Ease your way back into fitness with some gentle postnatal exercise, says our expert trainer
Words Louisa Batt
Pregnancy and birth take a massive toll on the body, but you can get back to feeling great again with gentle exercise. Aside from getting back to pre-pregnancy exercise levels, low-impact moves can help you sleep better and bond with your baby.
It’s important to take some time for yourself, especially when you’re a new mum and a short, daily exercise routine will help your mind and body. Even if it’s a brisk walk with your baby asleep in the pram or a few sets of crunches and stretches during nap time, find some time each day to move your body. At the same time, setting aside a few minutes of “me time” each day – whether this is meditation or a quick read before bed – will help with your energy levels and mindfulness.
Make sure you start back slowly! It’s imperative that you’ve had feedback from your doctor before exercising. If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, then you can actually be setting yourself back from real recovery. That, of course, does not mean you need to be held hostage in your house for six weeks. A walk can be considered a good start to your road back to exercise.
Also, seek out a supportive social network. There are actually physical and psychological benefits for women when they socialise, especially with other women.
It’s also important to know your own body. If the pelvic floor is weak, putting intra-abdominal pressure (like crunches, Pilates or general ab work) can put too much pressure on the pelvic floor and inhibit healing or even lead to a chance of organ prolapse. One of the first forms of exercise you can start to incorporate daily can be a kegel routine, restrengthening or even re-familiarising yourself with your pelvic floor muscles. In order to find the right muscles, and identify this area, just imagine that you are stopping yourself from going to the toilet. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles to hold the contraction for five seconds and repeat three times. You can do this in the morning and evening to help strengthen this area.
Pip and Joan, the team behind Frame Shoreditch, have many years of experience in the fitness industry, and pre and postnatal exercise specifically. Their programmes are doctor- and physio-certified, so you know you’re in good hands. The eight-week post-natal phase one programme is based on Pilates principles, helping you rebuild your core, work on your pelvic floor connection, and strengthen glutes. Phase two builds on that with higher intensity workouts alongside Pilates-based “Core Rehab”. They’ve also got the Fit Mums Programme, which offers high-intensity yet low-impact, short but tough workouts. It’s all delivered via video, so you can do it when and where you want.
Barre & Baby
talian ballet and contemporary dance instructor, Elissa Reinerio, created Barre & Baby to support mamas physically and mentally. With each session, she aims to correct your body posture, improve physical health and leave you feeling far more flexible. In the Mum & Baby classes, during the toning exercises at the barre, you’re able to wear baby in a sling or wrap. She also dedicates some ballet time to your little one, while he or she is resting on your lap or laying on a pillow (and the class sings nursery rhymes). These take place at venues in St John’s Wood, Notting Hill and Islington. It’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded new mums.
Right in the heart of Leyton, east London, lies Pause Yoga, a haven of calm that offers a serene break from our busy lives. For us mums, the team runs postnatal yoga classes, which focus on relaxation and aiding recovery, while allowing you to bond with baby. There are also parent and baby yoga classes (for mum or dad), suitable for babies six weeks to crawling, that’ll get you all moving and breathing together. If you’ve got older tots, they, too, can try out the one-hour Toddler Yoga sessions, which are suitable for little ones aged two-and-a-half to four. These classes are a fun way for them to discover the practice, while enjoying a side of song, sensory experiences and play.
Get some fresh air during the Buggyfit fitness classes for mums and babies, which have been developed by experts to suit the various stages we go through after giving birth. They’re an hour long, and usually involve a three- to five-mile route overall. You’ll start off with a warm-up
walk, moving into a power walk, and then a run. And classes also include group exercises to strengthen and tone those muscle groups. It’s all topped off with a cool-down and a stretch. Ultimately, you’ll improve your fitness and posture, as well as make some new friends, and spend more time with baby.
Post-Natal Fitness Exercises
Try these three moves once you’ve had approval from your doctor to start working out, says our expert
Belly Breathing With Pelvic Tilt
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your belly, fingers spread. Inhale, expanding your belly into your hands; then exhale, pulling your navel in towards your spine. As you exhale, tilt the lower part of your pelvis upward, lifting your glutes slightly off the floor. Relax and repeat. Begin with five reps and progress to 15.
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms out by your sides, holding them slightly off the floor. Inhale; then exhale, pulling your navel toward your spine. At the same time, squeeze your shoulder blades down and back, reaching toward your feet with your hands. Hold and repeat. Begin with five reps and progress to 15.
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, arms relaxed by your sides. Contract your abdominals; then lift hips up off the floor until your body forms one straight line. Hold for three to five breaths. Repeat four to six times.