When my daughter was finally born, the feeling of relief and exhaustion was immediate and all encompassing. That relief lasts exactly 5 seconds because then they hand you this warm, squirming, wet baby and you realise “Oh, motherhood starts right now.” My journey back to the gym is a true reflection of my recovery process and my transition into motherhood. I relied heavily on my health and fitness routine during pregnancy to see me through child birth and it continues to play a significant role in my recovery.
Those first few days after
The first day home is a shock. The first time I looked down at my post-natal body, I sat on the floor and cried. My belly looked like a deflated balloon, soft and hanging. Not to mention the trauma of having all of my most sensitive areas put through 10 rounds of hell. I desperately wanted to get back to the gym and start feeling strong again. Just days after I got home, I remember wanting to get some fresh air so I went for a short walk to my corner shop. I got half way there before I realised I was never going to make it. I had spent so much time preparing for the strength and stamina of delivery I completely forgot about some key parts of health and healing… rest and recovery. Those first few weeks, or more depending on the circumstances of your delivery, it is so important to be patient with yourself. Rest whenever possible. Seriously, if that baby falls asleep, you find a horizontal surface and crash. You might even doze off standing in the shower or buttering your toast. Do not be afraid to rely heavily on your partner or family members, now is not the time to do it all on your own. I know I mentioned it before but aside from rest, you need to refuel! Your body has spent an incredible amount of calories (roughly 800 per hour of active labor) and nutrients to deliver your baby. If you decide to breast feed, you will continue to burn extra calories and nutrients. Get plenty of fruits, vegetables, proteins and rest, rest, rest!
Ready, Steady, Go!
I suffered from crippling post-partum depression those first few months. My body was a disaster, my daughter never stopped crying (she had reflux) and as an American living in the UK, I didn’t have the support and comfort of my family. My husband was an excellent support system and definitely carried his fair share of the work load, but as a nursing mom, a lot of the responsibility fell to me. Getting back into my fitness routine wasn’t just about “losing the baby weight”; it was about carving time out of my week to take care of myself. When you feel ready, ease back into your own fitness routine. A good gym or trainer will have regular reviews with you and help you assess what your new starting point and goals are. I had a great chat with my trainer before my first day back about how my healing was going and where my limitations were. Something my trainer, Tom Peto, said to me is to take pride in every victory. When I left the gym, even 8 months pregnant, I could do 15 push-ups, no problem. When I returned, I couldn’t even do 3. I was so frustrated, I felt like I had failed in some way. A few weeks after returning, I was up to 5. I was still down on myself, how was I ever going to get back to where I was? Tom brought me in for an extra review and reminded me of the bigger picture. I’d just had a baby, when I walked through that door I couldn’t do 3 push-ups, and in only a few weeks I was up to 5. If I didn’t celebrate every milestone, it was going to be a long, joyless journey. The goals my trainer and I set for myself became victories I could celebrate throughout the week. My time at the gym became a safe place where I could leave the worries and stress of newborn life behind and get a little piece of myself back. Most people know that physical exercise releases endorphins, which can help improve your mood. I think there’s something to be said for the high of reaching your goals, of moving your body in new and creative ways, in coming into a space all your own and making something of yourself for the sheer joy of it. As my body healed, and my daughter started sleeping more, I found my strength returning and I was smashing goals left and right. I remember sitting at one of my reviews and Tom asked me “What is your over-all fitness goal now?” I started to say “To get back to my pre-baby weight.” But that wasn’t my goal anymore, not really. I found that the actual desire of my heart was to be strong and healthy, to be able to keep up with my growing, wild daughter and to be an example to her. When your fitness goal is something deeper than numbers on the scale, I think it makes the work empowering and joyful.
Patience is a Virtue
Before I had my daughter, I had a false belief that if I worked hard enough and did all the right things, I would have my pre-baby body back in no time. If all those celebrities could do it, why couldn’t I? I’m sure some of you seasoned moms are having a good laugh at my expense! Every body is different, and you never know how the hormones and experience of carrying and delivering a baby are going to wear on your body. Before you go back to the gym, have an honest chat with yourself about your goals, your fears. The shape of your body may change, but that doesn’t have any reflection on how strong, fit, and capable you can be! My gym, Synergy Health & Performance in Chester became this great support system for me, cheering me on when I struggled, celebrating with me when I succeeded. They built me up and gave me confidence to embrace my new body and my new role as Mom. It has been nearly 9 months since I had my little girl, and while I’m still on my journey of recovery and self-rediscovery, I’m enjoying the challenge and celebrating all the little victories.
Quality Wrist Supports
The hormone Relaxin is released during pregnancy which loosens connective tissue and can cause joints issues during some exercises. Try out these wrist supports for a pain free workouts with less injury risk.