How to Survive the 4th Trimester Like a BossJun 18, 2020
You're athletic, you're competitive and you've just done the hardest workout of your entire life. No matter what your birth story, whether you laboured or didn't labour, you've just spent the last 9 months growing an entire human being.
You've eaten, slept and changed shape more than you thought possible. And to top it off, you're now exhausted, and more than likely in pain somewhere - be that down there, or across there.
Of course the elation that heart-aching love/awe/wonder/disbelief that's filling you up right now is completely and utterly worth it, but it's likely tinged with a whole lot of WTFs for what just happened. Your whole life has just changed. You've hatched! But now what?
Weeks 0-2 - 'The Aftermath'
No matter what anyone says, these first two weeks will leave you more or less 'floored.' And that's exactly how you should be. Your new role caring for your little one will take over completely and utterly.The first exercise you'll be asked to do after birth is waddle to the loo and try a wee. You're going to be bleeding for the next few weeks, you may be on pain relief. Gah, you may be constipated, dealing with haemorrhoids, nipples that feel like needles, breasts that feel like melons. You may not get dressed, showered or eat properly for days. And I won't even talk to you about the sleep, there's no point. Hopefully you've got some support around you these first few weeks. Go gently on yourself. Walk gently and mindfully, and that's about it. Don't expect ANYTHING except rest, cuddles, and repeat.
Weeks 2-6 - Pelvic floor & getting gently active
Start reconnecting with your pelvic floor by learning how to coordinate your pelvic floor, your core and the breath. (Note: this is more than just kegals, check out our video below). Do this at first when lying down on your back with your knees bent. Once you get the hang of this, you can do this lying on your tummy. Go carefully if you've had a c-section and don't do this on your front if it's too uncomfortable around your incision.
Watch our FREE VIDEO DOWNLOAD - 'The Pelvic Floor, The Core and The Breath' to learn how to nail the technique and begin coordinating the whole core system
Do these every day, at least 10 in the morning, noon and night. Practice them in different postures as you begin to get the hang of it. Practice getting out of bed and on/off couch with pelvic floor activations and breath.
Once you've found gravity again, walk gently and mindfully. Think about where your body is in space, how you're holding yourself, your posture, if you're accidentally bracing or holding tension anywhere. Try to get out of the house once a day even if it's for 10 minutes.
Begin stretching - you can do ankle pumps and circles, stretch your calves, your quads and adductors if comfortable, and do some lovely arm circles, reaches and stretches with your upper body. Stretch your pecs on a door frame - all that bent over breastfeeding can make the thoracic and the pecs feel like old leather.
6 Weeks: Book and attend your pelvic floor physio and GP
Yep, book it in now. These are the two most important appointments in your diary.
Use the information you get at your appointments, and your awareness of your own body together to assess the 'landscape' and learn about your body. Hopefully you're ready to start some form of exercise, but be guided by their advice first and foremost. If all is thumbs up...
6 Weeks: Returning to exercise
Woooo! Exciting times. It's time to start your training journey again. Discuss it with your partner and loved ones and ensure there is space for you to train, ideally 3 times a week. Even if it's for 30-40 minutes between feeds, there should be enough time for you to get this done. It's important for your mental health as well as your physical health. Communicate with everyone in your life that will help support you to do this, and also keep you accountable.
Find a good postpartum training program that is tailored for your needs. If you are/were athletic and fit pre-pregnancy and/or during your pregnancy, try mine. It's designed for people like you. It's 12 weeks in duration and carefully planned to incorporate 3 very important stages of training every day you train.
Regardless of what program you choose, learn to engage with your pelvic floor and your breath before you train and every time you train. And if you're not sure, seek advice from your women's health physio.
Oh and my favourite thing of all? Park the ego! :)
48% of women after their first babies and 85% of women after their second babies will experience symptoms associated with women's health problems at 5 years postpartum. The fact is many of the weaknesses present in a woman's postpartum body don't necessarily have any symptoms at first. These women who 'bounce back' super quick may be symptom-free and smashing it in the CrossFit gym at 6, 10, 12 weeks postpartum, but unless they've done their homework, there's no guarantee that they will be bulletproof. These are the women that haven't done their due diligence. These are the women that are 'running' before they can 'walk.'
Park the ego. It's not worth it.
Do the work, trust the process and START SLOW. Allow the body to re-learn how to engage with your deep pelvic floor, your breath and your movement. By doing this and investing the time I'm going to go so far as saying you will be able to safely and confidently return to the high intensity sport you love with a body that's stronger than it ever was.
Next Up: How To Love Your Postpartum Body
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