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Know before you go: getting back to the gym safely after baby or surgery.

I ran into a friend who had had a baby 8 weeks ago.  She told me she wanted to get back in shape but once she started working out, she didn’t feel as comfortable as she had hoped.  As we talked, we discussed how to get back to the gym after baby and the importance of giving ourselves the grace to return safely to pre-baby workouts.

As pelvic floor specialists we often see women who head back to their exercise routines unknowingly causing issues, rather than improvements. pregnancy and delivery are a big stress to our bodies, not unlike a major injury or surgery. We take time to rehab after injuries or surgeries, and pregnancy and delivery should be no different.

Here are a couple of the tips that I gave her.

  1. Turn on your pelvic floor and deep core before you work.  This includes picking up baby, emptying the dishwasher, and lifting at the gym.  Prior to lifting, imagine picking up a blueberry with your vagina.  This will activate your pelvic floor.  When your pelvic floor turns on, you want to also feel that your deep abdominals activate.  This will be a firming of your abdominal wall or your belly button pulling up and in.
  2. Exhale when you work.  When you lift the weight, kettlebell or baby, exhale.  This will help to turn your pelvic floor and deep abdominals on and help give you stability through your pelvis, hips and spine.
  3. If you can’t breathe when you lift or do an exercise, you should back off a little.  If you have to hold your breath to do a plank or lift a weight, it means that your diaphragm is trying to help support your core and that your deep core muscles aren’t quite ready.  Once you train with the lower-level exercise, try the harder exercise after a week to 10 days. 
  4. If your belly bulges, ribs flare or you cant keep a neutral spine, you should back down, or reset and try again to keep your pelvic floor and deep abs connected with no bulging belly.

It’s ok to ask for help.  Going through pregnancy and delivering a baby, either vaginally or by c-section, is an amazing feat.  Having a pelvic floor therapist assess you for diastasis, deep core and pelvic floor muscle strength, and any scars from delivery is a good way to prevent issues down the road.  We can also look at your technique with lifting to help get you back to pre-baby form. 

Often, we have to be specific with exercises and routines for each different client, so having a pelvic PT help you will really zone in on your weaknesses or dysfunctions. Many times, it just takes a few visits over 4-6 weeks for women to be safe enough to get back to the gym. And the best part is they are educated and know how to safely progress their strength program.

This also applies to women after surgeries like bladder sling or hysterectomy. Surgeries are significant and getting back to activity safely is so important so you dont harm the surgical repair or injure yourself. We offer a free 15 minute phone consultation to answer any questions you may have and make sure you are in the right place for healing. Click here to schedule!

Sarah is the proud co-owner of Foundational Concepts, Specialty Physical Therapy which opened in March 2013. Sarah lectures at the University of Missouri Department of PT, University of Kansas Departments of PT and Nurse Midwifery, and at Rockhurst University Department of PT. She is board certified in Women’s Health PT and holds certifications in medical therapeutic yoga, lymphedema therapy and dry needling.

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