Hang on, mamas! Remember that your body has just been through a major surgery, and you need to focus on your recovery first. Before resuming your exercise regime, make sure that you:
- Go for your six-week postpartum checkup with your doctor and get their green light.
- Pace yourself. Every woman’s road to recovery is different , so don’t compare yourself to others, or rush to fit into those skinny jeans again. A slow, safe and steady return to exercise – one that suits your life as a new mum – is best.
- Always reach out to a certified pre and postpartum exercise professional, if you’re unsure about whether you’re doing things right.
When you’re ready, try the following exercises to help you stay strong and fit safely, after your C-section:
1. Posture Correction
As a new mum, you will spend a lot of your time in a hunched over position (think everyday activities, such as feeding, bathing and picking up the baby – as well as their endless toys!). Posture correction is vital. If your alignment and posture aren’t right, there’s no point in rushing to work out.
Imagine posture as laying down a strong foundation before building a house. As the saying goes: “A house built on a shaky foundation will eventually collapse.”
Here’s what you can do to strengthen your foundation:
In a seated or standing position, extend both hands in front of you. Inhale and as you exhale, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Tip: Imagine you have an orange in between your shoulder blades and you are squeezing it to get the juice out. This will help strengthen your upper back muscles to keep you in an upright position.
Another tip is that whenever you pass by a mirror, it’s a great chance to correct your posture! Fix those droopy shoulders and stand up straight. It’s paying attention to little details like this that will help in the long run.
Cat and Cow Stretch
This stretch can help with stiff low back issues caused by too much sitting or lying down. Start in an all fours or table-top position with your wrist directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
As you exhale, curl your back (imagine an angry cat) and bring your chin down to your chest. As you inhale, reverse the position and arch your back. Your spine will thank you for this stretch!
Tip: Do these exercises in a slow and controlled manner. Quality over quantity matters here. Aim for 5 repetitions, 3 times per day – once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once at night. Remember: every good repetition counts.
2. Deep Breathing and Relaxation Exercises
One of the most important skills to have as a new mum is to learning how to practise deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Doing so will:
- help you cope with the anxiety and stresses of being a new mum;
- remind you to stay in the present;
- encourage breastfeeding and pumping (as milk only flows when mum is relaxed); and
- improve your physical recovery.
3. Core Strengthening/Tummy Safe Exercises
Many new mums have a condition called abdominal separation, or diastasis recti. It is caused by the stretching and weakening of the tissue that connects the right and left abdominal muscles (the “six pack”) during pregnancy. This condition can correct itself, given time and rest. Do note however, that a new mum with diastasis recti of two or more fingers in width should see a women’s health physiotherapist.
Here are some postpartum exercises that can help you to correct this separation and regain your core strength.
Strengthen Your Deep Core Muscle
These 3 exercises will help to activate and strengthen the deep core muscle – the transverse abdominus – which is crucial in regaining core strength and repairing the abdominal separation.
Start in a comfortable seated position. Place your hands on your midsection. Inhale and allow your belly to expand.
Exhale and gently imagine drawing your navel to your spine. If you can, also contract the pelvic floor muscles (do a Kegel) as you do so.
Similar to abdominal compressions, splinting involves using a towel or resistance band to help you with the “drawing in the belly” sensation. In a seated position, place the towel or band around your midsection. Inhale and as you exhale, gently pull the towel/band tighter and “draw in” the belly as well. Remember to add on the pelvic floor muscle contraction, if you can.
Progress slowly to lying down splints. As you exhale, lift your shoulder blades off the ground, tighten the towel/band and keep that sensation of “drawing in” the abdominal muscles.
Start in a lying down position with both knees bent. Gently extend one leg keeping the other leg bent. As you are extending, “draw in” the belly to spine. Repeat with the other leg. Do this in a slow and controlled manner. Aim for 5 repetitions of any of the above exercises, 3 times per day.
Remember that these are general guidelines, and it’s a good idea to reach out to a certified professional if you need more specific instructions and guidance.
4. Gentle Walking
For some cardio exercise and fresh air, a new mum can start off with a gentle 10 minute walk around the block. If you feel okay, you can increase it to 15 minutes on the next outing and progress gradually from there. Taking 2 short walks per day may be better than a single long walk. Or take baby in the stroller for some lovely mummy-baby bonding time!
by Kim Boey.
(Photos courtesy of Fitness Edutraining Asia (FEA)).
Kim Boey is an educator, personal trainer and group fitness instructor who has been in the fitness industry since 1997. She’s the creator and teacher for the Training Pre and Postpartum Clients course at FITM, a fitness education centre, and a mum of 2 boys.