Postnatal Fitness Tips from Elle Kealy, personal trainer at Lithe Fitness and mum of two. Practical advice and recommendations for post natal mums in Hong Kong.
The 8 Golden Rules of Postnatal Fitness
The postnatal period is one of huge change in a woman’s life. You’ve undergone a transformational pregnancy, given birth, and now have a baby to care for as your priority. You’ve got a new life, a new body and when you decide to step into the gym after kids you’re trusting your trainer to get you back to your best. What if I told you that the first person you call to get you into shape shouldn’t be a trainer, a bootcamp instructor or a gym?
Medical practitioners that you come across as new mum are quite rightly focused on the health of your baby and will follow up with you on any birth related medical issues. But that aside once the baby’s arrived and the docs’ job is done you’re essentially packed off and sent on your way to get on with it.
Often it’s only months later when women return to working out or even regular daily activity that they realise all is not what it used to be. From diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) to incontinence caused by a stressed and weakened pelvic floor, a lot of us think that’s just how it is after kids and we resign ourselves post baby bodies that aren’t allowing us to live freely and to our full potential.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Whilst these issues may be very common they aren’t normal and there’s no real reason why you should have to live with dysfunction. We’ve got tons of first rate physiotherapists in Hong Kong who can help new mothers get in tip top shape alongside your regular fitness professional, so take advantage of their services and you’ll reap the rewards.
Popular recommendations include Donna Gee (contact Flex Studio) or the fabulous ladies at Physiomotion for Pilates and physiotherapy, Katherine at Joint Dynamics for alignment and movement concerns, Emma at Sports and Spinal or Pim at Posture Plus ; the latter two specialise in pelvic floor issues.
So now that’s out of the way here are my 8 golden rules for post natal fitness.
1. Chill out Mama
You may want to get back into your skinny jeans within weeks but realistically you need to put all that pressure on the back burner and chill out. The body needs time to heal, recover, and adjust. Take it slowly physically but start planning for the coming months so you feel you’re taking control of your wellbeing.
2. Remember that postnatal is forever
Postnatal is the period after you’ve given birth. I mean FOREVER. Let’s face facts, things have probably changed and that means that your approach to fitness needs to reflect that. If your core and pelvic floor are weak years after giving birth, postnatal rehab may still be what you need so don’t feel bad about attending the postnatal version of a class even if you’re little one is two years old (or more!).
3. Get friendly with your physio
I advise all postnatal women to make an appointment with a qualified physiotherapist (preferably who specialises in pelvic floor issues) after birth. Check out the stuff the doctors don’t worry about and trainers aren’t qualified to talk about, like pelvic floor damage, prolapses or diastasis recti. The most effective time to proactively treat a muscle separation is in the 8 weeks post birth, which means this appointment should come as soon as it can, within 2-6 weeks of giving birth. 3-5 sessions should teach you how to properly recruit muscles and help set you on your way to working out properly.
4. Do not hate on your trainer for making you lie on the floor and breathe
Whilst the first few weeks of training may seem gentle compared to what you were used to before, a good trainer is going to be slowly bringing you back to speed. You can’t fire a canon out of a canoe, so workouts should consist of postnatal specific strength training that sets you up for a trouble-free fitness journey as you go forward.
Exercise may include pelvic floor activation and deep abdominal muscle activation exercises. They may also include safe core strengthening exercises that don’t place pressure on your tummy muscles. High impact exercises may be out for now too. Stick with the program and things will improve as you grow stronger.
5. Doctors clearance to exercise isn’t necessarily a green light
Doctor’s clearance is nice to hear, but in reality what does it mean? Us trainers need to get it from you but doctors are often unaware of the issues described in Golden Rule 3, so get checked out again by a physio. Don’t ignore pain or push through it.
6. Less stretching, more strengthening
Many women think that stretching will help heal aches and pains felt in the postnatal period. But stretch carefully as the hormones in your body are still causing your ligaments to loosen. Yes this makes you super bendy in yoga class, but that may lead to long term injuries. The key is to stretch intelligently (don’t hold long static stretches for example) and focus your workouts more on strengthening. You need to strengthen to regain core stability as well as to lose weight.
7. Look for a long term plan, not a quick fix
Babies are tiring! Who’s got time for 5 sessions of workouts a week plus a detailed nutrition plan and days of meal prep? New moms are stressed out enough and many of us have jobs to go back to in a short period. Focus on making sustainable changes that you can stick to over time. It may be as small as eating protein in every meal, or 2 workouts a week. Keep it simple and you’re more likely to succeed.
Also remember that exercising will give you more energy, boost your mood and give you an hour of ‘me time’.
8. Love your baby body
I know the woman staring back at you in the mirror may not look like you. You may be insecure about stretch marks or your new tummy, but post baby bods are incredible. You. Grew. A. Human. Whilst you may have mixed emotions about the way you look, try to embrace your body and don’t succumb to crazy workouts to ‘fix’ you. You are one amazing Mama.
Elle Kealy is an international business coach for fitness health and wellness professionals looking to launch their businesses with a bang and women’s fitness expert, personal trainer and nutrition coach helping women around the world eat better and feel fantastic in just 90 days or less. For more information on working with Elle visit