Exercising after childbirth – when to start and what to obey

By Spinning Mum:

At odd times I actually take my doctor’s advice serious and when I was showing signs of premature labour some weeks ago I really listened to him and forced myself to slow things down a bit. However, it was not until about 4 weeks ago that I totally paused my training for the upcoming weeks.

I am in the middle of week 40 now and miraculously survived 35 days without doing any sports but two sessions on the good old Tacx. Well, hardly survived I have to rephrase since I often feel fretful, ill-tempered and moody these days as I never had problems getting up from the couch or tying my shoes before. Plus, there is also the fact that I am super jealous that Kai has been admitted to Team Alpecin and my cool new BMC’s spot in the bedroom will most likely soon be taken by his S-Works Venge. Not to forget that due to Alpecin’s shampoos and tonics his hair could soon be looking much better than my fluffy postpartum mess. Grump! [Picture some comically drawn potty mouth font expressing my displeasure here.]^^

Come what may. If I might have to accept some hormone-induced hair loss again [Hey Dr. Kurt Wolff, this is your keyword... ;) ] it does not mean that I have to accept all other physical complaints, such as a weak pelvic floor, puppy fat and a flabby belly.

Being as vain as most other woman on the planet, getting my figure and fitness back as fast as possible was already my goal after having Konstantin. After leaving the hospital with our little rascal, I was virtually lacing up my running flats as soon as I closed the clinic door behind me in order to go for a run and test our Chariot on this occasion. Not caring much about postnatal gymnastic because as soon as I could see my feet again, I felt strong and ready to start where I had stopped before.

Big mistake…! Since my pelvic floor was still far too weak to keep up with high impact sports, I had to plan my jogging route around public toilets if I did not want to put one of Konsta’s nappies on. Luckily my ingenuousness did not cause any permanent damage and recovery yoga lessons paired with some cycling and low intensity training at the gym got me the results I was wishing for in no time. Nevertheless, this time around I did my homework and started some research about exercising after childbirth as I do not want to buy diapers for three family members in the future :)

So, here is what I learned from my doctor, midwife and various books and webpages.
However, please note that every pregnancy, delivery and body is different and the following advice and suggestions do not make up for an extensive consultation from a medical professional.

1. Being patient is the biggest challenge - Allow yourself the time to heal

Loosing weight and feeling at ease with their post baby bodies is on top of the mind of most young mums. But you have to remember that even if it is the most natural thing on earth to give birth, it is still very demanding and puts a lot of stress on the body – especially if perineal tear occurred or a C-section was unavoidable. The good news is, that does not mean you cannot start working on your abdomen soon after leaving the labour ward.
After you have been given green light from your doc, midwife or nurse, kick it off with doing regular Kegel exercises as they will support your recovery by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles which in turn influence many different body functions including a strong bladder and a good posture. Doing Kegels is fairly easy and you can do them anytime and anywhere, e.g. when nursing your baby or whilst taking a shower. Simply take a deep breath and when you exhale, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as if you want to stop the flow of urine and hold it for five seconds before you let go again as you inhale. Repeat these contractions about five to 10 times. After your lochia has stopped, you might want to try some pelvic floor trainers commonly known as Ben Wa or love balls. Don’t be embarrassed :) There are a couple of really sophisticated ones on the market, such as the pelvic weight set “Ami” by Je Joue or Fun Factory’s “Teneo” smartballs, which are carried at a lot of drug stores and respectable online shops.

2. Start with some light activities once you feel ready

…And I mean light. Though I know how hard it can be to stay patient, you will have to remember that slow and steady wins the race. Depending on whether you had a vaginal birth or a Cesarian, regular half-hourly to hourly walks with the pram, yoga and pilates are the most recommended post-partum activities and can be picked up right after your follow-up examination and consultation at your gynaecologist’s which normally will be scheduled about four to six weeks of your delivery. The good thing is, that a lot of hospitals and other institutions offer classes especially for mothers and babies, so that you can take your little squaller along and benefit from meeting and chatting to other mums. Moreover, you can include most of the exercises you will be taught to strengthen your core and abdominal muscles, such as pelvic tilts, glute bridges and leg slides, into your daily routine for even faster results.

3. Let’s get down to business

Depending on your prenatal fitness and your activity level throughout the past nine months, you are now prepared to work out several times a week at a moderate-intensity. Swimming, low-impact aerobics, a turn on the cross trainer and notably cycling are ideal for a smooth start. Start with 30 minutes sessions three times a week and extend your routine once you make progress. Make sure that you stay hydrated, allow for enough recovery and contact your physician if you experience abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding nausea or dizziness. Nowadays a lot of gyms offer child care solutions, so that you can enjoy some me-time without worrying about your little one.
If you are keen on cycling, cross-country skiing, walking or running, I can only recommend to invest in a Chariot instead of a regular stroller. They come with a lot of equipment, e.g. a special baby seat called the Infant Sling, which even allows you to use it as a pushchair for your newborn. [Read more about our experiences with the Chariot Cougar here.]

Last but no least keep in mind that you still have a certain level of the hormone relaxin in your body. During the past nine months its job was to loosen your joints and ligaments in preparation of giving birth. But it can cause the connective tissue to remain soft even months after giving birth. Thus, please be extra careful when you start sports again that put stress on your knees and ankles. Also take care if you were suffering from abdominal separation as it can take some time to heal properly. Crunches and sit-ups have to be avoided until you are fully cured.

This warning passed on there is only one thing left to say: Enjoy your workout and don’t forget to share your personal experiences in the comment section!

Alive and kick… er… pedaling

By Spinning Mum:

Yes, I am still alive and still feeling fairly good, though our belly dweller sometimes limits my actions and inveigles me into rash decisions, such as spontaneously applying for the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon and Team Alpecin myself, neglecting the fact that the little lady who is forcing me to move like a hippopotamus lately is seemingly taking her sweet time and wrecking the actual realisation of these plans :)

Now that I only have around two weeks to go, my back is killing me and I often feel like a balloon on the verge of bursting. So, I was wondering whether I can elicit our little belly dweller by taking a short spin on the static trainer. I was surprised how comfortable my BMC still felt but I have to admit that it is getting harder and harder to stay the course these days…

So, if you have any recommendations on how to speed things up a bit, please do let me know, as I can hardly wait for our little angel to arrive and being able to romp around the house with Konstantin again :)

 

A new family member has arrived

By Spinning Mum:

Remember my last post about naming a bike? Well, it is now time to find yet another name for our newest family member and motivation for 2013: My brand spanking new BMC racemachine RM01.

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure, whether it makes sense to invest in a new ride while not knowing if I will be able to free enough time to hit the roads with two kids on my lap and all the chores that come with the package but Cycling Dad was of another opinion. In order to encourage me to accompany him on at least some of his marathon endeavours (and probably to make up for taking over my gym membership once my baby bump prevents me from seeing my feet), he was determined to put me on a lighter and faster bike.

While he was presumably talking about renting a top-notch model, I took him at his word before he could change his mind justifying the expenses by telling myself that whereas other women are dreaming of receiving diamonds as a birth gift, I might as well wish for something made of carbon but in a slightly different appearance.

Good for me that the year was slowly coming to an end and a lot of dealers were trying to meet their bonus targets by granting generous offers. Thus, I started to look around a bit, defined my budget, made a list of specs and features I wanted my new bike to have (full carbon frame equipped with an Ultegra Di2 compact groupset and not exceeding 7.3 kgs) and screened through a gazillion of reviews about the 10 different models which would meet my idea of a sweet ride. At the end it took me two weeks and a pregnancy-related nervous breakdown to finally come to a conclusion and only two of the bikes I was interested in actually withstood my criticism.

Unbelievable that some manufacturers tried to convince me that they put an Ultegra or even Dura Ace group set on their bikes whilst at a closer look they simultaneously install Tiagra or Sora parts. Yes, I am talking about you Specialized and Trek! When I am prepared to spend an incredible amount of money on a decent bike, please do not fool me into thinking, I am buying a top-level groupset when some of its parts have been replaced by cheaper and heavier components. Thank god, that some reliable online retailers accurately depict every single screw mounted.

So, the Madone and S-Works models I had in mind failed my examination like a couple of other rides which were either too heavy, received only mediocore test scores or were already no longer available in their 2012 dresses. However, eventually I managed to downsize my list to three bikes:

1. The Merida Scultura Pro 907-E
2. The Scott Foil 15 / Contessa Foil
3. The BMC racemachine RM01 I eventually took home

Though I am usually a very brand loyal consumer and the Merida frame is one of the lightest available, I decided against it. Partly because I wanted to try another brand and partly because the price of the 907-E was still a tiny bit too high.

The Scott Contessa Foil as well as its male twin the Foil 15 were my favourites for an entire week. The 2012 Contessa looked sexy, received killer test results and had all the right specs. Unfortunately, it was already sold out at the beginning of December so that I had a closer look at its brother the Foil 15. To be honest, it did not turn me on much in the beginning as I did not like the black and silver paintwork (Well, what to say… I am still a girl…) but small details such as the Dura Ace bottom bracket, the beautifully integrated Shimano Di2 and the tremendous discount I was able to negotiate convinced me so far, that after a quick test ride I was ready to order it from Bernhard Kohl – my dealer of trust (http://www.bernhardkohl.at).

I was literally just about to submit my downpayment online, when I ran a final research on the Foil (http://www.roadbike.de/rennraeder/test-scott-foil-15.621495.9.htm) only to find out that it did not receive the same good grades as its twin sister (http://www.roadbike.de/rennraeder/test-scott-contessa-foil.685112.9.htm). Totally devastated I could not quite understand why the test results were differing in such a vast way, though the frame and composites were actually the same.

Thus, I once again turned to Bernhard for his professional advice and an offer for the last model on my list. A couple of days before I had the chance to test different BMC models at his shop and really liked their stiffness and responsiveness. (At this point feel free to take a minute to picture pregnant me cruising around the bike shop on some first class race material – surely a sight for the godsl^^) Having a close relationship to BMC and riding this brand as well Bernhard of course wanted to convince me of the RM01 and actually made the decision for me by offering the 2013(!) model at a price I could not resist :)

And so it came that my sparkling new ride is now standing in the hallway waiting for me to get back into the saddle. Right now I am 30 weeks along and unfortunately no longer able to take my latest attainment out for a real spin, so please stay tuned for my review coming up some time in spring!