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How to get back into exercise after pregnancy

Did you get into the fun of the Olympics? I have LOVED all the photos posted on social media this past month by friends of their children dressed up like their favourite athletes – some with goggles and their bathing suit, some with their BMX, some with their netball uniforms. So cute!

And I will admit to also getting caught up in the spirit of the games and feeling quite spurred on to get back into some more formal sport (although I do think my netball days are over – my engagement ring can barely fit over my broken knuckle)….

So my plan is to get back into a running program as well as yoga – 2 things I have always loved but have somehow got out of the groove of incorporating into my every-day.

Getting back into exercise reminded me of a great guest-post from February by Melissa Vandewater – Triathlete, Ironwoman, 2012 Olympic Trials competitor and all-round fabulous bird. She is an incredible athlete and an inspiration. Any time I catch up with her I drown myself in her tips for getting and staying motivated.

I know there are also some women in the sorella-hood that feel like they could also use a boost to get back into running since the birth of their baby. So I thought I’d re-blog her post on helping you get back into a routine, and you’ll be running like wonder woman (but in a more supportive bra) in no time!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-leJZGhLNVk&w=420&h=315]

Getting into an exercise routine following the birth of your baby is a great idea, and yes, you guessed it, it is perfect for stress relief and gaining some energy back. Whether you take your baby in the pram with you, or if you have the option to have some time out on your own, setting a routine to get you back running is pretty straightforward with some good planning and the right approach.

First, you need to remember that the body has released lots of hormones to help relax ligaments that hold your joints in place. These hormones continue during breast feeding.  This is why it is important to allow up to 6-8 weeks post-partum before commencing exercise, especially running.  If you have had a caesarian it may be longer, with abdominal muscles still repairing. This being the case (and regardless of whether you continued with exercise during your pregnancy), you must check with your doctor or midwife to get the all clear to start exercising first.

Woman Running

Image by Myles Dumas

Once you have the all clear, here are my top tips for getting back into running:

  • Start back with some brisk walking, and see how you feel.  If you have access to a gym, use the cross-trainer or elliptical machine as it has no impact. Do what you can – somewhere around 20 minutes is a fantastic start.
  • Complete your session after you have breastfed: I have heard a number of women say running is best after they have breastfeed due to heaviness, as well in case there are any issues with expressing.
  • Gentle, gentle.  You need to rebuild and let the body adapt, just like a beginner runner does. This involves a jog/walk program, starting with 30sec jog/30sec walk x 4-5 reps. Each session you can build on the time you run & walk, or increase the sets you do. Listen to your body – if you are recovering from each session really well, increase the time or sets. If you are pretty sore, you need to maintain that level and only increase to the next level when it’s starting to feel a bit more manageable.
  • Wear supportive bras. Moving comfort is important. Find a bra with an adjustable strap. You need to ensure you reduce bounce whilst exercising or it will increase ligament length. Choosing the right bra can be confusing – check out this article by Women’s Health Magazine to steer you in the right direction.
Sports Bra

Image via Women’s Health Magazine

  • Listen to your body. Some days you just can’t get going, or have had no sleep, so swap your run for some stretching and strength. Yoga that is specifically designed for post-childbirth is highly recommended (if you have an iPhone or iPad there are plenty of great apps available that you can do from home).
  • Strength: There are a number of exercises your midwife or physiotherapist may recommend for post-childbirth. For increasing strength for running: any single leg (squats, or lunges – but avoid if you have knee issues) or dynamic exercises (planks with reach) is great to get the body ready for the loads created during running – did you know you load 5 times your body weight during footstrike and during push off?
  • Stay motivated: Make some goals, grab a friend, or enter a fun run – do whatever you can to stay focused and motivated to allow you to enter into a routine. You will then start to reap the rewards. A healthy and happy woman is a healthy and happy mum.
International Women's Day Fun Run

In Brisbane? The International Women’s Day Fun Run is a great event!

Check out Melissa’s regular column for Runners World and contact her if you are interested in joining one of her running workshops held regularly in Melbourne, Sydney and the Sunshine Coast – Email runwithsoul@hotmail.com, Facebook – Soul Runner Facebook page and twitter.

Also stay tuned for future posts and video on exercises you can do at home to help you stay in shape during and after pregnancy.

Share your story! Have you struggled to get back into exercise after pregnancy? Or did you find it easy and have some advice to help others get started?

~ anna

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