Post natal exercise plan (3-6 months post baby)
by Michelle Wright (post natal exercise specialist – Mishfit)
If all is going to plan, your baby will be settling into some sort of routine and although many mothers are still a way off having a full night sleep, your baby may be starting to reward your hard work with smiles, sounds and hugs. There is a good chance that if you have taken things sensibly for the first 3 months immediately following your birth (appropriate rest, good nutrition and restorative exercises), then you pelvic floor will be showing signs of returning to normal strength – thus allowing you to expand your exercise regime. Your post natal exercise plan however needs to be correctly prescribed.
Here are my top tips for next safe exercise steps:
- Strengthening upper back
Holding and nursing a baby for (sometimes) hours on end, can play havoc with your upper back. You may have even noticed that hunching is now your common posture trait. Invest in a theraband (cheaply available from all sporting stores) and hook it over a door handle. A couple of times per day, stand (or sit) with tall posture and use the pull action to contract the muscles of the upper back. Allow the shoulder blades to slide back to meet, rather than up to your ears. Exhaling purposefully while you pull the bands, will help contract your pelvic floor and engage your lower abdominal. Another great incidental activity is noticing when you are standing if your hands are rolling into you’re your body (so the back of your hands are facing to the front). Try externally rotating your hands, i.e.: having your palms face forward to release the tension of your shoulder blades. Feel what this action does all the way up to your neck!
- Check for diastasis
Diastasis is the splitting of the abdominal muscles that happens to around 60% of women during the late stages of pregnancy. It is essential to allow this to heal to maintain the integrity of your core, which will support your lower back. If you or a professional has diagnosed diastasis it is important to refrain from sit ups, crunches and any other exercises that push your insides through the gap, resulting in an abdominal doming. Check that you are not heaving yourself out of bed in a sit up action. Instead roll to your side and use your hands to push you up. Performing good pelvic floor muscle contractions, which engage your transverse muscle is essential for repair. Also wearing some recovery shorts are perfect, as they encourage the muscles to knit back together. Avoid the spanks type, as they may over time make matters worse.
- Engage your glutes!
- To start with, get up from sitting and notice if your quads (front of your thighs) are doing most of the work. If they are, try getting up again with using your glutes. You may need to push through the heels more to feel them activate. Last part; try exhaling as you get up out of your chair. Did you notice that your glutes switched on more? That is because you are activating the glutes best friend – your pelvic floor. Pelvic floor and glutes love to work together, but often need to be encouraged purposefully to do so.
- Have you noticed on yourself, or other mums what I call the Flat Bum Mum Syndrome? For many women the overuse of the thighs or quadriceps may result in weaker or worse – the glute muscles failing to switch on at all. Strong butt muscles are important to pelvic floor and overall core activation and often need a kick start or re-boot after birth.
Taking time with conscious activation your glutes and pelvic floor via your outward breath will pay dividends as your body is capable of performing many actions instantaneously and before long you will be getting up and down using your glutes unconsciously. Paying dividends not only to the look of your derriere, but also avoiding injury and pain. Mothers perform many many squats per day as part of their daily routine – picking up babies, shopping, washing etc. Learning to engage the glutes when performing this action is a fantastic way to incidentally improve the strength of your buttocks.