“Returning to the gym was the best thing for me,” says World Health Edmonton member Tracie Lloyd. “Not just physically, but also mentally for avoiding post-partum depression. Days at home can be long with a new baby and getting out at the same time every day holds me accountable.”
The “right” time to get back to the gym after having a baby can differ, but generally women are cleared by their doctor for physical activity around 6 weeks post-partum.
“Before that I was doing light body weight exercises at home and walking,” says Tracie. “I started back slow the first few weeks just working on my form and establishing a routine at the gym. After 2 months of training three to four times a week I’m now back to weight training like I did before pregnancy- and I have my confidence back!”
“The Kids Club is amazing. It’s great to have that time to myself away from my baby and focus just on me for a hour of the day and not have to worry about her because I know that she is under excellent care.” – Tracie Lloyd
Tracie’s approach was the right approach, says World Health Edmonton personal trainer Jessi Zelinksy.
“Many women are exhausted with their new lifestyle and don’t realize working out can help with low energy, not make it worse.”
However Jessi also warns against trying to do too much, too soon.
“It’s common to want to ‘bounce back’ quickly and instead of taking the time to heal and recover properly, women go too hard and overdo it not realizing how much their body has changed.”
Tracie is currently four months post-partum and is feeling good about where she’s at physically.
“At two months post-partum I set the goal of losing 10 pounds and an appropriate body fat percentage for myself,” she explains. “In two months, with my trainers help, I hit all my goals!”
Due to the release of hormones during labour (relaxin), the ligaments and tendons are able to stretch and they do not always return to how they once were.
“Your hips and feet may be wider,” explains Jessi. “With this, balance can be affected and this comes with needing to relearn movement patterns.”
There are a few other things to look out for when returning to the gym post-baby, including bladder issues from a weakened abdominal wall. Certain activities like running and jumping may not be ideal until this is strengthened.
“Breastfeeding can cause the chest area to be tender, making certain movements uncomfortable,” adds Jessi. “With that being said, if you are working out for a prolonged time and moving the tissues you can experience leakage- just wear breast feeding pads!”
“Training while pregnant was the best thing I could have done,” says Tracie. “I trained up until the day before I gave birth and that morning I felt awesome… I had energy and felt strong!”
Tracie credits her results now- quick weight loss and minimal muscle loss- to the routine she was in during her pregnancy.
“I feel like I am in better shape now than I was pre-pregnancy,” she adds.
If a woman has been maintaining her fitness regime throughout her pregnancy, when she is ready to get back to the gym she can generally start up close to where she left off.
“We put an increased emphasis on retraining the core and stabilizing the pelvic and abdominal walls,” says World Health Edmonton personal trainer Jessi. “You may also find yourself rehabilitating the damages done during labour and retraining the body to move how it once did.”
It is incredibly important to seek medical approval prior to starting any physical activity, and to proceed by starting slow and listening to your body and its demands throughout the process. In the words of Jessi, “Your body has been through battle,” Be gentle with it!