What your 6 week postpartum doctor checkup doesn't tell you.

What your 6 week postpartum doctor checkup doesn’t tell you

 

Most women know that after having their baby they will have a 6 week checkup appointment with their doctor. Following this checkup the majority of women get cleared and are told they are able to start all exercise again.

 

I’ll use myself for example. After my first child I did not do anything at all for the first 6 weeks. I don’t even think I went for a walk… Which is fine! But the reason I didn’t was because I thought I could not do a single thing before the 6 weeks... I was checked by my doctor at my 6 week appointment (which lasted about 60 seconds) then asked if I wanted to get on birth control. My doctor did not check if I had a diastasis recti (which 100% of women get in pregnancy, and it only become an issue if it is greater than 2cm and the fascia does not create tension). I was not asked if I was having pelvic pain, pressure, or incontinence. I also had no idea that a women’s health physio even existed. To be honest I was really shocked that as the mom who just had a traumatic delivery was given very little care physically, but I trusted the health professionals and ran a 5k that day since I was “cleared” to exercise. I ended up with pain and incontinence.

 

After my third child I started walking after one week (because I felt good and wanted some movement), core rehab exercises at 2 weeks postpartum and intentional strength training at 4 weeks postpartum. Even though I started exercising earlier this time around I did not start running until 4/5 months postpartum. I wanted to have a consistent strength training regime going and rehab for my pelvic floor and core before I started more intense high impact activities. It took me to have 3 children to be an advocate for myself and make sure I started to take care of myself physically.

 

If a woman does not want to or feel comfortable doing any exercise until they see their doctor then maybe waiting until 6 weeks is the right decision for her, but I do think SOME women can start moving before 6 weeks. When I say start exercise I do not mean going back to crossfit class or running a 10k… I mean moving with intention and a focus on rehab. The body does need time to heal and to progressively ease into things plus build strength over time.

 

Think about it. Say you injured your knee to the point you had to have surgery (c-sections are invasive surgeries). You would take some rest after surgery to recover and then most likely be going to a physio to get rehab exercises so you can workout at home to begin to help build strength again. Then most would slowly build up their intensity and impact. You would have to be very intentional with your movement early so you could return back to have full function without causing yourself setbacks. I don’t think many individuals would wait 6 weeks after knee surgery with little to no movement then go sprint a 5 k… because it makes no sense! It’s the same with postpartum women!!

 

We need to acknowledge that during pregnancy and postpartum the body changes a great deal and needs to be rehabbed. We need to address that our pelvic floor and core have gone through a lot of changes and possibly trama during this time. We need to treat it like we would if any other body part went through similar changes and do some rehab type work.

 

My point is that even waiting the full 6 weeks and being “cleared” by your doctor doesn’t necessary mean you are ready for all exercise. More importantly is how you return to exercise and the steps you take to restore your body than the length you take to return. Pregnancy is temporary and postpartum is forever! Women who have older children and have not exercised should take the same steps in returning to exercise.

 

Please be an advocate for yourself if you haven’t been given much information about your own recovery.  Like Brianna Battles says in her The Pregnant and Postpartum Athlete group “Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy a long with a quality progression of exercise is key the healing and managing pelvic floor dysfunction of any kind.

 

Please contact me if you are looking for a contact in your area. J

Making time to Workout

Making time to Workout

 

One of the most frequent questions I get from moms is how to fit in time for regular exercise.  Between work, kids activities, time with family/friends, chores, and limited sleep I see this as a big issue for lots of moms - Including myself!

Before I had children I would workout or do something active 5 or 6 days a week.  Missing one day seemed odd.  I used to think people just made excuses for why they couldn’t make the time.  My view totally changed once I got busier with work and had kids!  I barley had enough time in the day to get everything done.  I would feel guilty if I didn’t fit in a workout or run.  It was either I workout or do laundry, get groceries or miss out on sleep…

Now my priorities have changed.  Being active is very important to me but it does not take priority over my family.  Over the last 4 years I have learned ways that have worked for me to keep me active and happy!

1.)    Only do workouts you ENJOY!  This is so important.  Too many people will do a workout they dread to just burn calories or get a workout.  Life is too busy and short to do a workout you loath.  I love running, lifting weights, hiking, going to workout classes and playing sports so that’s what I do to stay active.  I do not enjoy yoga or dance classes so you will not see me doing those activities very often if at all.  Even though Yoga is amazing and has a ton of benefits and I could use some practice with my dance moves… I have a limited amount of time now with a young family so I have decided to only do activities I really love and enjoy. These activities will look different for every women.

2.)    Having said that, try something new!  Whether you are an exercise guru or just starting out, increasing the diversity of your activities will result in a well-balanced workout regime.  I get caught up in doing the same activities or workouts over and over and I get bored.  My brother recently visited and invited me to a Jiu jitsu class. Normally I would not have gone, but I wanted to spend time with my brother and thought trying something new causes no harm.  Turned out I really enjoyed the class and will go again!

3.)    Having workouts written and set so you don’t have to think of what you are going to do. Busy moms have a lot going on and sometimes even having to think of a workout will be enough of a deterrent. I am very lucky that my husband has experience writing programs so I asked him to make my program I follow.  I write programs for women all the time so I had a hard time taking the time and writing myself one.

4.)    Join a workout class or activity - Sometimes it’s hard to get moving and take away time from your kids.  Once I’m at a class or workout I feel so much better being able to focus only on myself and move.

5.)    Keep workouts short - Not every women has a home gym or time to bring their children to classes every time, but you can do a lot from home with very little equipment!  You also don’t need to spend hours working out! I usually do 2 longer workouts a week (one hour long) and 2 shorter workouts a week (20-30mins). Even if you have 10 minutes to do a little workout! This brings me to my next point…

6.)    “All or something”- This is one of my favorite saying I learned from Healthy Habits Happy moms. (Follow them on Facebook if you don’t already!)  If you don’t have time to do a full workout or go to the gym it’s better to do something then nothing.  The fitness industry can push “all or nothing” on people and realistically this does not work great for lots of people.  If you only have 10 minutes in a day then that’s fine! Go for a walk, dance with yours kids, do some kettle bell swings.  Just do something!  Once that 10 minutes is over stop and move on with your day or if you feel good then continue the workout.

7.)    Be realistic with your goals - Currently my goals are to feel good and strong.  I have no goals of having a six pack or stepping on stage as a bikini competitor so my workouts reflect that.

8.)    Balance - Really think on what makes you happy.  Working out 7 days a week and being 10lbs leaner or working out a few days less and eating a bit more treats with your family?  Everyone’s goals are different and should be based on what they want for overall health, not what they think they should be doing.

9.)    Workout for yourself. No one else.

10.) Don’t compare yourself to others! I wrote a blog post about this earlier if you want to read J

Overall I always encourage movement, but that movement is different for everyone. Do what makes you feel good!  Consistency is key.  Exercise should not be done to solely look good.  Moving is about feeling good, having energy, being functional, and increase your mood.  Changing your body composition is just a small effect of what exercising can do for you.

Find something you love and stick with it!  Even for just a few minutes a day. ;)

Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Mindset

Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Mindset

 

Currently I am taking a course from Brianna Battles on pregnancy and postpartum athleticism. One key thing that resonated with me was the mindset of female athletes. By female athlete I am referring to either a professional athlete, a runner, a women who attends group classes, a police officer, a hiker etc!

I really struggled with changing my usual physical activities because I physically could do it during pregnancy and postpartum so I didn't understand on why I should change. I wanted to continue to run during my 3rd pregnancy even though I KNEW I shouldn't. I was doing remote coaching with Brianna Battles and she asked why I wanted to run still because she suggested I don't run after my 1st trimester unless I am working with a physio. To be honest I didn't have a good answer. Yes I love running, but running really wasn't super comfortable for me later in all my pregnancies. I just wanted to run because I wanted to prove to everyone I could... I also wasn't sure what else I could do that would make me sweat and feel good since being athletic is part of who I am and my outlet. After being asked why, I realized their was no reason I should be running especially if it wasn't comfortable. NO one really cared if I kept running... I just had the mindset to always push through. Growing up being an athlete I was taught to work hard and push through your limits and discomforts. I was stubborn and not only wanted to prove it to others (who now I realize probably did not care!), but to prove it to myself that I could still be strong and fit! I now know there are many different ways to be strong and fit safely and effectively throughout your pregnancy and postpartum journey.

Looking back I now realize how silly it was to not be open to change. I had 3 babies, of course I changed! My body changed, my fitness changed, my car changed, my relationships changed and my life changed. Everyone changes over time and people need to be willing to embrace those changes.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should! Like Brianna states, the female athletes have to measure the risk vs the reward of what they are doing. This will look different for everyone.

We, as women, cannot ignore little pains or feelings while pregnant or postpartum because that is where injuries happen.

Training with strategies and intent will set you up for the future. The slow way is the fast way.

Women should stay active in their pregnancy and postpartum, but more trainers need to be in the grey/middle area of that training. I don't think most pregnant or newly postpartum women need to be laying around doing only breathing for a workout, but I also don't think they necessarily should be running marathons or doing very heavy, explosive Olympic lifts. We need to be more focused on the middle area and meeting women where they are at.

Why Moms should strength train

Why Moms should strength train

 

Before I became a Mom strength training was not a regular part of my routine.  I either played sports or ran.  The demands of motherhood have made me realize that I need to strength train to stay healthy in my everyday life.

If you think about a daily life for a mom you would see she carries, lifts, bends, rotates and runs numerous times a day.  I have 3 children 45lbs, 35lbs, and 20lbs.  Nearly every waking minute I have contact with at least one of my boys and most of the time I’m getting tag teamed by 2 or 3! This includes putting all 3 in their car seats, taking them out, putting the stroller in the car, putting groceries in the car and out, wearing one on my back half on the day, holding my youngest while I nurse,  bending down cleaning toys, taking laundry baskets around the house, walking around our acreage, chasing the kids, pushing them on their bikes, picking them up if they fall or need a hug, carrying them to their bed when they fall asleep and carrying them again when they fall asleep in my bed. It’s non-stop physical labor.

I want to be confident enough in my strength to pick up my children without having to think about the movement.  I don’t want to be sore or tell my boys I can’t carry them or give them a piggyback ride just because I am not strong enough. I want to chase my kids, play tag with them, teach them how to ride a bike and never have a 2nd thought if I am able or not.

Moms do not need to train to get “their” bodies back. They need to train for function, mobility and the physical stress of everyday life.  The fitness industry needs to stop focusing and putting pressure on moms for aesthetics but rather focus on overall health and function of women.  If we put our energy into creating a complete and healthy body then the end result is a trouble free physical journey AND a satisfying reflection in the mirror.  However, the opposite is rarely achievable in that if we purely concentrate on trying to get our bodies back without addressing any post-partum injuries then those injuries will plague us down the road and prevent us from maintaining a healthy, functioning physical life.    

Running during Pregnancy and Postpartum

As you know, I am a Mom of 3 boys close in age.  Each pregnancy has been a different learning experience, especially as an active woman.  My postpartum experience has been the most interesting and is the reason I am led into this current journey of educating/advocating and training proper pre/post-natal fitness to women.  I LOVE running, and I mean long hard trail running.  I know some of you will instantly think I am crazy for saying this but it is my escape and stress relief that works for me.  Everyone has their own fitness journey and so take a read of mine and what I learned from it while mixing in 3 boys along the way.

So let’s start from just before I got pregnant with my first son…… I was super active, I really just got into the whole fitness and nutrition approach.  I was young enough to get in good shape quick but old enough that I need to put some effort into it (I am not even close to those days anymore ;P).  I was newly married and in the best shape of my life and then I got pregnant. I knew NOTHING about pregnancy or postpartum exercise.  I had no close women to help guide me but I thought it would be fine, it’s part of life, no big deal.  So I kept running and continued to do what I usually did and then once my belly got bigger I just ran and did some at home dvds. I thought by going for slow runs I was being smart by not pushing it.  After delivering my first son I returned to running 5 weeks postpartum.  It didn’t feel right so the following week I had my 6 weeks doctor’s appointment and my doctor said everything looks to be healing and you are ok to return to everything.  I was a bit shocked but was excited to be told I can go back to my normal routine!  I started running every day.  I started to notice I couldn’t hold my pee as long anymore so I literally planned my runs around bathroom breaks.  I would even limit my water intake until after my runs.  My poor sister always came running with me because she was my look out while I was peeing in the bush.  I couldn’t even last 30 minutes without having to use the washroom.  I ran my 1st half marathon and got a great time but had to almost dehydrate myself before the run so I wouldn’t have to stop.  Shortly after that run I got pregnant with my 2nd boy.

During my 2nd pregnancy I ran a 5k race at 35 weeks pregnant.  I felt great and had no issues.  I returned to running at 8 weeks postpartum and noticed the similar issues after my 1st but just thought that was life and how it was going to be now.  I ended up running a trail race at 4 months postpartum.  I felt great the whole race until the end were I ended up leaking urine the last 1km of the race.  I ended up placing first in my age group and instead of being happy I was frustrated and annoyed that my body was failing me.  I was healthy fit and thought I was doing the right thing but still ended up with this issue.  Not only that but the next day I ended up with a painful pubis symphysis and couldn’t walk without pain for over a week.  I had enough so finally decided to go to a women’s health physio (luckily I have a few friends that told me about women’s physios since I had no idea they existed).  I learned a lot about my body and started to do my own research on how I could exercise smartly and return to running.

Surprise pregnant again. This time around I was committed to doing things differently and with the education I earned over the past year I knew I could continue to exercise, I just had to go about it a different way.  I signed up to do remote coaching with Briana Battles.  She is a great strength and conditioning coach based out of the U.S. who specialized in pre and post-natal women.  She understood the athletic mindset and how some women need and want more then low intensity exercises.  She recommended I don’t run after the 1st trimester unless I was working with a women’s physio who was okay with it. I agreed. I followed a great strength training and condition program that allowed me to workout at my level while setting me up to avoid more issues postpartum.  This time postpartum I started core pelvic floor exercises at 2 weeks postpartum.  Then slowly increasing walks.  At 4 weeks postpartum I started strength training on my own and with Kaye Burrows from Core Love Fitness. Then at about 8 weeks postpartum I started doing hill walks on my treadmill to get started.  I increased to slow stair walks. Once my body felt good I increase it to do short 15-30 seconds hill/incline intervals.  I am now 6 months postpartum and I do hill intervals once a week and just started to incorporate 1 steady state run in a week.  I have had no incontinence issues or pubic bone pain. I know I have not had any issues this time around because I have been very deliberate with my strength training, core training, walks and now runs. I feel strong and just as fit as I did the last 2 pregnancies, just this time my pelvic floor and core also feel strong.

**I learned when returning to running the slow way is the fast way!**

 I feel better this time around by giving my body time to heal and progress my movements over time.  I will continue to assess where I am with running and progress myself as I feel fit.  Being able to run uninjured for many of years to come is way more important to me than being able to run every day for this short postpartum time.

·         What worked for me may not work for you! Everyone is different and needs to be assessed individually.  There is no single right program for anyone. Seeing a professional can help you get your own guidelines to safely return to running.

·         If you are not a runner then there are many forms of exercise to do besides running!  I do not think you have to be a runner unless you really love it. But most moms do run after their children at some point so learning a few strategies for when you do have to chase your children could be helpful.

 

**Stress incontinence is very common, but not normal and doesn’t have to be accepted.**

 

Tips/Guidance for pregnancy and postpartum running

-          See a women’s health physio!!

-          Running after your 1st trimester isn’t recommended unless you are working with a women’s health physio

-          Continue to maintain strength training throughout your entire pregnancy and postpartum based on individual abilities

-          When returning to running start slow with hill walks- then hill sprints-flat sprints- then slow steady state running

-          Incline walking or running gets your bum untucked and you are forced into more of a lean ski jump position so your ribs are stacked over your hips.

-          Focus on breathing not holding your breath

-          Don’t hold your abs or oblique’s- relax your belly

-          Sprints should start at 10s-15s and then add time to them slowly

-          Progress overtime

-          Always stop if you are feeling symptoms/leaking or have pain

 

**Please go see a women’s health physio!!**

Stop comparing your life and start living it

Stop comparing your life and start living it

Comparing ourselves to others is second nature to most of us.  We tend to set goals for ourselves based on looking at, seeing or hearing others - that’s life and it's okay.  However, I wanted to write a post to question those behaviours and to truly learn that comparing may not be the best answer.  And, I have a pretty good example…

I have an identical twin sister… we are best friends and we grew up sharing everything.  We played sports together, we had the same friends, we dressed similar.  We were the typical identical twins and now that we have grown up, our paths have taken us very different ways.  We are still very alike but also very different .

I am a wife and a mom of 3 busy boys under the age of 4 living on an acreage outside of town that even has chickens!

My sister Brittany is single, no kids, very much focused on her finance career and loves living the downtown life.

Our lives may be different but we are still twins and share that “weird” twin bond.  We have ALWAYS been compared as people find it intriguing to figure out the differences.

The funny thing is that the comparisons have mostly been in a negative way; who is the chubbier one, who has the bigger nose, who has better teeth (I knocked mine out biking when I was 12) who is smarter and  more athletic and even who is the evil twin. This always left one of us feeling insecure about something.  Luckily we tried to balance it out with each having negatives – For example I agreed I had the bigger nose and Brittany accepted she was the chubbier one.  Being involved in the health & fitness, I still cannot believe that as young girls we learned to accept differences as if they were flaws.

Our bodies and looks might have started out similar (not the same) but not now. After 3 boys my body certainly will never be quite the same but I don’t compare myself to my sister anymore.

We both workout to maintain a healthy active lifestyle;

Let’s start with Brittany. She works out 6 times/week at the gym for about an hour and a half, does her meal preps on Sundays and she likes the discipline of tracking and following a specific program.  She is also at a desk most of the day and she loves her job and her lifestyle so she has a balance that works for her.  She is happy.

I, on the other hand, would not be happy with her lifestyle. I love mine; raising my boys, rarely sitting during the day and working out on a less routine schedule.  I do prep some meals but it is for my entire growing family, no time to be so particular.  Running around after my kids IS part of my workout and I add another 3 or 4 time a week but only for about 30-40 minutes.

We both try to get to a class once a week as we both love fitness and try to enjoy this together but for the most part we do what works for us independently of each other.

Now let’s be realistic, even though we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, it is still hard not to!  After every baby, I struggled with my body image and compared myself to my sister. She had no stretch marks, no postpartum hair loss, no extra skin around her tummy or big bags under her eyes from lack of sleep.  I tried to cover it up so that I looked like her still and looked like I had no physical traces of having children.  I didn’t want to be the twin that let herself go… With our lives being so different it was a struggle to keep up with how I thought I “should look”.  I look back now and realize how silly that thought was.  Just because I have physical proof that I have had children doesn’t mean I let myself go.  I just realized what was truly important and my priorities have changed.  She also struggles comparing herself and trying to “catch up” with me as she was labelled the chubby twin.  Our goals are different and we grew into supporting those differences, rather than pointing out the flaws of those differences.

If we tried to mimic each other, like we used to, and compete with/compare ourselves constantly, neither one would be happy because that is part of it…….healthy and happy is so different based on each person’s life/interest/balance/ability.  No matter how similar people can be, everyone is DIFFERENT.  From my own experience, the moment Brittany and I discovered our own independent balances we truly became comfortable in our own skin.  Our physical bodies will never be the same and that’s okay!  Let’s all stop comparing each other and starting supporting each other xoxo