Postpartum activity & athletes

Hi! Instead of taking up space with my own fluff in @economista’s journal I thought I’d start a new thread about returning to sport after giving birth and as a new parent.

Be forewarned I come from a competitive sports background and hope to return to regional or elite amateur competition eventually, so some of what I share may not be interesting, relevant, or useful for everyone. But my hope is that at least some of this will be interesting to a wider group, and that there will be a kind and constructive space in this thread for anyone interested in bringing more sport & movement into their postpartum life, whatever flavor that may be.

10 Likes

I love this! Great idea!

2 Likes

Following! I’m far from a competitive athlete, but pre pregnancy I was pretty used to my body being able to do hard things- hard hikes, mainly, but also just this expectation that it could do basically anything I wanted/needed it to. PP recovery has been a rough go for sure for me. And still ongoing, certainly.

4 Likes

I’m definitely not a competitive athlete but used to frequently hike 5-10 miles with substantial elevation gain. I haven’t done any hiking in about a year because I was on exercise restrictions throughout my pregnancy.

Last week I did my first pilates workout since birth and it was a LOT more difficult than I expected, especially anything with lower abs (I had a csection).

I’m trying to do a couple of the exercises that @Elle listed for diastasis recti but finding time every day has been difficult.

https://postpartumtrainer.com/diastasis-recti-exercises/

3 Likes

I’m chomping at the bit to exercise - it’s going to be a long 4.5 more weeks before I can do a real workout. Today I left the house for the first time and went to target and I was astounded at how tired and crampy I was afterward.

2 Likes

Hi everyone! I think this will be fun. Baby is sleeping, but I cannot – HOW RUDE, body. I even left my phone in another room last night so I could relax but that might have actually made it worse.

Anyway, here we are. In my head there are a few phases that I see as a pyramid. Strong foundations first before reaching for the sky.

  1. Pregnancy: Staying active during pregnancy as much as body will allow.
  2. Initial recovery from birth: Wow, that was epic. Cuddle with newborn, wait for wounds and bleeding to subside, and any ambition at all to resume.
  3. Pain-free activity & mobility: Rebuild from all that trauma and help body be capable of daily life again.
  4. General capability: Regain the ability for body to be capable of fun adventures
  5. Sport-specific competitive fitness: This is the ability to participate in group training when it’s safe again, and local & regional amateur competition just for funsies.
  6. Competitive goals: Aiming for national-level competition or masters nats results. (Not sure if I want to commit to this yet, but don’t want to rule it out.)
4 Likes

I tweaked the thread name a bit. As an indoor kid it took me a decade to claim the label “athlete” so I’m pretty proud of it and think all you hikers should be too (ahem @Bracken_Joy @Sunflower), but also don’t want the title to make people hesitate. Free to suggest anything better!

2 Likes

I like this breakdown. I am very much still phase 3. Working my PT work for DR, taking tons of walks with the toddler, getting back into easy short hikes as life and toddler allow.

2 Likes

I wasn’t sure if I would just lurk occasionally or join in, but I had to come in and say that I feel so seen and understood by the phases you’ve laid out, especially separating out steps 1-3 instead of lumping them together.

I’m firmly in stage 0, and am aware of how much longer I need in each recovery stage than I gave myself last time.

4 Likes

I’m just getting to between 1 and 2. I’m 13 days pp to theoretically tomorrow I am allowed to start taking walks. I might take Toddler E on a short walk this afternoon to see how it feels. I’m guessing step 3 can start after the 6 week pp appointment when the Dr gives the go ahead for normal workouts again.

Last time around I got through step 3 and had just started step 4 when I got pregnant again. Being pregnant + breast feeding still meant I couldn’t burn any extra calories so all working out stopped and my daily exercise was just a walk. Since there definitely won’t be any more babies, I’m excited to fully get back in shape this time!

4 Likes

I just reached 3 months pp and am somewhere between 2 & 3.

My time in 0 and 1 were luckily very smooth.

Pregnancy

For the first few weeks after the positive test I was still really tentative! (Later reading seemed to indicate you mainly need to take it easy in the couple days around implantation.) Other than gentle movement, I didn’t do too much. After the 6 week ultrasound I had more confidence in the pregnancy and started exercising again.

I had 3 great resources that helped. First, a 3-time mom friend said that whatever you want to do throughout, start early – you don’t want to take a big break and then come back when your body has changed a ton. For her it was yoga and walking. For me it was bikes (I haven’t gone into specifics in the past but my sport is bike racing, dabbled in almost every type but most of my more intensive racing time was on the velodrome). I took this to heart and even on days that I felt too sleep deprived or barfy, gave myself permission to just go through the motions. Sometimes I would warm up for 20 mins, decide I wasn’t feeling it (often because I hadn’t slept and felt my reaction time was too slow), and go home – which a counted as a success because some movement is better than none!

Second, the book “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” by Clam & Clapp. There’s very little peer reviewed research on this topic but this book summarizes just about all of it! There’s a lot of info about the metabolic & cardiovascular adaptations of pregnancy which got me very excited about these new superpowers. The biggest risks are falling/impact and overheating/oxygen deprivation, but (1) the pelvis does a good job of protecting the uterus especially in first trimester and (2) it’s only at the VO2 max level that oxygen deprivation happens; anaerobic/threshold zone is generally ok. Once I read this book I felt much more liberated to continue.

Third, having 2 teammates/sport friends who were also pregnant and a super supportive partner.

I felt so good in months 4-6 despite the bump! Month 7 wasn’t too bad early on, but I felt bulky by the end. Overall, for most of my pregnancy I probably averaged about half my usual training volume at half the intensity.

Initial recovery

This also was relatively easy. The suggestions in the Random Questions, Postpartum Edition were so helpful. Bleeding stopped by 2 weeks. The only thing was puffy ankles and legs from all that IV fluid which I thought could only get better. I was actually riding a mile on the bike by the second week, just to skip traffic & parking & waiting in lines on my daily commute to the NICU. Sitting back on my actual sit bones meant there was no pressure at all on my perineum, and therefore no pain.

Stage 2 has proven to be tricky. About a month after delivery I had built up some stabbing pain in my wrist and heel, and a duller ache in my back. I could barely walk to the bathroom without stabbing pain. I thought you were supposed to feel better a month postpartum, not worse! I finally went to the PT that you wonderful forum people urged me to. As a pelvic floor specialist she had lots of experience with postpartum people, even if I didn’t need that help specifically.

They did an evaluation that lasted almost an hour and identified 4 things to work on:

  • Wrist tendinitis from holding up a floppy newborn head
  • Plantar fasciitis and arch tendinitis probably from too much relaxin
  • Tight hip flexors from hunching over to breastfeed
  • Weak core. My back never bothered me during pregnancy and the PT said often the bump provides some tension & stabilization, but when the bubble “bursts” things get floppy again.

I ended on a program of weekly paraffin, heat, & ultrasound therapy, plus strengthening exercises at home. They also recommended replacing my house slippers with Hoka recovery shoes that had great arch support. After about 6 weeks of this I am feeling MUCH better. I can go on short walks again, though if I go longer my foot will ache that night. But, the baby loves walks. He calms down and naps during walks. So I tend to push it and walk too much.

It’s amazing how uneven my recovery is. A 3-hour hilly ride felt good. But I can barely walk more than a mile. So I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, and need to prioritize PT. I think for the next 2 months I’ll aim for 1 longer and 2 short rides a week, and PT exercises every other day. I’ve also had some milk production struggles so don’t want to go too hard and risk my supply before… 6 months? 9 months?

5 Likes

Uneven and at-random seems to be common in recovery!

My pregnancy is split into 3 parts.
0.1: unmanaged HG, muscle loss.
0.2: managed HG, learn to eat & walk again. PT to remind muscles of their jobs as I had some overcompensating for those lost, goal of “pain free mobility” but not permitted to exercise until HG subsides to “fluffy medicated HG”, which means I have fewer aversions and am showing progress without dedicated exercise. Housebound as even car rides were exhausting.
0.3: current state of “fluffy medicated HG”**, making good progress in getting back to “normal daily activity” and light exercise permitted to prepare for labour. No longer fully housebound, can be a passenger in a car and walk short distances comfortably.

I’ve noticed there are “leaps” in recovery. While the general trend is upward, once I achieve certain milestones it greatly expands what I can do. E.g. once I could walk, I could fix my own meals. Once I could sit in a car, I didn’t lose a whole day’s energy to a medical appointment.

As things stand, I expect stages 1 & 2 to take me 3-6 months.

**Fluffy is the term used in HG circles and it’s damn weird but it does do the job of explaining “I’m fine as long as I’m on meds and this ain’t actually over until baby’s on the outside”

3 Likes

I’ve been kind of stuck activity and recovery wise… and suspecting that I hadn’t healed right. I went to accupuncture today and yep… Hips and pelvis decided not to recover. So now I need to deal with that a few months later than I should have. Oooops. So I will join this renamed thread.

4 Likes

Yes, I am here, currently in stage 3 at 6 months pp, although I’ve been feeling worse with the hit weather limiting ability to go for walks outside plus bubba moving into her cot which seems to not suit me ergonomically… I played roller derby before baby but obviously that stopped on getting pregnant, not sure if I’ll go back and in what capacity yet, and I’m in no way ready physically yet, but following along to see everyone’s journies!

4 Likes

Yay for getting help to heal right!

3 Likes

Update on postpartum pain: My backache and wrist pain is gone. Thank you PT! Thank you Baby Spore for becoming less floppy while nursing! And thank you weird buckwheat nursing pillow that is way more supportive. I feel less like my body is two rattles away from falling apart.

On the downside, my foot is still unhappy if I walk more than 10 minutes, especially with the baby in carrier. I’m doing it anyway, about once a week, because not being able to walk is stifling.

I figure as long as it doesn’t hurt the next day I’m not damaging it further. But it’s not good. I’m torn on whether to go back to PT in person. They do some ultrasound & graston/Gua Sha scraping that can’t be replicated at home. On one hand, walking. On the other, covid risk.

For the past few weeks I’ve mostly been able to ride 3x a week. Usually it breaks down to once on the trainer, once on the cargo bike with the baby, and one longer one (2-3h). If I keep this up I should have one foot solidly in “can participate in adventures, and in group stuff whenever it resumes” mode… even if that foot can’t walk.

So, that means prioritizing PT. I tried Mommastrong and liked parts of it, but the jumping motions hurt my foot and I’m not healthy enough for that yet. I think I also prefer the very bland & sparse narrations of my physical therapy app (MedBridge) for now. I think I’m going to cancel the MS subscription and spend the time on PT exercises for now. The full routine is 28 minutes which feels like plenty!

4 Likes

Following this thread.

I also cancelled MommaStrong recently. I really like the idea of it, and maybe I’ll pick it back up later, but right now I’m feeling like I need more yoga and pilates. That said, have I been doing yoga and pilates since cancelling? No - no I haven’t.

My primary exercise now is walking. I take a 30 min walk in the morning with the baby in an ergo carrier strapped to my back, and then another 30 min walk in the evening by myself.

I’m probably at a 2-3 in the “pyramid”, I think? Most of my pain now I don’t think is from pregnancy, but more from hauling around a wiggly 23+ lb toddler and poor posture working from home. I have a sit-stand desk set-up now, and I just ordered an (hopefully) ergonomic chair.

I have never been much of an athlete, but I did lift and run regularly prior to pregnancy. I’m doing some light jogging and getting back into lifting on weekends now, and I really need to be better about incorporating strength and stretching into my weekdays as well. I think my goal is to be able to keep up with my toddler pain-free.

2 Likes

I did two intense yoga classes last week and was pain free (from the low back injury) the first time in almost a year. I skipped Monday and the baby cancelled Tuesday while I was doing it. Baby ran a fever last night so I have to see what the plan is for his health care before I sign up for today or tomorrow. I definitely need to do it

3 Likes

I’ve been keeping up with my weekly (private) pilates lessons. I’m still doing a LOT of modifications but getting more comfortable with what feels good and what still needs time. I’m currently planning to do two more privates and then jump back into the cheaper group classes but continue with most of the modifications. I’ll probably try to do a private session every 4-6 weeks to work through slowly changing the modifications as my body gets stronger.

In theory I could find time to do this without paying for it, but in practice I don’t.

1 Like

I did semi private pilates a few years ago and it was completely worth paying for 10 weeks or whatever for the benefit. I’m glad it’s helping

2 Likes