How should you return to working out after C-section? Should your workouts be cardio? Abs exercises? Baby wearing fitness classes?
My answer might surprise you.
The answer I hear the most often from other health professionals is to start with cardio. Wait 6 weeks, then get walking, get on the elliptical, get in the pool once your scar has healed…
…I don’t think that’s the best information.
And, while those activities are fine and well to do, and you should certainly do exercise that you enjoy, I think we can do better to help your recovery.
Here are 2 key reasons why I think strength training is the best choice for returning to workouts after C-section:
1). You’re short on time.
You may not be able to ‘afford’ the time to drive to the gym and back simply to use a piece of cardio equipment. I know I couldn’t after my own C-section and when my baby was small (I could barely do that now and she’s 7+ months!).
The timing of a fitness class might not work and might feel daunting with a baby who naps 5 (incredibly/painfully short, ha!) times a day.
Using your body and a few basic pieces of equipment at home to get a full-body workout is so efficient and way simpler when you’re tied to a tight schedule…and your baby.
I know, as a mom with a packed schedule myself, a strength training workout feels ‘like a workout’ and can be done in 20 minutes or less – best scenario.
New moms need exercises that can be done at home in between baby lap naps!
2). Your postpartum and post-section body requires specific exercises.
You might have very common postpartum weakness in the abdominals, pelvic floor, and glutes. You may have diastasis recti that you’re healing, urinary incontinence, pain in your scar, low back, hip, or knee pain.
Bouncing along on an elliptical for 30 minutes may not be the most effective route to regaining function and strength in what I call your “core and floor”.
Strength training is my go-to for all moms, and especially after C-section because it’s so modifiable to anyBODY. It’s modifiable to our bodies after C-section.
Strength training after C-section works perfectly because you can blend:
REHAB + RE-TRAINING.
The strategy you’ll want to use when returning to workouts after C-section is to get the core and floor functioning extremely well again AND then continue to progressively challenge your body in a safe and effective way.
You want the physical benefits and the mental health benefits that your body needs at this time.
This has to be strategic.
Whether you are 6 weeks or 6 years postpartum, remember, once you’re postpartum, you’re always postpartum. Your body has unique requirements for exercise after a major abdominal surgery.
You do not want to jump back in to extremely physical demanding workouts, jumping type exercises, running, lifting heavy weights if you’ve not been through a specific core and floor retraining program, designed for C-section.
This process of rehab and retraining isn’t just lying around breathing on the floor doing kegels. No. It’s so much more than that.
It’s strength training based exercise that requires your body to work gradually more intensely, to master movement patterns, and re-train your deep core muscles how to support your body from the inside out again.
My C-section recovery went like this:
For the first 2 weeks postpartum I rested fully (I mean, “rest” is relative at this time, right?). I simply focused on having good alignment and breathing.
When I was nursing, carrying baby, or simply brushing my teeth, I tried to ensure that my body was “stacked” with my ribcage over my hip bones.
At the 2-week mark I began doing gentle stretches, paired with core and floor exercises. I could lie flat on my back and get into position lying on my side without too much discomfort.
These exercises included stretching the hip flexors, the hamstrings, the chest.
I started doing some back strengthening, using my glute muscles, and getting my abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to “fire” together to create core stability.
It felt amaaaaaazing to get moving again and to know that my body was starting to feel more normal again.
After 2 weeks of focusing completely on these core and floor exercises, I started doing short “real” workouts. They were still very much rehab focused, but because they were strength training exercises I did many of them seated, lying down, or standing in one spot to reduce any discomfort – yet still challenge my body.
I kept doing the core and floor exercises, daily, for 8 weeks total (weeks 2-10 postpartum). The mini circuit took me 8 minutes per day. It was essentially “my time” to just focus on my body.
I did 2 other of those “real” workouts per week from 4 weeks postpartum and have been following that same schedule ever since.
Now, at 7 months post C-section my body really does feel like it’s old self. I know that the rehab exercises I did played a huge part in that.
My scar is constantly a good reminder of what my body has been through and accomplished and this means that my workouts are NOT exactly like my pre-pregnancy workouts. I’m still early postpartum and breastfeeding. Plus, I had major surgery just 7 months ago. The recovery process continues.
If you’re had a C-section and are wondering how you return to exercise, the exact program I followed postpartum is available to you.
It’s called, Core + Floor Restore for C-Section and it walks you through 8-minutes of exercises you can do at home, for the next 8 weeks.
You’ve had a C-section and want:
• Your body to feel “more like you again”
• You want your core strength and pelvic floor endurance back
• You want to heal your abdominal separation
• You want to be confident that you can lift heavy things in your life and in your workouts
• You have pelvic organ prolapse and want to start exercising safely
I know how difficult it can be, physical + mentally + emotionally, to recover from a C-section. I want to make that process easier for you.
You can see the details and testimonials from other C-section mama’s who’ve been through the program here.