Lisa, founder of Sporty Mama, shares her postpartum gym experience.
Here I was, 12 weeks postpartum and ready to get back to the gym. Or so I thought.
Being an avid gym lover, it was somewhere I wanted to be. The gym was a place I could focus just on me, on my health, and I needed it. I missed it.
My body was still recovering from my third c-section but even waiting 12 weeks was longer than I had ever waited after my previous 2 pregnancies. In hindsight, my body was still in its early healing stages. I was seeing my physio for a six centimetre abdominal separation (diastasis recti if you want to sound fancy). 6 centimetres! That’s seriously a decent sized gap and surgery to close it was on the table. I was also exhausted, had extra fluid in my legs and a painful scar on my stomach that was healing.
Despite my enthusiasm to hit the gym again, I began questioning myself and the changes that had happened in my body. Did I rest too much during this pregnancy? Should I have exercised more? Perhaps the shift work had been too hard on my body, or maybe I was just too old this time around. I often wondered why third time round was so hard, why the abdominal separation was so deep and the tiredness was so real.
One thing I did know – exercise and breastfeeding was going to be part of my journey. We had two little ones, a newborn, and a life to live. I was determined to figure out a new routine and keep my love of exercise as a big part of that. With a strong and healthy body, I’d have the strength and mental stamina to look after my three children. This was going to happen.
The first gym trip was, I won’t lie, daunting. There was so much my body, once fit and strong, couldn’t do yet! It was a real wake-up call. LIstening to my body and its limits is always number one in my opinion, so I did the best I could. I made a start. Walking, gentle exercises, body weight routines…anything I could manage with kindness and leniency. I wasn’t strong to begin with, not by a long shot, but I was determined to make exercise a habit. The strength would come.
After a 45 minute session I’d managed a twenty minute walk and five squats (with exercise ball support). That was it. This continued for weeks. Eventually, however, I could add a little more. And a little more. I grew stronger day by day, week by week. I added exercises when I felt ready, light weights and upped my routine. It was slow, but it was steady.
Finally I reached a goal I didn’t know I had – my muscle separation was down from 6cm to 0.5cm. This was a cause for celebration in my opinion! So much for needing surgery to close the separation, I’d achieved it myself! At that moment I knew my body was powerful and strong, and I’d achieved something I’d never thought possible – and all through a gentle and forgiving mindset. When you listen to your body, and commit to small changes, it can make a huge difference.
If you’re heading back to the gym postpartum remember, be kind to yourself. Take each day as it comes, and place your healing at the forefront of your mind. Your body is powerful, you already know this after growing a child and giving birth! With a little compassion and love (and maybe some chocolate along the way) it will once again have the strength and energy you need.