Arriving in the “postpartum period” is like being a tourist in a foreign city where…
Do you know what to do to strengthen your body postpartum? Or are you drowning in those mommy blog vortexes and Google rabbit holes?
I know, there’s a lot of information out there. And when you want to play an active role in your body’s recovery, there’s nothing more overwhelming and frustrating than too many options.
So, I’m here to simplify things for you. And it starts with your baby. Wait, what? I thought this was supposed to be about me? Don’t worry it is, trust me. Here’s the deal.
Through pregnancy and the first few years of your baby’s life, your little one actually provides you with the KEY component that is necessary to gain strength in your body: progressive overload.
In the strength and conditioning world, progressive load is necessary to continue getting stronger and not plateau. For example, one week you lift 10lbs and the following you lift 15lbs, and so on and so forth. You progressively overload the muscles in order to continue the positive adaptations in your body. That’s pregnancy! And motherhood! Because that baby keeps growing and you have to keep schlepping them around!
It’s easy to see how the pregnancy and the first year postpartum are viewed (and felt, amirite?) as only depleting and diminishing for the mother. But with proper nutrition, this scenario also has all of the components needed to help elevate your strength.
Not convinced yet? Here’s a little story from the 6th century BC about Milo of Croton, an Olympic champion.
He allegedly gained his world-class strength by carrying a growing calf each day. By carrying this growing calf every single day Milo developed the strength to carry a full grown bull on his shoulders. He did this through progressive overload. He consistently lifted a growing bull from infancy!
This is us! We are Milo! Our baby is a bull! And not only are we Milo of Croton while we are carrying the baby, we are certainly embodying Milo postpartum as we pick up and put down our growing baby all day every day.
It’s not only your baby’s body and mind that grows, it’s yours too. And you have the power to harness this in order to GROW to an exponential degree. How incredible is that?!
Did you know that while your body is busy growing a baby, your increased blood volume and the hormone increases (especially estrogen) support an increased amount of strength? The increased hormones that surge through your body are at the highest levels that they will ever be at during your adult human life.
In fact, many have argued that utilizing our superhuman metabolism and hormonal state during pregnancy to take a step forward in our fitness is not only viable, but also could be a strategic methodology to enhance our experiences pre and postpartum. Because of the way that the body adapts to exercise, it is possible that following a structured, planned strength and aerobic program while pregnant, can benefit and support your postpartum recovery.
It’s true that we need to acknowledge that our pelvis is moved into an anterior tilt (butt sticks out) and our rib cage splays forward into a flared position. But that doesn’t mean we can’t train with a moderate amount of intensity while pregnant.
And if you didn’t have a chance to follow a fitness program while pregnant, no problemo!
Start now. Remember, you are Mila of Groton lifting that little calf…when they grow into a bull, you will be ready!
It’s not about weight loss. Let your body do its thing. Focus on being the strongest that you have ever been, mentally, and physically. The rest will fall into place when it is supposed to.
Be patient. You aren’t supposed to “snap back” over night. This is not mentally or physically healthy, especially when your body is healing from giving birth. Did you know that when you lose more than 2lbs a week, it puts so much stress on your body that you shift into a catabolic state? That means your body starts breaking down your muscle tissue and upping stress hormones. And we have enough of those already! Slow and steady wins the race.
Focus on your strength and recovery. Optimize your happiness and functionality. The “baby weight” will go when it is supposed to go, and you will have a healthier and happier body in the long run. You’ll have better muscle tone and healthier function. And guess what? This helps to stimulate metabolism and skeletal integrity for LIFE!
Work from the inside out. Have your main goal be to gain strength as your baby grows. This is the most natural application of strength periodization. The two most critical factors in any periodized program are load and recovery. The load is your baby. The recovery is your rest. Especially the quality of your rest. Rest is where the change happens. Where you make gains in connection, strength, and adaptation.
Ready to re approach your fitness routine right after having your baby? Here’s how to use your baby to get in shape!
The transversus abdominis, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and multifidus are the most important muscles to begin reconnecting to and using immediately after giving birth. The best way to safely check in and get the party start with these core muscles is to breathe. BONUS: tie a ribbon around your waist for feedback to see if your muscles are doing what you think they’re doing.
Step 1: Start on your back on the ground with your baby resting on your tummy.
Step 2: Inhale for two seconds, and exhale for eight seconds.
Step 3: As you inhale, expand into the real or imaginary ribbon around your waist and watch your baby rise up toward the ceiling.
Step 4: As you exhale, imagine that a ribbon is tightening around your waist as you gently pull your muscles away from the real or imaginary ribbon around your waist and watch your baby lower away from the ceiling.
This breathing pattern, with intentional proprioception from the Ab-Ribbon,* helps strengthen your deep core muscles and helps prevent SI joint dysfunction, diastasis recti, low back pain, and hip pain in the postpartum period.
Incorporating Breathography,** which layers a pursed lips blow, hiss, softly shh-ing, and loudly shh-ing like an angry librarian, can bring this breathing exercise to a whole new level. And not just postpartum, but for the rest of your life!
I followed these methods during and after my second pregnancy, and I regained my strength postpartum much faster than with my first. I make all of my clients breathe like this and they’ve all increased not only their core strength, but their total body strength.
This is another example of why growing and delivering a baby is an amazing opportunity to become a mother, AND to explore the depths of your physical and mental strength and the fine function of the human body.
Looking for more information on working with your breath in this way? Click here. Want to know what the heck to do with your pelvic floor? This article has everything you need to know.