The 7 Best Postpartum Workout Tips (How to exercise after having a baby)
Here's the problem:..
It can be really hard figuring out how to get back into exercise postpartum.
Most women are desperate to lose the belly and there is a LOT of crap out there, like waist trainers, skinny teas, crazy diets… the list goes on...
But none of these things ACTUALLY give women information on how to start exercising safely postpartum, and how to get results like
Flattening your belly
Improving pelvic floor function
Getting rid of back pain
Feeling stronger and coping with the tasks of daily life.
It’s possible to do all of this, but you have to actually understand how it all works, and the process
I’ve created a 10-day postpartum fitness journey that shows you how to start to do all of these things in a manageable way, and that teaches you how to address all of these issues as you go. Put your details in the box below to receive my 10-day Postpartum Challenge, and get some of the best postpartum workout tips out there. I have created a method that involves core, mobility and strength work to address the most important elements of postpartum fitness
Sign-up for the 10-day postpartum challenge!
Postpartum Exercise: The Two Big Mistakes Women Make
Many women think that the way they should start exercising postpartum is to simply dive back into whatever they were doing before pregnancy.
Some women manage to push themselves back into their hour-long HIIT workout or 50-minute run.
Some try, when they have a burst of self-hatred - often shocked by how “out of shape” they are - and then beat themselves up for this, and don’t continue to exercise because that first experience was so awful.
For most women, what they THINK constitutes a good workout feels overwhelming, because they feel so weak, are worried about doing damage to their pelvic floor or tummy muscles, or they are just SO TIRED from taking care of a newborn… so they just never do it.
What most women don’t realise is…
Pregnancy and the postpartum period makes you weak and deconditioned - which means that you lose cardiovascular fitness, and you become, “unfit”
(Technically, during pregnancy, it IS possible to maintain or even IMPROVE cardiovascular fitness, but most women don’t train for that. During pregnancy you will almost certainly lose muscle mass and strength due to hormonal changes.)
Postpartum You Lose Strength Too
During the postpartum period, or the “fourth trimester” - especially the first 6 weeks, because of the relative inactivity and the healing process you WILL lose:
Your abdominal muscles will also be very stretched out and weakened. If you had a c-section, they will feel even weaker as the incision heals.
THIS is NORMAL - and it is incredibly important that women know this - that they don’t feel like something is WRONG because they feel like this.
THERE IS A SOLUTION
It DOES NOT mean that this is how you are going to feel for the rest of your life. There is a LOT that can be done about this.
The Best Postpartum Workout Tips
In this article, I am going to walk you through the method that I have developed for helping mums bridge the gap from the postpartum “hit-by-a-bus” feeling, to feeling capable, strong and confident in their bodies again.
It’s important to remember that postpartum return to exercise is kind of like recovering from an injury. If you tore your ACL, you wouldn’t just expect to “rest it” and then after X number of weeks or months, to just jump back into whatever you did before. You would expect to do a series of rehab exercises to build back function and strength in your knee.
Well, postpartum exercise is kind of like that.
Postpartum Exercise Guideline #1: Start with MOBILITY
Most women dive right into high-impact cardio, simply because it’s what they know.
It’s really important to start with MOBILITY, mobility involves moving the bits that get tight for mums: shoulders, hips, low back…
Here’s the first mobility workout in my 10-day Postpartum Challenge.. give it a try!
You can sign up for the whole 10-day series here - each 10-minute session builds on the last, and we'll work on core, mobility AND strength
Postpartum Workout Tip #2: It’s important to build back STRENGTH and muscle mass
Like I said before, we lose so much strength and muscle mass during pregnancy and the postpartum period. This affects us in 2 really big ways:
Firstly, we feel WEAK - it’s hard to lift and hold our baby (and/or older children), and to carry out our daily tasks.
Secondly, our metabolism decreases. Muscle is an expensive tissue, metabolically speaking, which means it needs a lot of energy just to maintain it. So when you lose a lot of muscle, you burn fewer calories throughout your day.
Ever heard mums say “I’m back to my ‘pre-pregnancy weight’ but I’m flabbier/less toned/feel fatter” - if you have three kilos less muscle mass, and you weigh the same, guess what those three kilos have been replaced with? You’ve got it… fat.
Strength training postpartum solves both those problems.
It helps us get STRONGER which helps us cope with our daily tasks, making day-to-day life easier, and it helps us build muscle mass and increase our metabolism (which can really help maintain a healthy weight)
Here’s the first strength workout of the 10X10 series:
Again, you can sign up for the whole series here. I'll take you through 3 strength workouts that build on one another gradually.
Best Postpartum Workout Tips, #3: You know you need to strengthen your core, but how?
Most women just smash away at their abs with traditional core exercises, paying zero attention to what their tummy muscles are actually doing.
After pregnancy and birth, we need to RE-train the core - remember that these muscles have been stretched out tremendously over the course of our pregnancy - the goal of “core training” is to help increase the strength of those muscles so that they lie flatter between the pelvis and the ribcage.
In order to do that, you can’t just obliterate them - you have to CONNECT to them through the breath and, starting with very gentle exercises, create more demand on the muscles.
You can start with exercises like these:
You can sign-up to get these postpartum workouts and SEVEN more send directly to your inbox, just fill out the form below...
Postpartum Exercise #4: Start early and gently
As I said before, most women think that the right way to exercise after having a baby is to just start doing whatever they did before pregnancy.
Because of this belief, they will wait until they “feel up to it” before starting to exercise.
But that doesn't usually work because your fitness level won’t actually improve unless you create a stimulus that your body needs to adapt to.
Remember, because you have LOST fitness through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period, you have to start at a much lower level than you used to be at.
(Not to mention the fact that you may still be healing)
I’m going to suggest something radical:
You don’t want to wait until you feel like you can crush a really hard workout (because that day will probably never come)
You want to start EARLY - maybe even before you feel totally ready - and you want to start GENTLY - like really gently. It might not even feel like “exercise” since at this stage you might still be really achy and stiff.
Try something like this:
So many women that I’ve worked with are completely STUNNED by how good it feels to move in this kind of way, to mobilize the spine and have a stretch.
Most women don’t even realise how much their body hurts until they start moving:
Working Out Postpartum Tip #5: Focus on HEALING and recovery, (before you try to “blast fat” or crush yourself in a workout)
If your back is killing you, if you leak urine every time you sneeze, if you can’t get out of a chair, if your organs feel like they are falling out of your vagina, if you feel like your abs are “non-existent”... START by addressing THAT stuff BEFORE trying to exercise really hard.
Intense exercise is healthy, but it’s not as healthy as not having any of this stuff going on…
Best Postpartum Exercise Tips, #6: Start with a manageable amount
I get all my trainees to start with just 10 minutes. Yep, that’s right, JUST TEN MINUTES.
This is a manageable amount for MOST women during the postpartum period (although you shouldn’t feel bad if even this feels like too much).
You can always increase time working out as you get into a groove.
10 minutes is often more than enough to get you feeling more mobile, easing back pain, stretching out tight body parts and strengthening the bits that have gotten a bit weak.
A lot of women will argue that “10 minutes isn’t enough!” - but any more than that feels too overwhelming, so they never do it. They would literally prefer to THINK about doing 40 minutes of exercise than ACTUALLY doing 10 minutes.
If you do the RIGHT things, you can make a lot of headway with just 10-minute-long sessions.
Working Out Postpartum, Tip #7: Don’t stick with “easy” exercises forever.
In recent years there have been a flurry of “safe” postpartum programmes on the scene… they have revolutionized the way we approach postpartum exercise.
They provide a really gentle entry-point for many women wishing to return to exercise.
BUT… they often STAY easy and never progress onto harder levels and often advocate “avoiding” certain “dangerous” exercises forever more - meaning that it is not possible to actually get stronger and fitter, all the while promoting a view that the postpartum body is weak and needs to be protected.
I’ve spoken to so many women who feel frustrated by these postpartum programmes that promise the world but never actually deliver results.
To answer the question in this screenshot message above: it’s not necessarily about starting from scratch (although there are sometimes some basics that we need to learn) - it’s often about sufficiently challenging the body: whether the abdominal muscles, back muscles or the heart and lungs… a well-structured postpartum programme will start gently with the basics, and gradually increase the intensity and difficulty over time, improving your overall fitness level.
I hope you found this blog post helpful - If you did, I know you'll find my 10-day challenge really illuminating. It will give you the tools to START moving and taking care of your postpartum body.
From there, you can join my online programme, The Complete Postpartum Programme to continue your journey!
Jen Curtis is a pregnancy and postpartum fitness specialist who is passionate about helping women transform their bodies in a sustainable way.
The creator of The Complete Postpartum Programme, she is well-known for her no-BS approach, her dedication to facts, science and evidence and for debunking myths around nutrition and exercise.