4 Things You Need to Know About Getting Back in to Your Postpartum Workout Routine
I’m back! Earlier, I wrote an article about running while pregnant...which I continued to do: I ran my last 5k at 30 weeks pregnant (humble brag: I was still sub-30 minutes and beat my husband by a hot second) and ran for the next two weeks till Baby Zeus turned head-down and was pounding into my pelvis when I ran. No thanks. Just because I wasn’t running, didn’t mean I stopped exercising. My husband and I still went for walks or to the gym to walk/bike three times a week. In fact, I walked two miles the day I went into labor. I was probably already in labor at the time, but that’s another story. I honestly believe that staying active throughout my pregnancy was why I had a speedy labor and a fast recovery. If your doctor okays it and you feel good, I highly recommend keeping moving for as long as you can while pregnant!
But then the baby came. I was terrified as to what the recovery process was going to be like and was missing being actively active by the time I gave birth at 39+6. I had a textbook delivery, honestly, felt very good within a few days. My husband and I started walking again about a week after Baby Zeus arrived. We didn’t go far, but I listened to my pelvic floor and transverse abdominal muscles...which said it was time to head back home after about a half mile. And here is my first bit of postpartum exercise advice: Listen to your body. If it hurts or you’re tired, stop! It took 40ish weeks to grow that baby- things aren’t going to be right back to normal right away. There have been many days when I’m too damn tired or Baby Zeus is attached to my boobs and I can’t get out for a run I planned. It’s all okay.
Which leads right into the second bit of advice- Normal is different now. This is the hardest bit for me: my body is not the same. I’m breastfeeding, so I’m still keeping another human alive solely with my body. It’s going to take a little bit of effort to get everything back online. My doctor gave me permission to go back to working out at four weeks postpartum (confession- I’d already done a few sessions on the elliptical machine at the gym at that point because walking as my only exercise was making me anxious). Things were different in those first few workouts: my lungs had to work a bit harder, I could feel my abdominal muscles learning how to function again...but it was good. I’ve decided that every race or event I do after having a baby is a new personal record. I’m learning that my “normal” pre-baby lunch foods aren’t actually enough calories to keep my breastfeeding on point, especially if I’m exercising. There isn’t enough water in the world to keep me feeling not-thirsty. Sometimes I only sleep for three hours a night. My “normal” state of being has shifted since Baby Zeus arrived. It’s all okay.
I’m going to keep repeating that second bit of advice to myself because I’m bad at this next bit: Be kind to yourself. I’m not always the kindest to myself: I pinch what I consider to be “extra” skin on my stomach, point out extra weight on the tops of my thighs, scold myself for not being just that little bit faster on that last run. And I’m trying to remind myself that it took nearly 40 weeks to grow that baby, that I’m still feeding that baby with my body, that I did something pretty freaking awesome (heyyy pushing a baby out for two and a half hours with a failed epidural, I’m looking at you!) and my body is strong. It doesn’t look the same as it did a year ago, but it’s darn close and I can still do cool shit. I just finished a longer trail race with friends and it was glorious to run around for hours in the woods, feeling that bone-deep tiredness when I hit “the wall.” Would l have liked to be 15 minutes faster? Sure. But I ran 2k for each week postpartum I was, and that’s no small feat. When I’m feeling down or like I need to pinch a little squish on my belly...I need to be nice to myself.
My last bit of advice (because don’t we hear enough advice as parents?) is to Talk to your doctor. I actually have a few questions for my general practitioner when I see her soon because I’ve decided I don’t want to pee when I run for the rest of my life. Is that an overshare? Probably. But I don’t care: normalizing the weird things that happen to a postpartum body is important. So there’s my advice: if you’re having pains that don’t seem normal, talk to your doctor; if you’re peeing when you work out (or sneezing or coughing or laughing), talk to your doctor; if you need advice on how to balance breastfeeding and exercising and eating, talk to your doctor. Maybe your general practitioner can’t solve your problem, but if you advocate for yourself, they can refer you to someone who can help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
I’m only 16 weeks postpartum, so perhaps I’d have more advice if I was a bit further into this parenting adventure, but I’m sticking with my self-care advice above. I’m pretty much the worst at remembering these myself, but having a couple people in your life to keep you on track is helpful. Between my husband, friends, and a couple stellar internet communities I’m a part of, I keep on track:
Listen to your body. Normal is different now. Be kind to yourself. Talk to your doctor.