When can I stop doing heel slides and body weight squats and kegels and this easy-peasy core ridiculousness and start going to my HIIT classes again?
That’s what you’re wondering, right?
You’re thinking, “Jen I am so, so sick of this simple stuff. I want to do a real workout.”
You’re 6+ weeks postpartum and you’re “cleared” for physical activity. So why can’t you just jump back into your running shoes and train for a 10K?
Because your doctor may have given you the clearance but your body may be going “Woah, woah, woah!”
This is one of the (many) lessons I learned during my postpartum rehab.
8 weeks after I had my kiddo I popped in a BeachBody.com Shaun T workout video (T-25 if you’re curious) and almost peed myself.
“It’s the Alpha cycle. The ‘beginner’ stuff.” I told myself. “I’ll be fine. I’ll just go a bit slower.”
But first came the butt kicks, then the high knees, and by the time jumping jacks started I had to run to the bathroom. It felt like a woolly mammoth was having a Dance Dance Revolution party on my bladder.
The pressure and heaviness was just unbearable.
I wish I could say I turned off the TV and signed up for pelvic floor physiotherapy right then and there. But I’m ashamed to say I pressed play again. Then pause. Then play. Then pause. I tried to force my way through it but by 10 minutes in I couldn’t push it anymore. I knew – to the base of my pinkie toes – that something wasn’t right.
My pelvic floor was nowhere near ready for any kind of jumping, dancing, running, prancing…
I was so discouraged.
Shaun was my ticket to post-baby body hotness and I came to the tragic revelation that he couldn’t be invited to the party any longer. I needed to figure out something else.
And thus began my journey into pelvic floor + core rehab (that lead me to get my Prenatal and Postnatal certification and open up shop at SweetMomBod.com).
Not gonna lie, it wasn’t easy letting go of the idea that I couldn’t do the high impact, high intensity workouts I’d relied on before to get and stay in shape.
But I – thankfully – realized that my body just wasn’t ready to be pushed like that.
How did I know? How can you know?
Here are some signs you’re not ready to dive into more intense, high impact workouts:
- You pee yourself. Even if it’s just a smidgen of pee. When you pee yourself that’s a sign that your pelvic floor and core aren’t doing their job – staying strong for you so you don’t have to always wear black just in case you laugh too hard.
- You have heaviness or pain in your pelvic area or pain in your core. That woolly mammoth Dance Dance Revolution was my body’s way of saying “Jen, stop. Stop right now. Stop because your pelvic floor is so weak you’re gonna pee yourself (or worse) and feel terrible about it if you keep going.”
- You’re still bleeding from your delivery and it gets worse during or immediately after exercising.
- You feel like your core is a limp noodle. Very scientific, I know. If you’re doing any kind of exercise and thinking “I can’t engage my core properly” or “I can’t feel it in my core” or “Man my core feels so unstable”… Stop. Collaborate and listen. Not to Vanilla Ice, to your body. It’s telling you your muscles aren’t functioning properly. (I know, I’m sorry. I have Ice Ice Baby in my head now too!)
- Your belly domes, or cones, or pushes out in a way that has you going “Is that supposed to look like that?” Chances are it’s not. This could be a sign you have diastasis recti and whatever you’re doing may be making it worse.
Now I get it.
Before I had my daughter I was a 5+ day a week gym monkey. I loved the exercise high I would get from pushing myself.
But here’s what I realized – sure I could go back to my intense workouts and punish my body back into shape.
Or I could listen to my body when it was screaming at me to stop, figure out how to rehab it, and then – maybe – one day go back to those exercises I used to love doing. With the bonus of feeling stronger and less likely to injure myself (or at least not have to deal with the embarrassment of peeing myself in front of everyone).
I get it. You want to jump back into things (maybe literally if you’re itching to do some burpees – which, if that’s the case, you’re insane! 😉 )
But let me help you see things a little differently.
Instead of thinking of the easy-peasy ridiculous core + pelvic floor workout stuff as beginner BS that’s just a stepping stone to the “real” workouts.
Think of it as exactly what your body needs, right now, to feel and look stronger.
You wouldn’t force your munchkin to try to run before they’d even attempted crawling. That’d be cruel, right? They’re just not ready.
Forcing your body to run before it’s ready would be cruel too. It’s just not ready.
The truth is your muscles aren’t working properly. You can’t get results – like 6 pack abs – if your muscles aren’t working properly. No matter how many CrossFit WODs you push yourself into finishing.
So to answer your question “When can I go back to doing my high intensity, high impact workouts?” the answer is simply when your body tells you its ready.
You’ll know. You’ll know you’re ready when…
- Your belly doesn’t dome, or bulge, or cone up when you do a plank or crunch.
- You don’t feel like you may (or actually do) pee yourself at any point during the workout.
- You’re not questioning whether your uterus is going to spontaneously fall out of you in the next 5 minutes or so.
- You don’t feel the woolly mammoth Dance Dance Revolution pressure on your pelvis.
- Your diastasis has healed as much as possible and your pelvic floor physiotherapist has cleared you for more intense exercise (I recommend every mama goes to a pelvic floor physiotherapist – find yourself one using the list in this post).
- You can feel your core engage properly when you go to lift your kiddo up off the floor and your pelvic floor lift when you do a kegel. When the muscles are working like they’re supposed to, you’ll feel a difference.
Please have patience.
This is a few months out of your life to rehab your body. Maybe more depending on the severity of your core + pelvic floor weakness, how your labour went, if you’re dealing with diastasis and/or pelvic organ prolapse, and whether you’re breastfeeding.
(Side huddle: When you’re breastfeeding you’re still infused with a cocktail of hormones that can affect your recovery. It can take around 3 months after your little one has weened before your connective tissues go back to pre-pregnancy stretchability – yes, not a real word.
So if you try to push your body too hard you have a higher chance of getting injured because your connective tissues are more relaxed and can be more easily over-stretched.)
Once you’ve done the work to heal your body you can do as much running, jumping, and Dance Dance Revolution as you damn well please.
Just do your body the favour and don’t spend years struggling to run and crunch your way to flat abs when what you really need to do is the right kinds of core workouts until your body says “Okay, I’m ready. Hit me with your best burpee.”
And remember – you don’t have to be totally exhausted after a workout, or sore for days to get stronger and feel like you’re making progress.
You can feel and look fabulous post-baby. And you don’t need to drown in sweat every time you hit the gym to get there.
Give yourself a break. Give your body a break. And do the work that needs to be done to create a strong ground floor and core.
Have you tried to do any high impact stuff and thought “Hmmmmm… This doesn’t feel totally right…” What are you going to take from this post to help you shift your mindset into being okay with slowing things down – at least until you’ve rehabbed your core + pelvic floor?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
P.S. I don’t think I’ve thought about Dance Dance Revolution so much since the glory days of ’99 😉