This topic has come up within in my professional and personal world several times in the past couple weeks. The question is usually " Should I go to bootcamp for moms so I can get back in shape?" This is a class that usually involves walking/cardio/pushups/planks/abdominal exercises as well as general advice on getting back into shape. This type of class also usually incorporates baby into the exercises and provides community for new moms. My polite answer is: it depends. What does that mean?
5 Steps You Can Take To Know if You are Ready:
1. Be cleared by your medical professional to return to normal activities (often times this is your OBGYN)
2. Assess yourself for a diastasis recti. Are you able to do an mini abdominal crunch without a separation of rectus abdominus?
3. Check your body, are you painfree in your low back? Are you free of numbness or tingling in your legs? Pain is a symptom that something is not right and its your body's way of telling you to address it.
4. Do you have your active range of motion back from pregnancy and delivery? Are you able to bend forward and backward without pain or stiffness?
5. Do you have the energy to put into a class? Self care after a new baby is so important for mamas, rest, alone time, nourishing food and community.
Did you answer no to any of the questions?
Alternative exercises to a bootcamp:
If you answered no to any of the above questions, you are not ready for bootcamp.
What should you do instead?
Graded exercise programs are the most comprehensive and gentle programs that you can do for your body postpartum. It takes time to reconnect with the pelvic floor musculature and the abdominals that were stretched to maximum capacity as you carried your beautiful baby. Imagery and pelvic floor specific exercises can be invaluable to regaining this inner strength that will lend itself to more challenging exercises in the future. Pilates based exercises incorporate imagery, core stabilization and lumbar movement in pain free ranges. Build yourself up from the inside out.
Do you have a diastasis recti? Have it professionally assessed by a physical therapist that works with post-partum women. The PT will be able to guide you in exercises to help repair it.
Do you have pain? Are you lacking full active range of motion of your spine? Set up an evaluation with a qualified healthcare professional. Often times the sacroiliac joint is affected after delivery and may be the reason for low back pain or radiating leg pain. The lumbar spine can also be affected after delivery and with lack of rest and nursing positions. A physical therapist can help you with posture, show you easier ways and mobilize/manipulate joints that may need it.
Do you have energy? This is the most challenging of them all, because, who has energy with a new baby? Think about it in this light, are you able to meet your needs and your baby's needs right now in a comfortable way? You will get your body back, it may not happen at 6 weeks postpartum, or 4 months post-partum, but if you want it and are willing to take the steps for it, you will get it. Give yourself a break and take a nap, get your restorative rest and snuggle your little one. Sleep is a huge factor in fitness, and oftentimes dropping weight is very challenging if you are not getting enough sleep. Begin a gentle walking program with your baby, start by going around the block and work up your time to 20-30 minutes a day. Exercise should feel good, especially when you are just beginning a program post-pregnancy.
Take care of yourself and your body post-baby and allow yourself to heal.
Your body will thank you.
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Amisha Klawonn is a Board Certified Physical Therapist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and a Fellow in the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists. She is professionally trained in yoga and Pilates and Barre. She is an avid lover of movement and the teaching others the way to learn about body wisdom.