Everything you need to know while pregnant, postpartum and beyond!
My Personal Experience Before and After Birth
I want to talk about strength training for mamas. I’ve recently had my second baby, our daughter, Gemma who is just about 10 weeks. So I have two pregnancies and two postpartum periods to compare.
The first thing I want to talk about is strength training during pregnancy.
Both of my pregnancies have been pretty easy, I haven’t had any complications. When I had my son Ilario, I had about two years of strength training under my belt. Basically, I considered myself a newbie, I was still figuring things out, still learning how to push myself, and still learning about my strengths and imbalances. It wasn’t until after Ilario that I really kind of hit a peak in terms of fitness and strength. The biggest difference between these two pregnancies was that I had more lifting experience with Gemma. Largely due to a 7 year age gap between my two kids. Because of that extra experience, I was also able lift much heavier weights with my second pregnancy compared to my first. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that if you have one-two years of lifting, that you are going to be lifting the same weight once you are pregnant.
I remember while pregnant with Ilario that performing dumbbell presses with only 15 lbs felt extremely heavy. I partially attribute that to weakness and fatigue I had due to pregnancy (I seriously envy pregnant women who experience no fatigue). Although, I was not hitting any personal records (PRs) during that time, I was okay with that.
Things to Pay Attention to While Pregnant
Here are the basic guidelines for strength training for mamas:
- If you haven’t been lifting at all, you can totally start strength training when you’re pregnant. Be sure you frequently check in with your doctor and/or an experienced coach to watch for any signs of injury and how to overcome them. This is crucial because, like myself, some people are going to experience issues. I had hip pain and felt my core weaken pretty early in pregnancy, especially during my second pregnancy.
- Listen to your body. Be sure to be aware of any unusual discomfort, bleeding, discharge, and/or cramping. You may be overworking yourself. All of those can potentially be a sign of serious complications. Avoid exercises that make contact with your belly, especially during the second and third trimester. Try not to lay on your back for longer periods, as it can cause lightheadedness. Women should not have to feel “restricted” during pregnancy. Simply modify to prevent injury to yourself and the baby.
Things to Watch for in the First 6 Months Postpartum
The other part of pregnancy is the postpartum period. In my opinion, the postpartum period is the hardest.
The post-partum period is so unknown. Giving birth is so different for everyone. Labor can be 3 hours, or it can be 30 hours. You can experience medical complications before, during, or after giving birth. I feel like there’s a lot more that you can control during pregnancy, but giving birth can be difficult to predict. It’s also life changing and completely alters your schedule. People often say, “You’re so fit and strong! You’re just going to bounce back really fast feel great.” Unfortunately, it’s just not always the case. I personally feel this pattern of thinking sets us up for being hard on ourselves. I just think there needs to be more kindness culture in the postpartum fitness world.
Your fitness level or whether you’ve been doing strength training just does not determine how well you recover. It really doesn’t. There are plenty of people who don’t do any exercising whatsoever, give birth easily, and have full recovery. It took me at least a couple weeks to where I felt ready to go outside and walk just because I was stir crazy, but I definitely did not feel great walking.
My body is still recovering, and my energy was still fairly low, even after 10 weeks. That’s just how it is. On top of that, it can be hard to predict how your baby will respond to his/her new environment, if they struggle with breastfeeding, whether they have a good temperament, or other common problems that can be major stressors in your life. So, my biggest advice about the postpartum period is to really be patient with your body, listen to what your body needs, and be especially mindful of your mental health. If you feel you need to exercise for your mental health, then do it. Just keep in mind that your body is still healing, so don’t over stress yourself by wanting to exercise for the sole purpose of “getting your body back”. Be kind to yourself. Your body and mental health will thank you.
For example, I have been dealing with a clogged duct on one breast, so I have had some breastfeeding complications. We had to fix a tongue tie on Gemma. Additionally, we recently found out Gemma has to have a major surgery on her head, so there’s just been a lot of stress happening. I’ll admit it’s been hard. So I really haven’t been getting much strength training in, only several short training sessions. I have been mostly walking for my mental health. That’s been my experience this time around.
When I had my son, Ilario, I was working a corporate job at the time and I had to go back to work. That included a lot of traveling and I was pumping. This was challenging for me because I went back to work soon after giving birth. But it did encourage me to start working out again. I did get back into working out a little bit earlier with him, but that’s totally fine.
Always follow up with your doctor. If you have been medically cleared and your mental health is good, you are ready to exercise again.
When it comes to strength training, you should focus on areas in your body that you need to support your new baby. For example, if you want more control when holding the baby in a carrier, you need to focus your exercises on your back, shoulders and posterior chain, the glutes and hamstrings. As you put more attention in those areas, they will become stronger and your posture will improve while you are carrying your baby. As you progress and get stronger, you can add more exercises such as, anterior chain exercises and focusing on the posterior chain. The first being most important in addition to core exercises as it involves both anterior and posterior exercises. As you know, when giving birth, the core muscles get obliterated.
Online Coaching: The Strength Society
If you are looking for some guidance and you want somebody to assist you, rather than Googling for help, you can reach out to us. We are here for you! That is what our Strength Society group is for. It’s a coaching group that allows you to have access to us as your trainers. We can help you to customize your workouts, customize your nutrition, and address all concerns you may have along the way. So rather than guessing, start your pregnancy/postpartum strength training journey off right by joining our membership program, The Strength Society. You will have complete access to world-class personal trainers. You can sign up on our website: The Strength Society.