Today we’re tackling a question we get a lot:
How soon can I get back to exercise after birth?
Our short answer? You can begin as soon as day one postpartum – so long as you do it the right way. We’re conditioned to think of postpartum exercise as all-or-nothing - like I can’t do my usual core weightlifting or yoga routine, so I’m just going to relax and wait.
But often we see moms lose several weeks or even months of fitness. When they start back up, they feel behind – or, they jump into things way too fast.
We’re going to give you the EXACT recipe for weeks 0 to 6 of what you can do before that 6-week check-up. So, if you want to get moving BEFORE your clearance, you can – so long as you move gradually, mindfully, and in the right order.
The 6-week check-up
Here’s a truth bomb about the 6- or 10-week clearance.
There is nothing magical about that date. You are not going to go into your appointment not ready to exercise and come out able to move full-speed ahead. Yet, that’s the expectation we put on it.
This clearance is about your doctor or midwife having a solid picture of how your uterus and stitches (if you had stitches) are healing, among other things. It’s not about your muscle readiness.
What we suggest in those first weeks are exercises and practices that help you get back in touch with your body, keeping the blood flowing and becoming gradually stronger. It’s NOT about hitting a goal or pushing yourself like you did pre-pregnancy.
This process is also the framework of our course, “Weeks 0 to 6 Postpartum: The Sacred Window Training.”
If you’re listening to this and you’re BEYOND week 6 or 10, this can still apply to you. You can go through weeks 1 through 6 and still benefit from the process wherever you are postpartum.
Postpartum, Weeks 1-3
Week 1 is about reconnecting to your core and pelvic floor. Our suggested practices: breath reconnection and seated work focusing on upper body release, neck release, shoulder release, etc. This can be started hours after giving birth.
Light movement and stretching is what you want to aim for in Week 2. This can be a good time to go to the floor and try some movements, like bridge pose, which can help start opening your back, hips, and upper body. For self-care, we recommend Abhyanga, or body oiling, which is essentially putting oil all over your body and skin before a shower.
Week 3 is a great time to focus on posture and where your bones are in space. Notice your posture throughout the day. Where are your ribs in relation to your hips? In this week, you can start moving into exercises on all fours, with sideline progress toward side plank.
Also a great practice for right now: dry brushing. Take a bristle brush and literally brush your skin dry to improve lymphatic movement.
Postpartum, Weeks 4-6
Week 4 is about muscle engagement and strength. The exercises at this time move toward standing exercises with a bit more intensity (though nothing like interval training). This stage involves deeper core work and bigger mobility movements. One of Nicole’s favorite self-care practices for Week 4? The sauna, which will help you break a sweat without exertion.
In Week 5, you might start adding in daily walks and combining your breath with movement and mobility. If your c-section scar is healed, Epsom salt baths are so therapeutic and have healing benefits. (If you’re not ready to take baths yet, you can also get the benefit of Epsom salts in the shower.)
We want you to think of Week 6 not as your starting point, but the place where you can build onto what you’ve already established. Once you get your clearance, you can actively begin that process of serious muscle strengthening.
Notable Quotes from Nicole & Kendra
“These early stages of exercise are about getting back in touch with your body. It is not about hitting a goal or pushing yourself like you did pre pregnancy. It's essentially reacquainting yourself with your own muscles, and moving your body in ways that keep blood flow going to your muscles – one, so they don't atrophy, and two, so they start getting stronger, incrementally over time.”
“Let's drop a little truth bomb here about the six or 10 week clearance date. There is nothing magical about that date. You are not going to go into your appointment not ready to exercise and come out of it ready to go full speed ahead. Yet, that's the expectation we put on it. That's not to say it should be disregarded. But what we see is that moms do nothing for six weeks, and then they get their clearance and then jump back into things way too fast.”
Resources & Links
Looking for support to stay active during your pregnancy or start your postpartum recovery? Here are some options to get you started on a great path forward:
1) Take the Pelvic Floor & Core Strength Quiz. After taking the quiz, you'll get a score and based on your results, guidance on what steps to take to move you forward in your recovery.
3) If you're pregnant, want to be way more active than you have been, AND want connection with other mothers, but don't know where to start…join the Expecting to Flourish™ Membership - a mom-driven and expert-guided virtual space empowering moms with a new approach to prenatal fitness and birth prep that actually prepares you for the physical and emotional hurdles of motherhood.
If you’re postpartum and ready to get moving, need to heal your body but you don’t know where to start…join us for Postpartum Repair & Restore LIVE, a science-backed and fun-stacked, Diastasis and Pelvic Floor Strength program. Start healing your diastasis and eliminating leaking in 8 weeks or less with our guidance.
4) Do you prefer working one-on-one, or have a high risk pregnancy, a severe diastasis or leaking that won’t quit? You might be a candidate to work with us privately. To find out, take this quick self assessment! If you qualify, you'll be invited to schedule a complementary Postpartum Strategy Session with us where we'll take a good look at what's not working in your repair process, and come up with a great plan just for you.