Are you planning to be a mom someday, counting down on the calendar to your due date, or have kids/grandkids already? Every woman in this continuum of motherhood has different abilities, symptoms, comfort levels, and goals. But no matter the stage of motherhood, there are important considerations for the pregnant or postpartum athlete. The number of postpartum women in and outside the gym is always growing, and we can serve as a valuable support system for women in any stage of this process.
Get your mind right
It’s worth discussing the mindset of our approach to fitness as a pregnant or postpartum athlete. Where you are after you have a baby will likely look MUCH different than where you were before the baby. This means mentally, emotionally, and physically. Let’s be clear – there is no ‘getting your body back’ after a baby. You never lost it. Instead, you now have a stronger, more adaptable body that another human being is dependent on.
Approach your fitness with your goals in mind. That is:
What are you training for?
What do you want your fitness experience to look like once you are cleared for working out again?
How do you want your body to feel 2 years post-baby, 5 years, or even 10 years?
After you have your goals solidified, you should then ask yourself: “Just because I can do this exercise, should I? Does it serve me in my goals?” This will look different for every woman, and may even change for yourself over time!
Understanding your body
To help answer if the risk is worth the reward, it’s helpful to understand some anatomy. After all, your body will physically change throughout this process, inside and out. Remember that your doctor is ALWAYS your #1 resource for symptoms, physical exams, and questions related to your pregnancy and aftercare. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists are also important members of the healthcare team that can help you navigate some changes post-baby. Speaking of “Pelvic Floor,” let’s expand on that information a bit.
So what is your pelvic floor anyway? Everyone’s got one, and no matter if you’ve had a baby or not, or if you are a male or female, you could have pelvic floor dysfunction. For this article, we will focus on the female pelvic floor anatomy.
The pelvic floor is a component of your core musculature. It is the base of the pelvis that supports the uterus, bladder, and bowel. Other important anatomical structures located in both the inner and outer core are shown in the image below.
Inner core musculature includes the diaphragm, pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, and multifitus. Outer core musculature includes the rectus abdominus, obliques, lats, glutes, and erector spinae.
For a baby to grow, areas within a woman’s body shift in order to create the physical space needed for a baby. These moving parts include not only the organs, but muscles and connective tissues as well. This shifting and moving often results in a condition referred to as diastasis recti. This happens when hormones direct the tension of connective tissue to loosen. This diastasis may persist after birth, and the healing process is different for every woman and every pregnancy.
It’s important to remember that your core is essentially a closed-pressure system. When there is a baby in that system, it can change how your body’s pressure adjusts and distributes. Your diaphragm expands and contracts with each breath, essential to different strategies for movement in pregnant and postpartum women.
Is this normal?
Certain movements or exercises may exacerbate or worsen some symptoms related to pregnancy and postpartum training. Some symptoms are expected (for example, the aforementioned diastasis recti), but some are not considered to be normal. Please don’t google these symptoms if you have any or are worried about any. Your OB/GYN and Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist are your best allies for this! Medical professionals are there to determine if your symptoms are expected, or if they require management and monitoring.
Likewise, certified and experienced coaches are there to help modify movements as you train. They can help you to achieve your goals no matter what stage of motherhood you are in!
Women’s Health Workshop
If you can relate to this article and you want to learn more about your body, and how to improve your confidence in the gym and in daily movement, we’ve got a treat for you! Locomotion Fitness will be hosting a Women’s Health Workshop, led by Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, Hannah Bangel. We welcome you to attend this FREE workshop to ask questions and connect with other women. No question or statement is “too much information” in this space!
Coach Christy & Coach Tina are trained in pregnancy & postpartum athleticism. They are here to help you apply what you learn from this seminar to your time in the gym. For an example on how they may be able to help, check out Coach Tina’s adaptation of the “Murph” CrossFit Workout for the pregnant and postpartum athlete!
The goal of this workshop is to educate women on their bodies and improve performance, while also creating an open dialogue about pelvic floor dysfunction and how pelvic floor PT can help. We will be performing different exercises so that the participants can feel and try moevements on the spot.