Postpartum Exercise Progression

It’s so hard to know where, let alone when to start exercising after having a baby. Especially if it is your first birth and to add to it, if you had a C-section. I mean seriously! They basically cut us in half!

I’ll never forget the doctor saying to my husband as he started on my first C-section incision “wow, her core is really tough”, as in it was hard for him to cut through my abs! Of course me being the meathead I am thought that was great!

What little I knew from there in getting those rock hard abs back to the shape they were in, especially after the ridiculous amount of stretching they go through to make room for babies, was going to be a long road!

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So often I get asked about how I recovered after both of my C-sections and started exercising again.

The first thing I tell people is to give it time, don’t rush into exercising, and listen to your body.

While I had a routine when I started back at it, I also knew that if there was a day that I felt tired or sore, then I probably shouldn’t exercise that day. On the other hand, know that it is going to hurt a little, but if it starts to be too much, stop right away.

I also will tell people not to put off getting back into a routine of exercise, even if it’s starting out with 10 minutes.

This is for many reasons. Exercise helps you cope with postpartum depression and mom anxiety. It gives you a little time to yourself, even if it’s with your baby laying on the floor while you do the exercises, as you can see in the pictures here with my second. It’s also important to do something for yourself while you are spending so much of your time taking care of baby.

Exercise also helps you get back to feeling normal again and helps you strengthen so that you can carry that baby as they grow.

I have found that another rewarding part of coming back to exercise after delivery is a way to redesign and shape your body into what you want it to be. It’s amazing how we can do this!

So I’m so glad you are taking the time to at least show interest in getting back to exercise after delivering your baby. It is a very smart decision!

My experience with exercise postpartum

My experience and postpartum workout programs speak towards mommas who delivered their baby via C-section. These would be ideal for any postpartum momma, but should be noted that if you did not have a C-section you may be able to do more with your core or overall exercise program earlier than someone with a C-section.

2 – 3 weeks post delivery

Approximately 2 – 3 weeks after delivery I started exercising only my arms.

My tummy needed more time to heal before I began engaging much of my core or larger leg muscles. I got a rude awakening around the end of the 3 weeks when I thought I would try and lay on my back and do leg extensions. OUCH! This is a great example of listening to your body – if it’s not ready to progress, then wait.

At 4 months, I was back to doing different low intensity leg exercises with no problem. Continue to do what you can and then try again in another week.

So for the arms only exercises at 2 weeks I would sit in a chair with my back supported and use no weight. Gradually I was able to remove the back support. 

These are the exercises I did, completing the cycle 3 times.

10 triceps extension over head

10 bicep curls

10 front raises

10 lat raises

10 shoulder press

10 outter bicep curls

3 to 4 weeks post delivery

At about 3 to 4 weeks I felt comfortable adding 5 lb weight to the exercises. It really is amazing how even simple arm exercises engage so much of your core. So when you add the weight, you may have to revert back to starting out with your back supported and then gradually remove it.

5 to 6 weeks post delivery

At the 5 to 6-week time frame I was feeling pretty good mobility wise with my core, so we went on some simple walks outside or I did 10 to 20 minutes of very slow walking on the treadmill.

I definitely was sore at first and had to take it slow, but soon progressed to being comfortable walking at a regular pace.

6 weeks post delivery

At 6 weeks I was officially cleared to begin exercising by the doctor.

The importance of taking it easy until the doctor officially clears you at 6 to 8 weeks is crucial. While you may feel fine, you really don’t want to rupture or over stress anything internally while it’s healing. So be patient, even if you feel great, until you go see your doctor for them to examine the incision and make sure it is healed enough.

I felt more confident pushing myself a little more through some of the tightness and soreness during exercise too knowing that the doctor said everything was all healing correctly.

So once cleared by the doctor, you can start increasing your workouts focusing on the same routine that you were using prior to and during pregnancy.

 The ironic thing is that as you are pregnant you start to taper off the intensity and after your pregnancy you essentially can use the same progression just backwards! The same “rules” apply too – work through the uncomfortableness, but don’t push yourself beyond what you are capable of doing.

Even the yoga workouts I used were the same as what I used during my pregnancy because laying on the incision isn’t very comfortable at first.

My exercise routine was:

Monday/Thursday – cardio

Tues/Friday – arms and a couple of leg exercises like leg extensions or body weight squats

Wednesday – yoga

Sat/sun – yoga or cardio

3 months post delivery

I was able to do my longest yet on the treadmill with an interval run for 30 minutes, no incline.

4 months/12 weeks post delivery

Workout: 3×50 sec ea. 10 sec rest

Clean and press

Squat overhead press

Wood chop

Burpee – turn lunge rotate

Burpee lunge

I was still not doing any ab specific exercises at 4 months. The focus everywhere else was plenty and so until I wasn’t feeling anything from those exercises I waited.

6 months post delivery

It’s amazing how you will feel at 6 months.

By this time I was back to my normal workouts and feeling and getting closer to my normal size.

It’s really important to take things slow. Don’t compare yourself and your progress to me, use it as a guide for your own personal ability.

Do start exercising as soon as you feel you are ready. As I mentioned, exercise is so important not only for general health, but as you step into motherhood and need the time for yourself and a way to help balance the anxiety that may come at times.

Also, don’t become stressed when the workout just doesn’t happen.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I would get on the treadmill, thinking my baby was down for a nap and then have to go back and calm him and lay him back down. Then head back down to the treadmill and get 5 more minutes before I’d have to go back. I tried to look at it as interval training. Ha!

There were also plenty of days that I would get started on my workout and then not get to finish or change it from a weights day to a walk or run with the jogger. As they are little, you may have to be a little more flexible.

Hang in there momma, we know you are doing the best you can!

Congratulations on your baby and I hope you find exercising as a mother even more rewarding than you ever have before.

I can’t wait to hear about your progress or if you have any questions, put them in the comments below!

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