As featured on the Bellies Inc. Blog July 5, 2017.

You yawn as you stroll across the room to meet your trainer.

“Good morning!” she says with enthusiasm.

It’s 9am, she’s 2 clients into her day and full of energy. After 7 hours of sleep, only one short night waking with her son, a solid breakfast and a little self-care morning practice, she is feeling pretty good!

You, the new mom, on the other hand, are having a very different experience. Your night consisted of something like 6 hours of broken sleep, limited food and you feel pretty freakin’ sluggish.

“Good morning”, you reply. “I don’t know what you have for me today but my low back is nagging me again” you say, trying to muster up some enthusiasm.

“Oh you know, squats, dead lifts, planks and burpees” she replies with a laugh. You pick up on her humour and head to the treadmill to warm-up.

15 minutes in.

“What was for breakfast today, or should I ask?” she inquires.

“You really want to know? ¼ of a mashed banana my son didn’t finish” you say, knowing full well this is not the answer she was hoping to hear.

25 minutes in.

“I’ll be right back, gotta pee” you say as you scoot off to the restroom.

“Sure thing she replies and waits patiently, a routine she has become accustomed to.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

Carrying and birthing a baby takes its toll on the body physically, emotionally and mentally. I have my own child, so I understand what being a parent entails. As a Strength Trainer and Core Confidence Specialist I understand and appreciate the importance of safely and effectively retraining my mom clients.

Training new moms is like no other clientele I have ever worked with. Your needs and array of unique situations be it within the first few years postpartum or many years after giving birth requires a deeper level of compassion, understanding, professionalism and sense of humor. Luckily for me, these are my strong points!

In this blog I share three things that make your body different from both a psychological and physical perspective, and how I structure my programs (and why it is important your trainer does too) to ensure you are set up for success.

What makes you different psychologically?

1. You don’t get proper sleep

New parents, even with kids up to age 3, do not get a solid night’s sleep most of the time. This makes it more challenging to learn and repeat new exercises. Sleep deprivation means you are not able to process instructions and new motor patterns as quickly, and are therefore more prone to accidents.

How I remedy this as a trainer:

  • Stick to the basics. I do not attempt to teach complex and challenging exercises if I know my client is not getting proper rest.
  • Stick to what you know and build on that, slowly. I ensure I am not pushing too hard right out the gate and leave the balance and stability work for another time. Do I challenge my clients? Absolutely, but I also accept that some days I need to be prepared to adapt the plan to meet your needs.
  • Create exercise routines that are light, restorative and short. The fact that you are out of the house and making a commitment to your health is huge in and of itself.
  • Make training effective and achievable so that you feel accomplished despite the brain fog.

2. You don’t always eat at regular intervals

Moms are notorious, myself included at times, for packing more than enough food and snacks for the kids but not bringing enough for themselves. By the time many of my mom clients reach the gym for an early morning training session they very well may have changed 2 poopy diapers, packed their spouse’s lunch and got them out the door, thrown in a load of laundry and swept up the spilled cereal covering the kitchen floor. They then finally had a moment to themselves to throw on some clothes before the babysitter arrived and they headed off to meet me at the gym.

How I remedy this as a trainer:

  • Go above and beyond. I throw a few extra bars or bananas in my pack so I have them on hand if clients arrive with no fuel in the tank.
  • Encourage you to buy healthy snack bars or trail mix that can be left in the gym bag or car to eat on the go.
  • Create a list of simple, healthy snacks that can be sent out to my clients so you have healthy ideas right at your fingertips.
  • Encourage you to do your best most days of the week instead of having hard and fast expectations. Progress is always better than perfection and this holds true for eating as well.

3. You are likely overwhelmed

I know the challenges having a young baby or toddler creates (or possibly even after that). In the midst of sheer overwhelm, you are often doing your best to stay afloat with all the changes in your body and life overall. I know how hard on yourself you are and any little thing you do to better care for yourself goes a long way!

How I remedy this as a trainer:

  • Do not put much of my focus on weight check-ins but rather use other measures of success like body measurements, strength, endurance, clothes fitting better, improved mood and reduced tendency of incontinence and pain.
  • Avoid having you count calories as this can be mind boggling and adds another layer onto an already stressed out state. Making you aware of proper portions and good food choices without strict guidelines is my MO.
  • Celebrate all your small wins (even if they seem insignificant).
  • Ask how you are feeling and then take the time to genuinely listen.

What makes you different physically?

When training new moms, there are 3 main things I look for before setting anyone up with an exercise routine:

1. Do you have diastasis-recti DRA (aka-abdominal separation)?

1 in 4 births end in some form of pelvic floor dysfunction and DRA is one of the more common concerns. If a client has DRA it can be functional or dysfunctional meaning that they may have a separation of their rectus abdominis and linea alba but their pelvic floor is still functioning OR they have a separation and their pelvic floor is not functioning. Note: Men and children can get DRA but it is much less common. Training a client with a functioning pelvic floor is key.

How I remedy this as a trainer:

  • After doing a series of pelvic floor assessments, if I determine that DRA is present, I would not have my clients doing exercises that puts them on all fours such as planks, bird dogs, push-ups, burpees etc. as this can make the DRA worse.
  • Ensure you are correctly doing the core breath to retrain and strengthen the pelvic floor.
  • I would not have you doing crunches or traditional sit-up style exercises – ever!
  • I would refer you to a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist if needed.

2. Do you suffer from Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP)?

As shocking as it may be, organs can prolapse (drop and bulge out of the vagina) causing a great deal of discomfort and/or pain. You may experience a heavy feeling in the pelvic region, low back pain and overall discomfort when performing certain exercises, these would all be cues I am watching for to rule out POP.

How I remedy this as a trainer:

  • Again, after doing a series of pelvic floor assessments, if I suspect POP I would not recommend exercises that put you on all fours as mentioned above.
  • Ensure you are correctly doing the core breath to retrain and strengthen the pelvic floor.
  • I avoid having you do crunches, traditional sit-ups, jumping movements and high impact, heavy or explosive lifts.
  • Referring you onto a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist is super important if POP is suspected. I would not want to take anyone from a grade 1 prolapse (minor) to a grade 3 (more severe) because I gave too much weight nor did I take a weak pelvic floor into account.

3. Do you have urinary incontinence?

If you are peeing when you do not want to pee (you are not sitting on a toilet), this is not normal. Urinary Stress incontinence (USI) is the most common form seen in moms and it happens when pelvic floor muscles become stretched and weak due to childbearing and birth. Most women think that this is a normal part of having kids but the truth is, it is not. It is the body’s way of telling you that your pelvic floor needs to be retrained.

How I remedy this as a trainer:

  • Do not have moms doing explosive jumping, running and lifting type exercises that will only put more stress on the pelvic floor and the bladder.
  • Ensure you are correctly doing the core breath to retrain and strengthen the pelvic floor.
  • I would refer you to a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist if needed.

 

Summary

The main takeaway here is that if you are feeling ready to get back into exercise after having a baby (even if you were fit and strong pre-pregnancy), understanding the magnitude of what your body has been through is important. Your body is forever changed and learning to love it for the amazing things it has done are one of the first steps to regaining your confidence.

Seeing a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist within a few weeks of birth (provided you are well healed) and connecting with a fitness professional qualified to work with postpartum clients is your next step. You want to be sure to connect with a trainer and physiotherapist that you feel comfortable and confident working with as sharing details like peeing and pelvic pain can be an uncomfortable subject but does not need to be.

By recognizing that sleep, meal planning and personal overwhelm are likely some of your biggest challenges as a new parent (before even heading to the gym for a Personal Training session) finding a trainer who is well educated and can create fun, safe, effective and achievable training plans will make all the difference.

So, before you jump into exercise postpartum, I hope you will listen to your body and ease into your health and fitness journey with confidence and knowledge by choosing your Fitness Trainer wisely!