The Pregnant Athlete Series: Getting your Body Back

You are no longer pregnant, and you have gone into your post-partum phase. Your body has gone through a number of changes and it is still going to change. Your belly is not flat yet and is slowly starting to come in. Your hips are starting to come back to normal. Your ligaments aren’t as flexible as they were before. You may be breast feeding, pumping, or you could be using formula. Your body is going to be different. This is something I need my new mommas to understand. Compassion for yourself and your body is a must in the post-partum phase.

If you are like me and wanted to get your body back ASAP. You are just waiting to be told you can go for a run and lift some weights. I had this preconceived notion that I was going to lose all my baby weight after 3 or 4 months. That was a naïve and unrealistic goal. Do not search Pintrest and think those post-partum photos are true. The time frame is not right on those photos. Your Body is going to take 9 months plus to get back to the same size and relative shape. Now your body is never going to be the same, and from one day to the next things shift and change, so why would pregnancy be any different?

Let’s talk about how to get your body back:

  • Start walking a week or two after giving birth. It may not be far or fast, but get up and start being active. This is going to be minimal exercise and that is all you need. The first few months are about buiding up your body and repairing. Anything too rigorous is going to go against your end goal and can cause a lot of damage.
  • Once you have been medically cleared you are going to need to create a workout plan that gradually gets you back to your old workout routine. Your body is very different than you remember. Not only for the last 2 months have you had to avoid the gym, before that you had an altered workout. Build slowly and know that it is going to get better soon. Don’t get frustrated, have compassion and understanding for yourself.
  • Focus on your low abs and pelvic floor. You are going to have to put extra effort into your pelvic floor and low abs. If you ignore either of these you are putting yourself at risk for incontinence, organ prolapse and pain. The Zipper technique taught in Pilates is a really good visual for properly engaging your core. It should be zipped up, or engaged, from the bottom up. Most people will engage their top abs and then their middle abs and completely forget about the bottom abs. Start from the pelvic floor, low abs, mid abs, Transverse abdominis and then upper abs.
  • Make sure to incorporate weight bearing exercises. This is going to tone you and bring back your shape faster than cardio alone.
  • Keep in mind that breast feeding is going to affect your shape and how quickly you go slim down. It is a myth that it will cause weight loss. In some women it is true, but not all. It may keep your abdomen thicker and people tend to over eat while breast feeding which prevents weight loss. On average, if you produce between 800 and 1000 mL of breast milk you will only need 300 Extra calories.
  • Give yourself the year to get your body back. Your routine is going to have to be flexible. A baby is going to keep you on your toes, and you are going to have to be ok with a short workout or skipping one because you are too tired. Listen to those fatigue signs. You are going to be more prone to injuries and burnout. You will not be sleeping well, and your nutrition may suffer. It will get better, but remember it won’t happen overnight.

I hope this series has been informative. It was nice to reminisce about my experience last year. I am very proud to say that this momma is back at work, and trying to balance athletics, diet, family, and my baby. I will let you know when I learn balance!

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