Returning to Working Postpartum
By Megan Drake
Six weeks after I gave birth I went in for my postpartum check up. I was with the doctor for maybe 5 minutes when she said all is good you can resume normal activity. Being an avid crossfitter I do not think she understood what normal is to me. I did not even feel normal yet. So I asked her if there was anything I shouldn’t do right away and her response was go easy on the abs. I am sure many women have experienced the same. Being a coach and understanding safety first I launched myself into research, to ensure I can get stronger without doing anything that would risk injury.
The biggest difference I noticed when I returned back to the gym was that I had what felt like zero strength in my abdominals, and it really opened my eyes when it came to how many movements require abdominal strength. Through my research I learned which movements will help bring my abdominals back together since they do separate during pregnancy. (Luckily while I was pregnant I was cautious with my abdominal movements and had very little gap to begin with.) Some of the movements that I found were the best to help strengthen my abdominals were pelvic tilts, dead bugs, and elevated planks. As you may want to dive back into sit ups, hollow rocks and v-ups, hold back until 12 weeks postpartum, or until you feel you have closed the gap in your abs and feel you have enough strength. Also an easy way to tell if you are ready for a movement is to look at your abs as you perform the movement, your abs should remain flat, if there is a cone shape to your abdominals then you are not quite ready for that movement.
There are some sneaky movements that should be cautious of when returning to working out. When it comes to squatting and pressing overhead, these are movements that were much more challenging at first. Just be patient with your body and watch your load, until you regain that abdominal strength back. I noticed my hips were very tight when I squatted and tended to use too much of my hips, so I did many box squats in the beginning and made sure to engage my glutes on the way up.
Running and any jumping should also be approached with caution, these movements not only need a strong core, but pelvic floor as well. I would recommend not running or jumping until 12 weeks postpartum to give your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles time to regain strength, if you do these movements prematurely you may experience pain in your hips and lower back due to these muscles taking over due to lack of abdominal strength. Even if you do wait until12 weeks postpartum to run, ease yourself back into it, do not just decide to run a mile, start with shorter spurts then build your way up.
The last piece of caution goes to any movement in the plank position including push ups and burpees. Being in that plank position puts a lot of pressure on your abdominals, which could prevent the separation from closing up. Scales for these are elevated push ups or planks which still allows you to perform the movements, but makes them less intense on your abdominals. Once you feel your core has regained strength usually around 12 weeks postpartum then it is safe to incorporate the full movements back into your routine.
The best rule of thumb is to listen to your body, everyone’s body is different, so you may not feel ready to run at 12 weeks postpartum and that is okay. I will tell you from my experience currently 12 weeks postpartum I feel great and I feel stronger everyday, I am able to do 65 pound thrusters, and did my first set of sit ups this week with zero difficulty. It is better to take it slow then to do things before you are ready and cause injury. Stay positive and you will get to where you are going, and if you need any help along the way let me know and I would be more than happy to help.