My first steps after giving birth
Imke Oelerich • 10. May 2021 • 6 Min.
Finding my way back after giving birth was not easy, with this blog article, I want to give the readers a few tips, especially for all the moms to be, who still have this journey ahead of them.
A pregnancy of almost 10 months can be very similar to training for a running competition.
Nevertheless, in my opinion, giving birth can only be compared to a race to a limited extent. The body takes over, you have no mileage information, you don’t know when the finish line will actually come and you can’t deliberately reduce the intensity. For me it was the toughest race I’ve ever done and the most beautiful one at the same time. Once the “race” is over, however, you cannot rest on your laurels. From one moment to the next, you are responsible for keeping a tiny person alive while trying to recover physically from birth and emotionally processing these wonderful events. What can a new mother expect when the hustle and bustle of the first few weeks has subsided and she slowly wants to find a training routine again? I will tell you about my experiences and give you a few tips for the journey from birth to your first step as a mom.
During pregnancy, the uterus expands – it presses against the abdominal muscles, causing them to separate and lose tension, while the weight of the growing baby increases the load on the pelvic floor as well. During a natural birth, which I was lucky enough to experience, the pelvic floor muscles are again very heavily stressed and take time to heal. Indeed, it has to be viewed as an injury that is followed by a healing and rebuilding process. This takes time.
These and other changes weaken our inner core and can cause symptoms such as lower back, hip, or pelvic pain. Many people assume that the running motion begins with the feet and ankles and runs up the chain. However, a large part of the running movement is crucially dependent on the stability of the core and the pelvis. The first step back into running training began for me with finding my inner center.
After I spent a lot of cuddling time and relaxed walks in the first two weeks after the birth, after consulting my midwife, I was able to start with light postnatal exercises.
It was more about breathing exercises that served to control the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. In addition, after two weeks I was able to take longer walks.
After about four weeks I started with light “low impact” endurance training.
The walks became walking sessions and I started cycling. Three to four times a week for 30-60 minutes of easy “pedaling” on the home trainer. Of course, I would have much preferred to be in the fresh air, but I wanted to stay close to our daughter and could stop at any time if I didn’t feel well. In addition, I have intensified the core training without putting too much strain on my abdominal muscles.
After eight weeks, I felt ready to start running.
I wanted to know whether my muscles had regenerated enough to withstand the stress and whether everything had healed after the birth (albeit absolutely naturally, and without major cracks or injuries).
After my gynecologist assured me that from her point of view there was nothing against a gentle start to run training, I did the following exercises, which I wanted to do without pain and problems:
Tension of the pelvic floor muscle culture:
- 10x rapid contractions
- 12x 6-8 seconds maximum voluntary contraction
- 60 seconds submaximal (30-50%) contraction
- 30 min power walking
- Jog for 1 min on the spot
- Hop on the spot for 1min
- 10 jumps
- 1 min stand on one leg on the balance pad
- 10x (per side) one-legged squats
- 10 lunges per side
When I was able to do all the exercises without any problems, I slowly started running. The first few runs consisted of a combination of walking and running. I have now completed six running units and am incredibly happy that I can take one step in front of the other without any problems.
For new mothers who are enthusiastic about running, the time after the birth can be a test of patience. Maybe my tips for this phase will help you:
In the first few days and weeks after giving birth, you might feel like a wreck. It is a physically and emotionally stressful time and you feel like the day passes by too fast. You might have a special role model, perhaps an athlete, who was particularly fit during pregnancy and after childbirth. This is at times good, but it can also trigger pressure. It is impossible to compare two pregnant women, pregnancies are different and vary. You, your body and your baby determine how quickly you can recover and start running. Try to replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts. It’s a wonderful time that you should enjoy to the fullest!
It doesn’t matter whether you are breastfeeding or giving the bottle. In the first few weeks, the little babies do not have a certain rhythm. For me, training units have been postponed by 30-60 minutes if the little one decided to be hungry shortly before the start or if the diaper was full.
Strengthen your core
Core strength training should be and remains an integral part of your training routine, because your core will be weakened after pregnancy and childbirth. In this way you can prevent imbalances and potential overload. For example, you can always end your running training with a few specific strength exercises.
Even if you were able to exercise throughout your pregnancy, at some point you will have reduced your training and paused for a few weeks after giving birth. I stopped running 10 weeks before giving birth and started again 8 weeks after giving birth. After an 18 week break, the first few running units should be humane in terms of both speed and distance. I started with 30min, which I filled with 10x 1min walking + 2min running. You can gradually increase the distance and intensity. This way you avoid overloading and have a lot more fun.
Always pay attention to your pelvic floor
No matter how long ago you were born, always pay attention to your pelvic floor muscles. Jumping loads like running can further weaken the pelvic floor, which can lead to a variety of problems. These problems can range from the occasional leakage of urine to an organ prolapse. Integrate pelvic floor exercises into your everyday life and try to consciously tension these muscle groups during all training units.
Make sure you have a good sports bra
Invest in a good sports bra. Especially if you are like me, you want to breastfeed your baby, you can benefit from a good sports bra.
I know that my body has to do a lot during pregnancy, childbirth and now while breastfeeding. Therefore, it is completely natural that getting started with the training does not feel easy and that some units are even difficult. I try to enjoy this process and every running unit as much as possible and try to concentrate on the positive and the non-milestones. It is worth it.
* Book tip and source: “Healthy and Quick & Everything Fit – A Step by Step Guide to Exercise After Pregnancy” by Christiane A. Iverson