Having a baby is an incredibly thrilling, exhausting, and challenging time in life. You are navigating managing your own schedule while attending to that of a new baby, healing your body from the marathon of delivery, and working to figure out how to have some time to feel like yourself again in the midst of it all. For those who have remained active throughout their pregnancy, or for those who are simply eager to jump back into their old routines, it can seem a little daunting at first.
If you are someone who has enjoyed sports like Muay Thai or Jiu-Jitsu and knows their addictive properties, you are likely itching to jump back in as quickly as possible. While jumping into your favorite sports is a great way to get healthy and feel like your “old” self, you do need to keep some things in mind to do so safely. Here are some postpartum fitness tips and exercises for new moms that will get you up, moving, and back to your old favorites in no time at all!
It’s important to remember that your postpartum body has just gone through a lot. Regardless of the type of delivery your body went through, it has endured a lot and needs adequate time to heal. Always be sure to be cleared by your doctor before jumping into any exercise, as you can incidentally do more harm than good if you jump in too early.
For women who love exercising, diastasis is a concern that should not be taken lightly. Diastasis is a separation of your abdominal muscles that can occur during pregnancy. This separation can worsen if you jump into certain core-work exercises before healing it up, and can last for years after your pregnancy. Diastasis causes your belly to bulge out, continuing to look pregnant even though you are not.
You can do a self-check for diastasis, or you can have a physical therapist or pelvic floor specialist check, as well. Here’s how to do a self-check:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent (feet on the floor).
- Place one hand on your belly.
- Place your other hand on your head/neck for support.
- Begin to lift your head slowly off the ground.
- As you lift your head, feel your belly with your opposite hand. Think about where your ab lines for a 6-pack should be, and gently press down the middle line.
- Your fingers should meet resistance from the muscles from the top of the midline to the bottom. Be sure to check along the entire core centerline.
- If your fingers do not meet resistance, but instead are able to “push through” the middle of your abs, OR you notice more than a two-finger gap between your left and right abs, you might have diastasis.
If you think you have diastasis, be sure to consult a doctor who specializes in diastasis care so that you do not worsen your condition.
Safe Core Exercises
As you rebuild your fitness level and aim to strengthen your core, it’s a good idea to start light to give your body time to adjust. This will also allow you to recognize any areas that are particularly sensitive or sore so that you do not overdo it too quickly. Here are two excellent core exercises for postpartum moms that are also great for moms with diastasis too:
- Foot Slides: Lie on your back with your feet bent and on the ground close to your body. Pull your belly button to the ground and do not allow your back to arch away from the ground. Slowly slide one leg all the way out to a full extension and then back to your body. Repeat on the other side. Do 10 reps on each side, rest, and repeat.
- Toe Touches: Lie on your back with your legs bent and elevated at a 90 degree angle. Your knee to toe should be parallel to the ground. Pull your belly button to the ground, and do not allow your body to arch away from the ground. Slowly lower one foot to the ground, touch the ground with your toes, and then slowly bring it back up to your starting point. Repeat on the other leg. Do 10 reps on each side, rest, and repeat.
- Breathing Exercises: Take a deep breath, allowing your belly to expand fully. Breathe out as much air as possible in one long breath. When you think there is nothing left, push out five short little breaths, tightening and pulling your core muscles in as you let each last bit of breath out. You can also reverse this by blowing out five short breaths, followed by a long breath until you’re out of breath and your core is tight. Do 10 full reps. These are great to do anywhere, too!
Gently building up your core muscles in the postpartum period is an important task that should not be skipped over.
Jumping Into Muay Thai & BJJ
If your goal is to eventually jump back into Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu, then taking care of your core will serve you well. You utilize your core greatly in both sports, so having a strong core will help keep you safe and allow you to progress and train at the level you desire.
Both of these sports can be hard on the body. Knowing that your body just went through a lot and is likely still on the mend, it is ideal to give yourself grace as you figure out how to jump back in. Here are a few things to consider as you jump back into combat sports after pregnancy:
- Speak to your coaches and let them know any concerns you or your doctor might have.
- Pick your partners wisely. Ensure that your partner is willing to help ease you back into your sports and keep you safe (i.e. they won’t kick you hard or smash you in side control when your breasts are still tender).
- Make a note of any movements that tend to cause pain, feel weak, or cause you to feel uneasy or uncomfortable. Be sure to address these to keep yourself safe.
- Take breaks as you need them. Your cardio might not be where it was pre-pregnancy. Give yourself time to build back up to it.
Jumping into the sports that you love is the best way to help you get back in shape as a new mom. Just be sure to inform your coaches and partners to advocate for and protect yourself as you begin.
Bladder Control While Jumping
Welcome to the postpartum period, where jumping rope might suddenly make you think you are going to pee your pants! You’ve just had a baby, and your pelvic floor might not be where it was before you got pregnant. This is an issue that plagues many women for years postpartum. Sometimes these symptoms dissipate over time, but if they don’t, a good pelvic floor specialist can help you heal up and return to normal.
You might find that activities like jumping rope, plyometric movements with jumping, or running cause you to feel like you don’t have full control over your bladder. If this is the case, be sure to modify as you work to completely heal up. This is an extremely common and normal symptom, but one that can (and should) be addressed and fixed. It can seem like an embarrassing conversation to have with your coach, especially if your coach is male, but advocating for yourself and your total healing is an important component of jumping back into exercise.
If you do find that you struggle with jumping movements, you can easily modify exercises by simply stepping through the movements instead. So, while doing jumping jacks, you can move your arms while only stepping and tapping one foot out laterally at a time. It might seem frustrating, but it will give your body some much-needed movement while you continue to heal.
What Can’t You Do?
The good news is that once you’ve been cleared by your doctor to resume exercising, you are pretty much good to do whatever your body feels like doing. If you feel like running, try running. If you feel like hitting a bag, go hit a bag. If you listen to your body and remember that it will take time to fully return to normal (i.e. don’t push yourself so hard that you can’t move the next day), you will be able to get back to all of the exercises you love most.
In short, just listen to your body.
Training And Exercising Postpartum
Training and exercising postpartum might seem a little overwhelming at first. After all, your body has just gone through some major changes. Once you are cleared by your doctor, you can begin to train and exercise normally, though you may have to build back up to where you were before your pregnancy. So long as you listen to your body and communicate with your coaches and partners, you will be able to enjoy getting back to all of your favorite exercise routines.
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