10 Tips for Training in Pregnancy and Postpartum
Pregnancy and postpartum are HUGE times full of changes, from bodies to hormones to a complete overhaul of our lives. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or 4th, it can still be a really tough time to navigate.
One thing that can be pretty elusive is exercise during these periods. Even with all of the amazing prenatal and postnatal coaches out there, there’s still a TON of misinformation floating around out there (I’m looking at you “Listen to your body” *insert eyeroll*).
We often hear things like “if you did it before, it’s fine to keep doing” or “you’re cleared for exercise”, but those are REALLY loose guidelines to follow. These 10 tips will give you way more guidance, so you can train confidently and with the health of your body in mind.
Regress in Pregnancy, Progress in Postpartum. One thing I LOVE about programming for pregnancy and postpartum is the juxtaposition between these phases. Often people approach pregnancy and postpartum exercise with a “do what you’ve always done” attitude, when there’s really so much more to it. Pregnancy should be a time where you regress programming leading up to birth and postpartum should be about resting, rehabbing the body, then retraining or progressing back to previous fitness. When you frame it this way, it becomes a longer term approach to exercise that will help your body manage all of the changes happening while helping you feel stronger for the long haul.
Pregnancy is temporary, Postpartum is forever. I know most of the people reading this are either in pregnancy or in the first year (more than likely first months) postpartum. I find that SO many women think postpartum is just over after the first year when really postpartum is a forever game. YES, even if you’re in your 60’s and your kids are in their 30’s. You still grew, birthed, and raised a human. Our bodies don’t care if we’re 5 weeks or 50 years postpartum, it’s still a postpartum body and if you’ve never gone through the “rehab” phase.. Perhaps it’s time. On the other side of the coin, I often see women just trying to make it through their pregnancy doing their favorite sport or exercise, fearing that giving it up would mean it’s gone forever (we’ll touch on this one later). Pregnancy is temporary. Giving up a sport or scaling during pregnancy doesn’t mean you’ll never get back to it.
Prioritize Pelvic Health. Pregnancy and childbirth is HARD. It’s a marathon for your body and a hugely incredible thing! Whether your baby was born vaginally or surgically, your pelvic floor and core have undergone a number of changes. If you injured your shoulder, you’d go to PT to rehab it, right? Same for your pelvic floor post-birth. And, really, when you frame it that way- why are we NOT immediately given a referral to a pelvic PT post birth? Maybe someday… Anyway, assessment and treatment, if needed, by a qualified pelvic health professional can help you get back to the things you love doing faster and for the longer term.
Check in with your body often. This is different than “listen to your body”, because how do you even do that? Just like a crying baby you’d check in with, it might take some nuance and a bit of frustration at first. Checking in with your body could be doing a quick scan before a workout to see how you’re really feeling that day and adjusting your intensity or your workout according to feedback. It could mean checking in mid-workout when you’re feeling pain or the onset of leaking and adjusting your workout right then. It could mean finding a qualified coach who can give you guidance on what to even check for and how. In any case, checking in with your body is super important. Check in and do it often.
Know how and when to modify. So what do you even do with the information you get when you check in? There are lots of signs your body could be giving you telling you to modify, but how do you know how and when to scale back? What does scale back even mean? Here are a few examples of when I would suggest scaling a movement:
You’re experiencing leaking during high impact exercise like running or jumping
You’re experiencing pelvic pain, heaviness or bulging in the rectum or vagina
You’re workouts are leaving you feeling drained and exhausted
Modifying a workouts doesn’t necessarily mean you’re scaling it way back, it simply means doing something differently. Change that exercise/workout or HOW it’s done to reduce symptoms or stress, then retest again in the future. Which leads right into my next point….
It isn’t forever, just for now. Scaling, modifying, or even dropping workouts, intensity, or exercises in pregnancy and postpartum can feel really defeating. It can feel like we aren’t good enough, we’re doing something wrong, we’re broken, or we’ll never be “normal” again. Read the bold again and let it sink in… It isn’t forever, just for now. No, you won’t be doing breathing exercises or side-lying clamshells only your entire life (though I do love a good clam in my workouts.) Being a mother doesn’t mean you’ll never jump again leak-free or that you’ll always be sitting on the sidelines watching other people do something you love. It’s just for now.
Adjust your exercise intensity according to your life. This goes hand-in-hand with #6. If you have a 6-week old who is barely sleeping and you’re breastfeeding round the clock, would a high-intensity class be something I’d suggest? No. If you’re 5 months postpartum and your baby is only waking once at night to feed, would I make that same suggestion? Probably not, but it depends. Just like I would have completely different suggestions for the woman who is 5 months pregnant versus the one in her final few weeks. Life changes and sometimes it’s really challenging. When you’re not sleeping, making food for another person (which counts both in pregnancy and postpartum), uncomfortable, frustrated, and feeling really disconnected from your body, it can be hard to see the bigger picture. I get it, that intensity can get you out of your head for just 30 minutes or help you feel like your old self again. I really want you to look at the bigger picture. Life won’t be this way forever, it’s ok to prioritize rest, nourishment, and taking care of your body the way it is. It’s not forever, just for now.
Build a team you can trust and who understands your goals. HUGELY important one here. So very important to choose your providers and your coaches wisely during this important phase of life. Ask all the questions, share all of your goals for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals or advocate for yourself. Make sure their treatment plan aligns with your goals. Make sure your coach is qualified to work with pregnant and postpartum women (simply having been pregnant and postpartum does not count.) Hire a doula. Talk to your family about what you need. It is never too much and don’t ever feel like you can’t change providers or coaches because you don’t jive with them. There are others out there that will get you. Build a team that understands you and your goals.
Play the long game. Short and simple. All of these tips are here so you can do the things you love for the long haul. Taking care of your body and your needs now is so important to your overall health and function. You are important enough.
Ask yourself what you would tell your own daughter. Lastly, and this one really hits home with me. What would you tell your own daughter? Would you tell her to go to the baby bootcamp because her belly is disgusting? Would you tell her she’s fat and has to get the baby weight off? Would you tell her to push through even though she’s exhausted and on the verge of tears from stress?
Think about it…. These are often the things we tell ourselves. The words we use to describe our bodies and abilities can be really negative and words matter SO MUCH. When you find yourself speaking to yourself this way, think about if you would say that to your daughter (or daughter-in-law or sister if you have boys.) If you wouldn’t speak to them that way, then why would you say it to yourself? Give yourself the positive support you’d give your daughter.
There you have it, friends! Ten tips for training during pregnancy and postpartum that don’t include the elusive “listen to your body” or “do what you always do”, because there’s so much more to it- as you can see.
Registration is open for my 14-day challenge that starts January 14th. If these tips resonated with you and you want more guidance, join this amazing group of mommas HERE!