Maybe this will come across as ranty? Maybe it will be inspiring? Perhaps eye opening? I don’t know; but what I do know is that the way many women feel about their postpartum bodies and the pressure they face needs to change fast, and with that, the approach and motivation behind some of the crazy things women will do to ‘get that body back’ need’s to change too.
Its probably no surprise to many of you that rather than taking the time to nest like most women, I’ve been taking the time, and a lot of it to figure out my postpartum fitness goals, and let me tell you, its probably one of the hardest, most complicated things I have had to do; hang in there, give me the chance to elaborate.
I always knew that fitness was going to be a huge part of me being a mum as it’s helped shape me to be the person I am. Not only does it give me some super amazing natural highs and the ability to focus on the day ahead but fitness is a way for me to set goals, reach goals and know that wherever I am , I can celebrate my victories but know that I can always be better. Fitness is humbling and helps me to apply the same core beliefs and motivation to other aspects of my life.
With fitness having such an impact on my life John and I talked very early on in pregnancy that both of us would allow me to prioritize that 1-2 hours each day to work on my fitness and health goals; plus John knows I’m a way happier (cough less of a dick cough) when I’ve had that time to clear my mind and set my day off right.
With my husband on board I was able to really think about what I wanted to focus on postpartum without having to worry that it was ‘inconveniencing’ my family.
I had a hard time trying to figure out why I wanted to work out postpartum, for me without a solid ‘why’ its hard to stay on track and find purpose on the days when you just want to stay in bed or eat that 3rd doughnut of the week . Anyway, during this ‘figuring it out stage’ I started to notice a trend in the postpartum search engines online. You don’t have to look for more a 5 minutes on pinterest or google after typing in the word ‘postpartum’ to be inundated with information on ‘how to get your body back after pregnancy’, or ‘how to loose pregnancy weight gain on legs’ and ‘the best postpartum diet to shed the extra lbs’ – there is no wonder that not only do pregnant women feel the pressure to ‘bounce back’, but its not surprising that by-standers have this assumption that loosing weight and bouncing back is in fact at the top of our agenda postpartum (spoiler alert, it’s not, even for people like me).
Setting my goals
I may not hold any Olympic medals, but when it comes to training I do see myself as an athlete, someone who exercises and eats well to enhance the ability of their body.
I am only human and from time to time during my goal setting ‘exercise’ (no pun intended) I found it hard to not get suckered in by those enticing headlines, I mean who doesn’t want to look ‘back to normal’ right away? But how miserable and worn out do you think I’d be getting here? Every time that happened I’d have to ask myself ‘do I really care about fitting into my jeans right away?’ the answer would be ‘no, I care about being able to run a half marathon with an 8:30 pace, squat my body weight, do sprint intervals on the highest treadmill setting and most of all, I want to feel strong’.
By continuing to focus on a bigger picture and what really matters to me, I was able to think beyond what social media and society was telling me I should care about Postpartum and focus on the things that will make me happy.
I found my postpartum goal kind of sort of on a whim with Maria, we were out running one morning and we decided that we would both sign up for the Disney Princess 10k, february 2017. Whilst I was OVERWHELMED with excitement once we had signed up I did wonder If I would ready?
So my FIRST postpartum goal – complete the Disney 10k with my best friend, comfortably with a HUGE smile on my face. No time goals, No stopping, just a big smile on face running through Magic Kingdom with my best friend. Now THAT is the kinda goal I can wake up early for and say no to that 3rd doughnut.
Once I had decided on my goals, it was time to sit down and figure out how I was going to get there; I knew I simply could not rush back into it. I would need to have a methodical safe approach in order for me to ever perform to my best ability and to ensure that I do not get injured.
How to achieve my goals
With my goal set I realized that still wouldn’t be enough for me to just get up on day and start, I needed to have steps in place to achieve it other wise I would end up getting side railed or even worse injured. Plus there is no way you can just get up a few weeks postpartum and run without having any kind of rehab work thrown in… I mean you can, just be prepared for long term issues with your pelvic floor and hips.
I also know the human mind enough to know that if I wanted to stay clear of those ‘easy weight loss’ headlines I needed something structured.
I did A LOT of research, probably more than your average human being would, but I don’t like to half arse things and have this burning desire to make sure I haven’t missed anything.
Phase 1 – Pelvic floor and core reconstruction and stability
It’s not rocket science to see that during pregnancy your hips, pelvic floor and core take a beating, so much so that most women end up with some kind of ab separation. Thankfully this is becoming more common knowledge in the fitness industry, but needs to be branched out to the rest of the mums too.
Running is basically a motion of falling forward by balancing on one foot and falling forward onto the other, over and over again at speed, with impact; this means that a stable core and hips and a strong repaired pelvic floor is vital in order to keep me well balanced, and to make sure I don’t pee myself (keeping it real).
I have already reached out to a postpartum physio that specializes in ab separation and pelvic floor so I can make sure that during this phase I am doing the exercises correctly and effectively, otherwise, whats the point? There is a LOAD of information online that you access in regards to repairing your pelvic floor which is absolutely enough, however because I am focused on getting back to running I want to make sure I am not wasting any time and getting things healed right away and that I can move onto Phase 2 feeling confident.
So during phase 1 I will be doing daily ‘exercises’ that will help me engage my pelvic floor and deep core muscles – NOT CRUNCHES DO NOT DO OR ANYTHING THAT WORKS UP A SWEAT, your body is still healing and needs kindness and love, not balls to the wall style, it just grew and housed a human, love it.
Phase 2 (weeks 6 – 9)- Gaining muscle strength
Once I have the all clear from both my OGBYN and my physio I will need to focus on reengaging and strengthening my glutes, hips and hamstrings once again. Whilst phase one touches on this a little, its very subtle and will not build me any strength, so this is where I need to start lifting weights to build muscle to support my hips and core when I am running.
I have been lucky to be able to continue working on some glute activation during pregnancy, but I had to neglect some muscles around week 26 due to SPD, and annoyingly they are the muscles that are fantastic for runners.
I will most likely revert back to ‘my best body’ phase 1 for these 3 weeks as that phase of the program is all about stability and engaging muscles correctly. I will probably include two leg days per week though, one heavy and one more on the Pilates/ barre side of the spectrum to really make sure i’m getting as strong as possible and hitting all the muscles. I will also be doing some cardio during this time which is likely to be the elliptical or rowing machine and perhaps a little bit of HIIT to get my heart used to getting up to around 170bpm again in prep for phase 3.
Phase 3 (Weeks 10 – 18) Getting race ready.
I already have an 8 week running program picked out, it’s the same one that I used last year when I restarted my running journey. I loved the way it was set out and it gave you a variety of runs to do in order to make you an all round good runner, it also highlighted strength training specific days too.
I will be starting this phase when we are in the UK over Christmas which is amazing, not only is the scenery breathtaking, but I don’t have a lot of runs in the UK to compare myself too. For instance, I know over here how long it typically takes me to do certain routes and how I typically feel at certain stages. So starting with new routes and scenery will hopefully help me let go of the past and steer clear from self comparison.
Whats even more exciting is that weight training days will be completed with my personal trainer friend, Abbie twice a week! I trust that she will be able to see where my body is weak and where it can be improved in order to help me be a better runner. Having Abbie as my coach will also make sure that I am not over doing it on weight training days and leading myself to burn out.
So there you have it, an absurdly comprehensive run down on my goals postpartum, and why I think it’s SO important that we focus on the bigger picture rather than ‘just wanting to be skinny and bounce back’.
Perhaps my goals are too concise/ obsessive for some, but I have no idea how having a baby is going to alter my everyday motivation and perseverance, so by having this in place I will not have to just rely on myself. I do know (because I am human) that I will, no matter how dedicated and excited I am to be a runner again, have days where I look back at the person in the mirror and prod and poke every part of me I don’t like, I know there will be days where I’m tired and exhausted and want nothing more than to stay in bed, I know there will be days where I find myself on those enticing articles that will tell me I can get my pre preggo body back in 5 weeks; it is during those times of weakness that I will be thankful that I took so much time to do this, I will be able to look back in my exercise journal and see that I’ve progressed from running 3 miles to 4, that I’ve added an extra 20lbs to my squat and best of all that I’ve had the added energy post workout to have a wonderful day with my daughter and husband.
To all my preggo lady readers, mum readers or women in general that struggle with the social pressure of exercise, stop and think really hard about the way you are approaching (postpartum) fitness – Is it to make you a better athlete? a better mum? or is it simply to just be able to fit into those jeans? Because if its the latter I hate to break it to you, but that won’t be enough to keep you going, and most of all, you are worth more than that.
So there you have it, the start of my next fitness chapter and all I picture in my head is my Husband waiting at the finish line of a race for me with our daughter, cheering me on, rain or shine, as I cross the finish line; THAT is all that matters to me. I want her to grow up seeing that fitness is not about looking good its about feeling good.
That’s a wrap!