The 6 week (not) bounce back – by Tanya Lewis (the behind the scenes half of Life PT)
7 weeks ago, Kristin and I were joyously celebrating the safe arrival of our 4th beautiful daughter Gemma, a sister for Frankie, Hazel and Ether. I’ve had a few people ask me about training post pregnancy and I’ve recognised some of my own body image battles I am frequently on my soap box against. I hope this honest and candid account gives some insight about the rebound after baby four.
Exercise during pregnancy is gaining more and more evidence as beneficial and important both for the infant and the mother. The benefits lay in maintaining muscle strength not only for the arduous tasks of carrying a capsule, lifting the pram into the car and transporting a days worth of spare everything, everytime you go out but also for the small deep muscles that hold everything internally together known as the ‘core’ and pelvic floor. Other benefits relate directly to baby’s heart health and improved glucose tolerance and mental health in the mother. However, all this is clouded by wonder women who #pumpthebump and undertake high risk activities for the entertainment of others on social media platforms.
During pregnancy, I was confident I was getting an appropriate and safe balance of strength and aerobic work and conservatively adjusted routine as pregnancy progressed. I really enjoyed exercise sessions as time to myself, with a fun group of girls at home or group class at Ivory Rose Physiotherapy under the professional and encouraging guidance of Kat. I felt like strength and particularly body awareness really assisted delivery.
The journey after pregnancy has been more challenging with seemingly less guidelines on how much is too much, even more social media ‘noise’ and a personal desire to be back into some sort of routine and maybe feel fit one day again. After my first 2 and even 3 pregnancies, ‘listen to your body’ seemed to be easy and effective but school runs and a worn out me has made it harder to achieve the balance of activity and rest.
Here’s a short account of a 6 weeks post natal exercise diary that you won’t see on bump to buff/bikini/[insert any] account.
Week 1 – On top of the world
If you have ever given birth and held a newborn on your chest you know that it is something pretty amazing. Your body has done an epic thing and recovery is justified. I love what my body has just done for our family. The agenda in hospital is rest. I embrace this as rest as much as I can with a hungry newborn. I enjoy someone bringing my meals, doing the dishes and more than anything the decreased headspace of responsibility for example, only having to clean my own teeth. This was never going to last forever !
Week 2 – The real world
Fortunately it’s school holidays and the wet weather makes it staying inside a simple choice. Exercise is still far from my mind but I am finding general chores and washing for family of 6 is work enough. The advice not to lift anything heavier than your baby is bollocks when you have a heavy almost 3 year old busting for the toilet. I am scared I am not recovering interally with all the lifting, standing etc but trade on as any mother would. I am so thankful for everyone who has helped with meals and entertainment for the big girls. What a blessing!
Week 3 – Fresh air
I start to feel more confident to get out for longer walks and find I’m motivated for the gentle core/pilates exercises left by the hospital physio. It’s harder to stay conservative but extreme sleeplessness makes this easier as I find myself welcoming any excuse not to do more than the dishes and keeps personal expectations low at this stage.
I’m finding it important to keep being aware of posture with feeding and pram pushing causing tightness. I book a massage with the team at Rub Massage and try to incorporate some thoracic stretches. If this is you, speak to your trainer for some help, it makes a difference….when you do them!
Week 4 – ‘Dethroned’, goals and clothes
If you’re on Strava and have held any course records that subsequently get broken, you will know you get this confronting auto email that says ‘You have been dethroned’. I am sure it is supposed to be inspiring to head back out there but through pregnancy and the last few weeks I’ve had enough dethroning. I’m getting itchy for a sweat and can feel myself becoming less fit by the day.
A new pair of kicks always made for a good run so as an appropriate equivalent, I order some feeding sports bras from Cadenshae as a mood booster and exercise inspo, reset the records on my Garmin (as inspired by Chantel @Runbird72) and find myself setting a goal for ‘Point to Pinnacle’ in Tas 2018, thanks Kel. I’ve never been a big goal setter and usually late nom for most races I’ve done but it’s nice to have something far away enough to work towards in a planned way but close enough to feel like ‘let’s get started’. Have a think about a goal that might inspire consistency and chat with your trainer.
Week 5 – Cold & hungry and some thoughts on Sarah Brown
So I am heavier than my discharge from hospital weight, in fact at my heaviest ever non pregnant weight. This is partially from all the kind Haighs gifts #sorrynotsorry and the energy dense snack choices that come from having only one arm available most the time, the other holding a baby. Trust me, there’s no Nutribullet green smoothie action these days.
The grey days, a house full of undone jobs, sleeplessness, a lounge room that looks like a Chinese Laundry of wet clothes on drying racks and lack of opportunity to be active is getting me down. For the first time since birth, real or perceived, I feel like as a dietitian, personal trainer, lululemon legacy ambassador and wife of Krusty I should be more inspirational than what’s hiding behind my SRC recovery shorts. I wrongly equate inspirational with weight and size. Fortunately, however, I’ve spent too much time with Taryn from Body Image Movement and personally working in the eating disorder unit to consciously let this get to me. #Ihaveembraced, I’m on board with #moderationmovement and I believe it when I tell people the number is not defining.
That being said, I also believe in health and current habits aren’t heading that way. I am tired to extreme, it’s cold and I’m mindlessly eating peanut butter on a spoon at regular intervals for energy. I am hungry from breastfeeding but different to the hunger from exercise that also comes with warmth from an elevated metabolism.
I watch Run Muma Run and instead of feeling inspired I feel the bar has been lifted and my validated reason for being conservative and doing minimal exercise in the post natal period has been taken away. No disrespect to Sarah, what she did shows a testament to hard work and dedication and it’s super interesting from a physical perspective what the body can do. I don’t try to run but catch up with a friend for a nice walk instead, it’s refreshing and fun. I see my newborn baby smile, I am grateful for being mum and get annoyed at my selfish vain thoughts.
Week 6 – professional help
I finally have my 6 week check at Ivory Rose Physiotherapy. While it’s not necessarily nice to hear the impact of 4 pregnancies and deliveries on your body, I recommend anyone, even if not directly post natal, to have a professional assessment by a woment’s health physio expert. All of a sudden I don’t care at all what I look like, I would just like to run again I realise that it will take a concerted effort to return to previous activity levels and not to take an active lifestyle for granted – lucky the kids are lovely! .
A secret – I find pilates and stability exercises at home boring and I am extremely slack with them. I recognise the importance but given 15 minutes spare to train I’d rather throw together a HIIT circuit. I am reinspired but know I need help so I book in with some classes at Ivory Rose and once a week with Michelle our ‘core guru’ at Life PT Unley Studio.
Hopefully you will see me soon, not on Instagram in a bikini but out on the road and back on my Strava
I get back out on my bike for the first time and realise it’s not a weight or shape that I was ever chasing after all but the fortunate opportunity to keep my body moving. In the wake of all that’s happening in the world I am feeling ever so thankful for my family and reassess priorities to family, friends and faith. Unfortunately it’s shitty things that help us remember who’s important.
Rest when given opportunity, get a good assessment, get fresh air, walk with friends, make a plan, invest in some supervised training, exercise for nourishment, health and enjoyment, understand each body and birth is unique and be careful who you watch on social media.
…back on my bike in the sun today