As a NASM CPT Certified Trainer and PROnatal (Levels I & II) and AFAA Perinatal Specialist, my clients come to me to get back on their feet after delivery. Exercise is a game-changer for not only your physical health (boosts energy levels, helps you sleep better, great for your cardiovascular fitness), but mental health (releasing endorphins to help navigate postpartum depression and simply feeling a sense of accomplishment through personal goal setting), as you navigate this huge life change. But how quickly in the fourth trimester can you get back to killin’ it in the gym? Here are my top tips for easing back into a steady fitness routine after the little one arrives:
Get Cleared by Your Doctor
I can’t stress this enough. Before you do ANYTHING strenuous on your body, especially if you’ve had a C-section or a complicated birth, please check in with the people who have many degrees in this stuff! Most women are cleared 4-6 weeks after delivery. In most cases, however, prior to getting clearance, you should be able to do some core breathing and pelvic exercises. I highly recommend it!
Give Yourself Some Grace
The first three months after delivery are titled many things: postpartum, the fourth trimester. But let’s be honest, it’s basically called SURVIVAL. Before you start any fitness routine, I ask you to take a breath and acknowledge that your body just went through a LOT and that it’s going to take substantial time to get back to the physical level you were at pre-baby. Lots of stuff is happening during survival time: you’ve got a dramatic drop in hormones, you might be breastfeeding and maneuvering through boob engorgement, not to mention you’re barely getting any shut eye at all. Letting your body heal internally and externally from this dramatic bodily shift is really the focus here. And what’s three months in the grand scheme of life? It’s nothing. So be kind to yourself, and set realistic goals that make you feel damn good. You deserve it!
Once you’re cleared by your doctor, check yourself for diastasis recti and continue to monitor it as you increase your fitness routine. Start slowly with movements you were doing in your third trimester. I recommend strength training with light weights and/or body weight. Think about the daily functional movement you will be performing when you have a bigger baby to carry around. Work on posture for the baby bjorn, strengthen your back and shoulder muscles for hinging over to give baby a bath, and work your lunges and squats for when you’re holding your little one and squatting to pick up the pacifier they repeatedly drop on the ground.
Bring in Reinforcements
Ask for help from your partner to carve time out for YOU to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. This time can also look like working with a Pre & Post Natal-Certified
Trainer (hi!) to help safely guide you back into your fitness routine, and serve as an emotional support system/friend in your corner who is dedicated to you and your body.
Listen To Your Body & Rebuild Your Core
Oh those abs! If you have severe separation, I recommend working with an expert, either a physical therapist or a Pre/Post Natal Specialist. If you have mild to minimal separation, your core breathing technique will be your new go-to exercise. Use it as you strength train! Add in functional movement that specifically activates your core: hip bridges, squats, deadlifts, and balancing exercises. One of my favorites is balancing on one foot while doing bicep curls. Overall, let time be your friend! Slowly add more weight as you feel stronger (and you will!).
Don’t Compare Your Journey to Others
Friends. Remember that Instagram is a highlight reel and not the day-to-day. Take YOUR journey day by day, put in the work, and stay away from the comparative media that makes you feel less than. Focus on your body, your needs, and if you need a cookie every now and then because parenting is hard, EAT THE COOKIE.
Amanda Butler is an NYC-based personal trainer, fitness instructor, and fitness model. NASM CPT, PROnatal (Levels I & II), AFAA Perinatal, AFAA Group Fitness, KettleBell Concepts, CPR/AED, TRX, and Nutritious Life Nutrition Certified and proud mother of three, she’s always on the move and rewards herself with a weekly Levain cookie, split with her husband Pablo. Follow Amanda on Instagram or visit her website for more health & fitness tips.