Bootcamps and group fitness is all the rage. Especially for new mums keen to get their pre-baby bodies back. On a walk through the park the other day I saw THREE different group fitness classes filled with new mums. I looked around and thought ‘good on you ladies’! Not only were these women probably battling some degree of fatigue, they had somehow managed to get themselves AND their bubs dressed and out the door for something other than coffee! Unfortunately (with one of these exercise groups in particular) my next thought was ‘Oh no! Please STOP!!’.
Getting motivated to start any kind of exercise program after having a bub can be HARD WORK, but I don’t like to see women putting unnecessary strain on their still recovering bodies.
Here are 5 exercises new mums should avoid – not forever, but at least until their bodies have recovered enough to cope with them!
1. Ab Crunches or Sit ups
This exercise puts a lot of strain on your pelvic floor and your recovering abdominal muscles. Many women have a separation of their abdominals after pregnancy, and this exercise can make things much worse. It is simply too much too soon and is NOT the secret to a flatter tummy.
2. Double leg lifts and other advanced Pilates exercises
Even if you were able to do these pre-pregnancy with perfect technique (and trust me, not many people can!), you definitely should not launch back into them postnatally. Your abdominals and pelvic floor just won’t cope with the load and many women will end up with back pain as a result.
There is no hard and fast rule for when it is ok to return to running. It depends on a number of factors such as whether you were a runner pre-pregnancy, what type of pregnancy you had and what type of delivery you had (see my post here about returning to running after bub) As tempted as you might be to hit the pavement to get rid of any baby weight, this is NOT the time! Start with a nice gentle walk with bub in the pram and make it harder by adding hills or increasing the speed. It’s always a good idea to see your physio before returning to running to make sure your body is strong enough.
Jumping is simply TOO MUCH WORK for your recovering pelvic floor as well as your joints. If you’re breastfeeding as well, this is not the most comfortable exercise! Take it easy, there are plenty of other great exercises that are low-impact and kind to your pelvic floor and joints.
5. Heavy weights
Unless you’ve maintained a weights program through pregnancy and you continue to progress slowly, heavy weights are again just too much for your pelvic floor and for your joints early on. Also, many women experience upper back and neck pain with carrying a new baby and breastfeeding postures – heavy weights and push ups can make these worse, especially when technique is poor.
All of these exercises will likely be safe and comfortable when the time is right! So give your body the time it needs to recover, be kind to yourself and introduce new exercises gradually. Group exercise classes are still a great way to regain your fitness and strength, but make sure they cater to new mums and it’s up to you to listen to your body – if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t!