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Over-tired super-moms will often want to start working out too intensely and too fast whereas less athletic moms may start their rehabilitation too late (or sometimes not at all). How do you know when is the best time to start postpartum training?
Here are the 5 steps that you should follow in your exercise plan, while at the same time following the expertise of a physical activity professional, such as a kinesiologist:
The first step involves beginning your rehabilitation exercises as soon as you are ready (step #1). We are not talking about super intense training, but only a small routine of simple exercises that you can perform while laying in your bed or during breast-feeding. Doing exercises that target your pelvic floor muscles will be helpful to your recovery. They can help to heal your perineum and start your rehabilitation (while waiting for your physiotherapy appointment). When you are ready, a physiotherapy assessment in pelvic and perineal rehabilitation (step # 2) will be an important step to help guide you in returning to your physical activities. Not only will they be able to evaluate your muscles (pelvic floor and abdominals), but will also follow your progress during the time needed to rehabilitate your pelvic muscles. The next step will be to gradually initiate exercises using your body weight only (step # 3) and work your way up to adding external weights slowly (step # 4). For example, you could do some muscle building exercises while sitting on an exercise ball to limit the pressure on your pelvic and abdominal muscles. And finally, when your rehabilitation is complete, you will then be able to safely add impact exercises (step # 5).
For example, these could be exercises targeting your perineum (also called pelvic floor muscles). Begin your postpartum rehabilitation with perineal exercises. They will help you to heal (if you had a tear) and also to rehabilitate your pelvic floor to avoid leaks and prolapse. These exercises are not dangerous, cannot hurt you, and for the most part, will not be painful (however, it all depends on the condition of your perineum after delivery). Then it’s time to focus on your abdominal muscles! Many women experience diastasis recti during pregnancy (when the muscles in your abdomen separate during pregnancy). According to a study, 27% of women will have diastasis recti in their second trimester and 66% in the third. 53% of these women will continue to have abdominal separation immediately after delivery and 36% will still have a separation at 5-7 weeks postnatal. Exercises that target your transverse muscles will be helpful in rebuilding a stable base for your torso so that you don’t hurt yourself, but contrary to what one might think, will not be the first muscle region to target. Hence the importance of consulting a specialist before starting a training plan. The body will normally recover on its own (partly, not completely) and this is why the first 2 months after giving birth are the most optimal window for postnatal rehabilitation. It is not for nothing that we often speak of a 4th trimester! The body is still changing during this time.
Always start with the stabilizing muscles. All the muscles that stabilize your trunk and pelvis have to be stretched and strengthened. You have to re-teach your body how to move. Start your postpartum training with a workout that targets these muscles before doing any other exercises/workouts.