When can I go back to Functional Training / HIIT / Running/doing planks / Weightlifting / Base-jumping / Fill-in-the hardcore-blank?”
This is something that comes up a lot for Moms working on postpartum core recovery, restoration and, strengthening. Y’all want to know,
“When can I stop with the namby-pamby core stuff and get to some real exercise?”
The answer, my friends, is a really helpful, specific, just-what-you-wanted-to-hear…
You don’t stop. And, well now that depends and in some cases, you’ll adapt or do things differently / better aligned / *better*. Maybe… you won’t get to the hardcore stuff at all. And maybe you will and that’ll be fine too.
There is no exact number of weeks or test or criteria that say – you’re ready. But in fact you don’t need one – you actually just need to listen because your body is TELLING YOU.
Your body’s clear signals that it is not ready or strong enough to do what you’re asking it to do
- If you ever leak urine (or worse) when working out (no, Crossfitters – it is not OK to pee yourself).
- If you experience pelvic or lower back pain during or after exercise.
- If you feel unstable in the core or like you’re ‘falling-out at the front’ when you perform any exercise.
- If your body shakes or trembles during any move or hold.
- If there is bulging, straining, protrusion or doming anywhere on or from within your abdomen or pelvic floor when you work out.
If you’re getting any of the above then the following type of exercises will make your mummy tummy worse, not better
- Sit-ups, crunches, oblique twists or V-sits of any sort
- Planks or prone (facing down, holding your bodyweight) push-ups
- Burpees, skipping, or any move that requires jumping or impact
- Heavy lifting or pull-ups
The vital first stage
is to stop thinking of ‘core exercise’ and ‘working out’ as 2 separate things. If you focus beautifully on your breathing and core engagement whilst in Pilates or when doing your ‘core work’ – but then go to the gym or your local box or start lifting weights without being mindful of your breath, alignment and core… then you’re taking one step forward and 2 steps back every time. So before you go any further, mindful movement is not something you do instead of exercise. It IS exercise.
The next thing
Is to understand that you cannot strengthen muscles that aren’t functioning optimally. If it’s not working, you can’t make it stronger. All that will happen instead is that other parts of your body, namely your abdomen, or pelvic floor, will take up the strain.
Or not. Because when intra abdominal pressure is just too much for these non-functioning muscles to withstand – they blow. Leaking urine, prolapse, hernia, diastasis recti, a pooching mummy tummy are signs of a core not working right. Not signs of a core that just needs to plank longer or lift more or run on regardless – a core that ISN’T WORKING.
So, how long postpartum can I do HIIT or Functional Training?
You are ready to get hardcore again if and when your core and pelvic floor don’t have any of the danger signals listed above.
Once you have healed, restored your core, and are functioning optimally and incorrect alignment, then by all means gradually progress to the workout of your choice. But you should continue to MINDFULLY MOVE during that workout, the way you did to restore your core in the first place.
Every workout needs a core that works, so don’t forget about it once you (especially when you) have a barbell or a 10K in front of you.
Note: If you have or have had prolapse or hernia, surgically repaired or not, it may be a good idea that you don’t do those exercises again ( you should get a specialist physical therapist or physiotherapist to clarify for your individual circumstances). This can be hard to accept, and in my experience, some women will push their body to run, lift or jump despite the leaking, pain or instability. No one wants to hear they can ‘never do it again’, but sometimes we just need to adjust to working with our body instead of against it. Not doing sit ups really isn’t so bad. You won’t miss them and neither will your lower back or your stomach. No more burpees? Oh alright then. Running I know can be a really tough one, but you know, if your insides are falling out or you pee when you run? That’s not OK.
It’s your body telling you that what you’re doing, is asking too much – FOR NOW. Back up and get functioning first. You’ll get to where you want to be – just do it progressively.
MUTU System workouts are designed with all this in mind – they progress you through gradual phases of restoration, bringing in intensive, fat burning but low-impact workouts along the way. When there is a move that may be too much, we tell you how to assess that, and then how to adjust, adapt and gradually progress to where you want to be.
For true body self-confidence, sure we want a body that we like to look at. But much, much more importantly, body confidence requires a body that works, that functions and that FEELS the way we like it to feel. Lifting heavy weights or pumping out pull-ups or burpees, surely shouldn’t be the goal – the goal is to have a body that works so you can if you want to.
Get a core that truly works, and understand how to align it and use it when you move. then you can really move, any damn way you please.