by: Nancy C. Karabaic, C.C.S.
The first six weeks after your child is born is a time of constant change in your life. You are recovering from giving birth, bonding with your new family member and trying to get enough sleep! You’d like to start exercising again but you’re not sure of when you can start and what you can and can’t do. Below is a timetable for exercise the first six weeks after birth.
You can start your exercise program just a few hours after giving birth, even if you’ve had a C-section! The first exercise you will do is deep belly breathing. Start by thinking of your lungs and belly as a bellows. Fill them up with air. Slowly let it out. Repeat. This is a good way to start to tighten up your abdominal area. You can also continue to do your kegel exercises. The kegels and deep belly breathing will help recondition your pelvic and abdominal muscles.
Continue the deep belly breathing and kegel exercises for the first two weeks after giving birth. After the second week, you can start taking short and easy walks. The walks can be anywhere from 5-15 minutes in length. Keep them gentle and do what you feel you can do.
As you develop your exercise program, please keep the following rule in mind: if you experience any pain, dizziness, fatigue or an increase in bleeding, stop the exercise and check with your doctor or mid-wife.
Weeks 4 through 6 you’ll want to maintain your routine of short and gentle walks. Stretching can be added. It is a gentle exercise that feels good. If you aren’t sure what stretches to do, there is an excellent book by Bob Anderson called Stretching. It will give you lots of different stretches to try.
Gentle exercise will aid in healing and improve your mood. Your goal for the first six weeks after birth is to use exercise as a way to relieve stress, not add to it!
You can start weight training as early as week 4 if you haven’t had a C section and the other exercises you are doing aren’t causing you any of the problems listed above. Squats and lunges should be avoided for at least another few weeks. If you have never done strength training before, there are several ways you can start. One is to try exercise videos. Any of the “Firm” videos are good – just don’t do as many exercises as they have you do! Start your weight training with just 6 to 8 repetitions of each exercise. If you were able to do your strength training and not have any soreness afterwards, you can add 1 or 2 repetitions each time you lift weights. If you are sore afterwards, do a little bit less the next time you exercise. You probably did a bit too much.
Another way to start using weights is to look at any of the books by Dr. Joyce Vedral. Her illustrations make it easy to start. There is also the option of going to the gym and making an appointment with a personal trainer. A trainer will give you a program and show you how to use various machines and free weights.
Weight training is done every other day and no more than 3 times per week. You want to eventually work up to one set of 12-15 repetitions for each exercise. Strength training will give you results more quickly than other types of exercise. Pregnancy has a tendency to make us flabby and weight training will take care of that!
Don’t rush yourself to lose your pregnancy weight. Give yourself the time you need to slowly see progress, especially if you’ve had a C-section. If possible, find another mom to exercise with you. You are more likely to get your exercise in and you have the added benefit of a buddy to keep you going!
Nancy C. Karabaic is a mom and a certified personal trainer. For more information about losing your pregnancy weight or to find out about her mom’s fitness classes, visit her website at www.nancykarabaic.com