth. We’ve come a long way from the idea that a pregnant lady should just be sitting on the sofa eating cake, but unfortunately there is still a lot of confusing and contradictory information out there as to what really is safe, and WHY we can and can’t perform certain movements. With Mumhood we aim to help educate women as to what is going on in their bodies at different times throughout their journey, and to motivate them to keep fit and active, with specific, easy-to-fit-in workouts that can be done at home without requiring childcare or an extortionate amount of cash.
Post birth, it is extremely important that you perform the correct rehab exercises in order to give your body the best chance of fully recovering from the changes it’s been through, and to get back into the same shape as you were pre-pregnancy. We tend not to talk about these things, but problems such as abdominal separation and stress incontinence are very common in women who have had children. There is actually a lot you can do, very easily, to prevent or reduce the chances of these occurring. Often we’re so caught up in the idea of ‘losing our baby weight’ that we push ourselves too hard, too soon, which can actually cause more harm than good long term.
Here are our top 8 tips to feeling energised, strong, confident and free from pain as a new mother...
1. Demand more from your 6-week check
It is so important that you leave your 6-week check understanding how your body is recovering from your pregnancy and birth. Ask your GP to check for your ab separation so that you know what you’re working with, and ask them to check any stitches etc. If anything isn’t recovering quite as it should be, you need to understand how you can help with this, but also this will affect what type of exercises you can start to do.
2. Book to see a women’s health physio if you are unsure about your postnatal recovery
To put things into perspective, every woman in France gets 10 free physio sessions post-birth to help with her rehab. We don’t this option as standard here (although if you push for it at your 6-week check, you may be able to get some physio on the NHS).
If this isn’t offered to you, but you have significant ab separation or you want to ensure that your recovery means the chance of issues such as incontinence are less likely in the future, we would suggest visiting a women’s health physio who can help you understand the current state of your body and help you with your rehab.
3. Exercise little and often
Don’t put yourself under any pressure to lose your baby weight quickly, especially if you are breastfeeding. You will see significantly better results long-term if you work on creating excellent foundations, with a strong pelvic floor and deep core connection. The key to these exercises is ‘little and often’ so think about doing 10-15 minutes a day, at least 4 times a week. This will be much more beneficial than a 60-minute blow-out once a week.
4. Avoid exercises which aggravate ab separation
Any exercise that causes ‘doming’ (where you see a ridge down the centre of your tummy if you come into a crunch position) should be avoided. If you can see this happening, you need to take modifications on the exercise. As a rule of thumb, exercises that work your ‘6-pack’ muscles (such as crunches) should be avoided if you still have any ab separation. These exercises will cause the muscles to stretch further apart and make it much harder to get rid of your ‘baby pouch’ in the long term. We have lots of information on this on our instagram @mum_hood
5. Start your pelvic floor exercises straight after birth and never stop!
There’s no reason why you can’t start your pelvic floor exercises straight after birth. You should really aim to do these daily, so pop some Post-it notes around your house to remind yourself to squeeze.
6. Keep it low-impact for the first 6 months
While you’re still in your rehab process, it’s a good idea to keep your exercise low impact. This doesn’t need to mean low intensity, you can still get a sweat on and get your heart-rate pumping, it’s more about reducing pressure on the pelvic floor before you’ve found your connection post-birth. You can still attend HIIT-style classes, but take the low-impact option, which any good instructor will be able to provide.
7. Invest in a running buggy
Once you’re back to feeling like your old self and the pelvic floor is feeling strong, invest in a running buggy (only suitable from 6 months after birth). It’s such a great way of multitasking and fitting in exercise when you don’t have childcare to hand. A run round the park while baby sleeps is one of the best ways to start the day and, once you’ve invested, it’s free.
8. Find a class near you so you can socialise with other new mums
We have a load of Mumhood classes on the timetable at Frame (4 locations around London) where you can get a sweat on, meet like-minded mums and know that you’re working out in the presence of an expert who can ensure you’re performing exercises correctly. It’s so much more fun (and more affordable) to join a class rather than pay for a PT. Our classes are designed so that you can bring your baby with you, so no added childcare costs
:: Visit mum-hood.com for more information on Frame’s Pregnancy and Postnatal Programmes, which can also be followed from home, wherever you are based..