Exercise after pregnancy can not only speed up your physical recovery, it also lifts your mood and allows you to focus on yourself rather than bub. A rarity, right?
But returning to exercise also comes with countless questions.
~Where do you start?
~When is it too early to go for a run?
~How do I best support my postpartum recovery?
We invited Stacey McKenzie, a physiotherapist with a special interest in women’s health and founder of The Postbump Project, to share her 12-week postpartum exercise roadmap with the Cushii community.
“Sure thing. This roadmap for returning to exercise after pregnancy will help you get back to doing what you loved pre-baby.”
Whether for you that’s going for walks, booking a CrossFit session or a decent run, remember every single journey is very individual so make sure to listen to your body and seek a professional opinion for help with your postbump journey.”
“I like to break things up into 7 phases to help new mums gently ease back into an exercise routine that works for them and is suitable for their individual point on their postpartum journey.”
1. Delivery Day
Congratulations! This day is all about rest, recovery, baby and you. Let your doctors and midwives guide you when it comes to information and advice for your specific recovery whether this includes treating tears, bladder retention or c-section scars. The more you learn, the better your recovery!
2. Breathing + Activation
Let’s begin your return to exercise with breathing. Yep, breathing! Using diaphragmatic breathing and gently engaging your abdominals and pelvic floor while doing so is the first step to your active recovery.
3. Get Moving
When you feel ready, walking should be the next step on the list! Walking still is so underrated but actually is great for cardio and gets your body moving. It also is easy, budget-friendly and amazing for your mental health. Need an excuse to get out of the house? Go for a walk!
4. Your 6-Week Check Up
6 weeks after birth is when you’re due for a check up with your doctor. I highly recommend seeing a pelvic floor physio at this time also. It’s the best way to get an individual assessment to help guide your recovery and return to exercise. Your physio will set you up with a pelvic floor plan to increase strength and function of your pelvic floor. That usually includes exercises and a management plan.
5. Strength Training
Once your doctor gives you the ok, speak to your physio how best to include strength training in your exercise routine. I recommend starting light and increasing it as you're ready. Strengths Training is often overlooked but *so* important for your recovery and return to exercise! Continue increasing your strength training to the desired level with the support of a professional. What that looks like will depend on whether you simply want to strengthen everyday activities or opt for more intense weight training.
6. Low Impact Exercise
You’re already walking as one form of low impact exercises. Now, as your strength, endurance and recovery improves you can start to increase the intensity. That could include power walking, bike riding and low impact circuit training. Again, knowing when you're ready for these increases is best done with the help of a professional.
7. High Impact Exercise
I recommend waiting at least 12 weeks before returning to high impact activities, often longer. The consequences of returning too early can include pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence. How do you know when you’re ready? Book an appointment with a pelvic floor physio to assess your pelvic floor strength, tone and function as well as the integrity of the tissues in the area. That examination along with the subjective examination where your symptoms, issues and goals are established will help determine when you are ready to return to high impact exercise. Once you’ve ticked these boxes, you’ll walk away with a program to help you return to exercise.
Curious to hear more from Stacey about a supported postpartum journey?
Take Stacey’s “Which postbump mum are you?” Quiz
Or follow Stacey on Instagram @thepostbumpproject
Want ALL the answers to your MANY questions during the first year with your new bubba? Check out this newborn sleep guide for clever parents.