Lately, Kat and I have come across posts on Facebook, overheard conversations in our gyms, and various other situations in which we encounter women that are going back to the gym two weeks after giving birth to a baby. If there is anyone that wants to rebel against the norm, it is Kat and I. If there is anyone that wants to stick it to The Man, it is Kat and I. However, there are reasons why midwives, doctors, nurses, and people like myself recommend staying out of the gym for 6-12 weeks.
Personally, I have a hard line drawn at the six-week mark. Anyone that I treat or consult with remotely is heavily encouraged to not step foot in the gym for six weeks. This is something I do not budge on. Sorry. You can be “Fit as F**K’ but I will not support your decision of going into to the gym for a workout at two weeks postpartum.
The gym can wait. However, establishing certain connections with your child and creating certain neural developments can only happen during the infant stage, and allowing your body to properly heal and recover is important to your overall health later on in life.
The human baby’s circulatory and respiratory systems learn through mimicking. That is they learn by feeling the mother breathe or feeling her heartbeat and it’s instinctual for their little autonomic nervous system to mimic their mother’s autonomic nervous system. The human baby also learns to interact with the world by watching, tasting, smelling, touching, and reacting similar to what they have been exposed to.
On the most basic level, the mother’s body is focused on providing nutrients for the new baby and recovering. Ligaments, muscles, and fascia in the mother’s body have just made room for the baby to descend through the pelvis or they have been cut through to pull the baby out. Either way, it is traumatic (lack of a better word) to the body. (And yes, a cesarean section will take longer to heal). The mother’s body needs a SHIT TON of nutrients right now- animal protein, fish, good fats, carbohydrates, bone broth, and water. The mother’s body will almost require double the amount of protein and other vitamins and minerals to recover, replenish, and rejuvenate cells.
Becoming a mother for the first time or the sixth time is a beautiful experience and transition. Each pregnancy and postpartum phase should be mutually exclusive. Every time is different.
Your view should not be, “When can I get back into the gym?” but rather, “How can I move to spend time with my baby?” That requires a little bit of a shift in thinking about what exactly the word workout means to you.
To me, movement is life. I’m the biggest proponent of movement. If you come to my office with a back injury, I will most likely prescribe thirty minutes of walking a day. If you come to my goal setting group (Make Sh*t Happen) not contributing to the greater good of the universe, we map out a plan of action together. Movement is everything from the physical to the existential.
Rather than feeling like a caged animal in the first six weeks of your new baby’s life, think of it as a new game. Put your baby in the Ergo and go for a walk or a hike. Do some air squats with your baby in front of you looking out at the world. It doesn’t matter what you do, but move with your baby. The name of the game is to keep your baby close and let that baby know you are his/her mother.
When it is time and/or you do feel ready to go back to the gym, it is important that you listen to your body and scale accordingly. Your body is completely different. You are working with a whole new canvas. Here’s how I break it down for women:
- Mobility and Activations: No these are not the same thing.
- Bodyweight Functional Movements: Squats, Lunges, Push-ups, Planks & Handstand Holds, and even Jumping Rope.
- Transitioning into a Full Workout: Incorporate one weighted movement at a time; then recover the next day and make note of body; move on accordingly.
Above, I’ve outlined the very basics of how I go about programming and/or coaching a woman back into action. Recovering after the birth of a child should not relate to any kind of musculoskeletal injury. Having a baby is its own thing. When you play the game smart, you and your baby benefit in the long run.
10 Dead lifts
20 feet Handstand Walk or Bear Crawl
10 KB Snatches
20 feet Handstand Walk or Bear Crawl
Notes and Modifications
- Pick a medium-heavy dead lift weight. Something that you may do a set of five of during the first two rounds.
- Bear Crawl if you could not walk 50 feet on your hands prior to becoming pregnant.
- Snatches can be done by swinging the KB or starting from a hanging positions, or they can touch the ground between each one.