the 6 stages of post partum training – from nurturing rehab to ninja goddess
As they say you have to learn to walk before you can run, and getting back into exercise after having a baby is no different.
Now here is my disclaimer – once you are post partum – you are always post partum.
Don’t think because your bundle of joy can now operate an Ipad that you no longer need stability work for your core or joints.
It doesn’t matter if you had a baby last week or 20 years ago. A body that hasn’t been rehabilitated will behave the same way. In the early days it may show up as some jelly belly, a tight back, and a heavy pelvic floor. Years later it can show up as prolapse, recurrent injuries, ‘non specific back pain’ and joint replacements.
Those stretched out structures and fast asleep muscles don’t turn back on again by themselves in our seated culture.
So here’s a quick overview of the progressions to help you be your fit, fabulous self minus any injuries, burn out (which equals sugar cravings!) or accidental damage to your pelvic floor and abdominals.
Phase 1 – Set the Foundation:
- Start lying down to learn how to activate the pelvic floor and deep abdominals correctly.
Working without gravity makes it easier to make that initial connection, without placing any load through your joints or spine.
- Progress to kneeling, and standing activations of the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis.
Phase 2 – Stability:
- This is movement that centres each joint, and challenges the nervous system to kick those sleepy muscles into gear. Think balancing, using swiss balls, single leg exercises, and closing your eyes during basic movements for a neurological challenge.
Phase 3 – Symmetry:
- This is all about finding a balanced use of the muscles around each joint. Strengthening the long, sleepy ones, and stretching out the tight ones. Once you have good activation and stability from the first 2 stages – here is where you start integrating stretching. Stretching without stability at a joint will cause the tight muscles to keep getting tighter – it will end up feeling like a quick fix.
Phase 4 – Strength:
- Strength isn’t just about holding dumbbells or using gym machines. Strength is about creating integrity at the joints by nourishing what are called the ‘passive structures.’ This means creating thicker bone, stronger tendons and ligaments, and a healthy, responsive nervous system that is adaptable and easy to calm (bonus – the neurological effect transfers across to other areas of life too).
Phase 5 – Speed:
Doing things quickly and being able to control your body at the same time is actually complex as an adult (kids make it look easy). If you are starting from years of sedentary lifestyle, or having held a desk job before having your bub, without the first 4 phases in place, adding pace to anything you do is most likely going to hurt.
Post partum is a GREAT time to start to get into the best health of your life – so you can be with your kiddies, and feel FREE doing it.
Phase 6 – Putting it all together:
This is a combination of the different phases in a more complex routine. The exercises from each phase are more advanced, heavier, and faster. This is where you can start expending some energy because you have done the work cultivating it first.
How much time should I spend in each phase and for how long?
Everyone is different. You will have different parts of each phase in your training at any time – the ratios will be different.
Training isn’t always linear either. If you have a long break, or an injury or are run down – you may need to jump back a phase or 2 before progressing again.
In my group training sessions I run each phase for 6 weeks. This is in a supervised environment to ensure correct technique and individual assessments for the quickest level of progress.
Progressing at home on your own will depend on consistency and whatever else is going on in your life.
Life isn’t linear, it’s a messy, beautiful squiggle, and your training phases will always reflect that. And when you finally do progress, you will find it quicker the second (or third, or tenth) time round.
Remember why you are doing exercise to begin with. Most women I work with do it to feel great, have more energy and look good.
These 3 things can be achieved in any of the 6 phases – so you don’t need to rush yourself through recovery. Your body will not co-operate even if your head is super keen.
A bit of challenge is all you need.