Five Tips for Returning to Exercise Post-Baby

Hello! I am thrilled to share a guest post with you today, that answers one of the most frequently asked questions since I started working out again, six weeks after giving birth to Katie. Each day, at least a few people reach out over email, Facebook, Instagram or blog comments asking for tips for returning to exercise in a safe and healthy manner after giving birth. Since I am not an expert on the topic, I figured I’d enroll the person who helped me return to strength training – Carolyn. Carolyn is a pre and postnatal health coach and personal trainer who lives in Brooklyn. During my maternity leave I had the pleasure of attending her mother & baby workouts with her two times a week for almost three months!  Enjoy!

I’m so excited to be guest posting on Ashley’s blog while she is adjusting to life as a working mom.  My name is Carolyn and I’m a pre and postnatal health coach and personal trainer – and also first-time mom to Charlie who is about to turn 1 year old! Whoever said that with a baby “the days are long but the months are short” nailed it. I have no idea where the time went, but what an amazing journey it has been so far.

When I became pregnant with Charlie, I was in the process of studying for my health coach and personal training certification. As I learned about various dietary theories and fitness components the body needs to thrive, I felt so lucky that I had this information that I could immediately apply to my own pregnancy. Armed with this wealth of knowledge, however, I became hyper-aware of how little we’re counseled on how to have a healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery unless we actively seek the information out.

In most cases, we’re told by our doctor that whatever form of exercise we were doing before getting pregnant is fine to continue (within reason) and then we’re quickly given the go-ahead to resume all exercise at 6-weeks. I’ll never forget at my 6-week postpartum visit, my OB cleared me to start running again. It was exactly what I was hoping to hear, but I looked at her in total disbelief. My core felt so weak (and by weak I mean non-existent) and my hips and pelvis felt like – well like I had just pushed out a 9-pound baby! I had exercised almost every day before and during my pregnancy, but pounding the pavement felt like the last thing my body needed. Each and every person’s body is different and every recovery is different, so if you were able to lace up your sneaks at 6 weeks – all the power to you! But if you are wondering how to safely ease back into an exercise routine, here are 5 tips to get you started:

  • Listen to your body. Ashley talks a lot about her fitness journey pre, during and post pregnancy and how she is always reminding herself to build back up slowly. This is so important. No matter what kind of birth you had, your body just went through an amazing, life-altering, endurance test and you know yourself best. If something doesn’t feel right, take a pause. Now isn’t the time to force it.
  • Remember to breathe. Did you know the diaphragm is actually the most important muscle of the core? Here’s a test: Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly just below your rib cage. Now take a deep breath. Does your chest or belly rise first? For a variety of reasons, including desk jobs and chronic stress, most of us have become chest breathers, when in fact breathing should come from the diaphragm. While it sounds simple, changing the way you breathe can impact everything from our stress levels to our digestive system.

  • Reconnect with your core. Your core is the foundational aspect of your body that impacts everything else. If you recently had a baby, your core has been stretched in some places, tightened in others, and has been holding everything together for 9 months. It’s tired. It’s weak. It needs some love. Breathing through your diaphragm, doing Kegels and practicing modified abdominal work will help strengthen the inner layer of muscles that have helped carry and protect your little one up until this point.
  • Fire up those glutes. Second in importance to the core, the glutes help support your hips, pelvis and lower back, all of which have shifted around over the past 9 months. Strengthening these guys will help ease any residual aches and pains and provide support to the core. Squats and lunges are the best exercises for your buns and are easily done with baby in tow.
  • Stretch with caution. You may have heard about the hormone Relaxin that is released into your body throughout pregnancy. Its primary job is to loosen up your ligaments to prepare you for childbirth, but while It’s unclear exactly how long your body continues to produce it, some believe it can last up to a year postpartum. So, if you can touch your toes for the first time now that you can finally see them again, just be careful not to get overexcited, it could still be the Relaxin talking. Only stretch out areas that feel tight or like they need to be lengthened to avoid overstretching.

If you have other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments and, if you are local, I would love to see you for one of my workouts in Carroll Park or Prospect Park.

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  1. Katie November 8, 2017 / 3:20 pm

    This is so helpful! I’m only 5 days postpartum but have been following Ashley for a while. I am now interested in getting certified in prenatal training because I’m a triathlete who managed to stay in most things up until the last minute…literally, I went into labor while swimming the last 500m of my set! It can be done and there’s too much of a stigma, still, about the INabilities of pregnant women versus focusing on what’s possible and healthy. Goals were different and everything was modified and i learned a real exercise in patience with myself! Of course though, now that the finish line happened, the recovery has me a bit like . I love hearing from others how they managed the process since there is so little sound actual medical advice out there now about this stuff! Thank you for putting your stories and expertise out there!

  2. Jamie King November 8, 2017 / 9:06 pm

    Bookmarking this, I’m due in April and will need all the help / motivation and tips I can find!




    • ashleyd November 8, 2017 / 10:13 pm

      Congratulations! It’s such an incredible time and you’ll be great! The best tips I would say is LISTEN TO YOUR BODY both during and after pregnancy!

  3. Alyse November 10, 2017 / 3:47 pm

    These are great tips! It’s so true, our bodies do something crazy and amazing – I don’t know if it’s true, but someone told me that a woman’s body changes more in the year of pregnancy + postpartum than a man’s body changes in his entire life.

    Whether or not that’s true, it’s so important to honor the huge changes our bodies go through and LISTEN. 🙂

  4. Nina November 14, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    Very good list. Specially the last point is not to be forgotten as stretching feels so good during this time but can lead to serious injuries because of hormonal side effects. Btw the first picture is waaay to cute!!

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