by: Farel B. Hruska, FIT4MOM National Fitness Director
So, you’ve recently delivered your beautiful bundle of joy? Congratulations!
And Welcome to Motherhood!
This is an incredibly joyous and challenging time in your life…we truly get it. Depending on the type and length of your labor, you are probably healing in some fashion and still adjusting to sleep deprivation plus learning what it feels like to be a mom. The first piece of advice we have at FIT4MOM is to approach this chapter with zero judgment on how it looks for you. So many women spend time analyzing their bodies before and after pregnancy with a good bit of criticism. Your body did a miraculous thing growing another human being and that process deserves some celebration…not negativity. It took nine months for your body to change, please give it at least nine months to recover!
After you have had your 6 week physician check up (a standard time for healing and recovery according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – ACOG), you can start adding in some gentle activity or strengthening work to help with the movement patterns motherhood will ask of you. Your sweet little baby is still pretty small, however, your job is now with he/she pretty much attached to you most of the time! Your body will need strength in various ways, and in various positions, to support this beautiful weight you have delivered.
Where should we focus? Here are three main things to keep in mind:
It’s not equal- Motherhood asks us to move in very unique ways with dispersed load…wait, what does that even mean? Your baby will usually be held on one side or the other on your body. The weight of the baby will most likely be on your hip, which if not addressed in exercise, could start causing muscle imbalances in your trunk or core. It is super helpful to create this “dispersed load” in strength exercises to create build strength for your day-to-day life as a mom. Exercises which load the body on one side and then the other are perfect to replicate this concept! (An example would be a squat with a single arm overhead press with the Kettlebell).
Take a Top Level Approach – As women, our powerhouse, or strongest muscles, are our legs. We derive a lot of strength through our glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. While we will use these glorious muscles a lot in new motherhood (and beyond), we will be needing to create a strong upper body to help us hold and carry our babies. Specifically, a focus on our upper back, as most of what we do as moms can pull our shoulders forward and out of alignment. This forward dumping of the shoulders can lead to tremendous amounts of muscle fatigue and pain. Staying in neutral posture takes work and strengthening of the upper back is crucial to help you care for your newborn with energy and strength. (An example of an exercise to help with this upper back strength is a rear fly with an Xertube).
Let’s Face It, We Are ALL Unstable – While you may feel this is true in so many ways after having a baby, let’s just address the physical instability you are moving with as a new mom. The way your body shifted and changed through pregnancy is now the body you are working with to rehab and strengthen postpartum. Relaxin is a hormone that was present in your body while pregnant, and it can stay in your body up to 12 months after delivery. This hormone is very helpful during pregnancy as it allows for ligamentous laxity. This helped your pelvis to expand wider than it normally expands. It allows for uterine and breast tissue to expand, as well. All of which are wonderful and needed during pregnancy. The hitch is that relaxin affects ALL connective tissue… in all of your joints. Because it is still in your body after delivery, you may feel unstable in many of your physical tasks as a new mom. It helps to add some level of this instability in your fitness routine to create strength in that space. (Examples are a wall sit with abduction at the hip with an Ultra Toner or a rolling squat/wall sit using a Sponge Ball at your low back).
Becoming a new mom is such an incredible adventure! You have taken on a new role with a beautiful human being as your side-kick! Go easy on your fitness routine so you don’t take any steps back in your progress, and focus on the basics of strength as you navigate this new chapter in your life. Creating strength for motherhood is your focus. Enjoy this time!
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