Not only can it be extremely difficult to find time to get a workout in as a new mum, it can actually be both disheartening and dangerous if you don't know where, when or how to start.
I'm lucky to work with incredible pregnancy and post-natal experts as part of my 28 program, so if you've got a newborn or small children and you need some tips on how to slowly but surely regain your strength and and fitness, this one's for you.
Before reading the following points, I should preface this by saying:
Everybody is different
Every body is different
Every pregnancy is different
Every child has different needs
I always thought I had a real understanding of everything that new mums go through when trying to regain their strength and fitness. However, to be honest, this wasn't something I truly understood or perhaps could ever understand until I experienced it firsthand with Snez and Willow.
Snez did no exercise for the first eight weeks as she didn't feel up to it but when she came to me and said that she was ready, we worked together to help her get moving again. I was so proud of her patience and the trust Snez put in the process and it really gave me a new appreciation for all mums.
I witnessed firsthand how good it was for Snez to begin moving again. She felt energized. She felt stronger. She even said she liked that it got her out of the house as it is quite common for mums to experience a bit of 'cabin fever'. Some days it was as short as five minutes but it all made a difference.
Exercise after birth only when you’re ready
First things first, the decision for when and how you're going to return to exercise has to be driven by you. Do not let outside influences pressure you into thinking you need to 'bounce back' in any time frame other than the one that feels right for you.
I know that for Snez, getting back into exercise as soon as she was given the all-clear was what she wanted for both her mind and her body. This doesn't mean she went gung-ho as soon as she left the doctors office - it is not a race! So whether you're bursting to get your doctors approval or you're needing some more recovery time – either way is totally fine- everybody and every body is different.
Do what is right for you and what makes you happy.
Slow and steady is a great start
Even if you were super fit before you fell pregnant and remained active during your pregnancy, your body simply will not be able to go straight back into doing all the things you did before you had a baby.
I know that this is something Snez really struggled with even though she kept really active for the nine months. She started off slow with daily walks around the block pushing little Willow and eventually started adding in the 28 post-natal program workouts when she felt up to it.
Once her confidence, strength and stability was up a bit she added a few workouts in with me at my gym. I know that most people don't have the luxury of taking their kids to the gym so this is where home workouts become your best friend!
Use the pram!
This was all Snez did when she first started getting active when Willow was born and they both loved it.
Walking is a great low-impact way to get active and something I know lots of people find very therapeutic. Any new mum or dad knows that a newborn can make you feel isolated at times so getting outside, getting some fresh air and getting some exercise in can be hugely beneficial for your mental and physical wellbeing.
Add some hills in if you want a bit of a challenge or Snez would occasionally throw in some walking lunges or sets of squats to add a bit of challenge to her daily stroll.
Light resistance gym or home workouts
Whether you're a gym junkie or a home workout devotee, when you get the all-clear and you feel ready to return to working out you should try to add in some light-resistance exercises.
Muscle memory is a real thing, so give your body some time and you'll slowly but surely feel your strength improve. Body weight exercises or slow and controlled movements using dumbbells (or tins of beans- get creative!) are a good place to start.
If you don't know what you're doing or what is safe, make sure you check in with your GP or a specialist to ensure you're doing moves that are right for you.
Postnatal pilates is a great gentle beginning
Snez did lots of pregnancy specific pilates when she was pregnant so it was no surprise that she wanted to get back into it once Willow arrived.
Even if you don't go to regular post-natal classes, once you know a few good moves you can incorporate these into your routine from home to help you rebuild strength in areas that might need some extra TLC like your pelvic floor, core and lower back.
It's common to have a small degree of abdominal separation after pregnancy but anything greater than two fingers wide will need special consideration so you should always check with your GP or a qualified physical therapist to be safe.
I know that exercise isn't top of mind when you've got a new bub. It's such a special and beautiful time and I encourage all new mums not to put too much pressure on yourself to 'bounce back' or get back to your pre-natal fitness level too quickly. I definitely believe that when and where you can you should go at your own pace and try to do some sort of gentle activity a day for 20 minutes, I promise you will feel the mental and physical benefits!
Written by Sam Wood with the assistance of 28's pregnancy expert, Chloe Lorback.