Almost two years ago now I became a certified perinatal trainer, meaning I can now work safely and effectively with women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, and are postpartum.
This is not my first such “specialty” certification. A while back I got Silver Sneakers certified, which helps me work with seniors and the elderly population, and before that I took a special course in working with the obese and morbidly obese (even bed-ridden).
Working with mommies; however, is truly a passion for me.
As a woman who has never had kids (but assuredly wants to when the time is right!), it is an absolute privilege to watch my clients transition from their former bodies into new, powerful, transformative ones – bodies that are giving life. And if I can offer some sort of strength, comfort, and guidance during that time, I am honored to do so.
So what have I learned over the past two years, working with nine different prenatal and two recently postpartum clients?
5) Never underestimate the reparative power of a body that has given (or is giving!) life. A lot of my first-time postpartum moms are scared to come back to exercise because of the enormity of the task their bodies have just performed. That said, it is exactly that task (birth) that has prepared you for the relatively simple challenge of rediscovering fitness. What’s a daily walk with your baby after you’ve spent 32 hours in labor? How hard is picking up a 5-pound dumbbell when you haul around a 10-pound baby 20 hours out of the day? My new moms are strong, unrelenting, and adaptable – and I try to remind them that as much as possible.
4) Do the best you can with the time, body, and sanity that you have. Before you got pregnant, maybe you were the type that hit 3 Spin classes per week in addition to running 20 miles and taking yoga on the weekends. Now you are pregnant, or have an infant, or God help you have twins, and you’re noticing that you just can’t maintain that level of exercise. That’s okay. It’s more than okay. Because we are all trying to do the best we can with the time, ability, and mental clarity that we have, and if that “best” is simply 10 minutes of push-ups and planks, or a walk down the street to get groceries, or just a nap – that’s ok. Fitness comes back in pieces, not all at once.
3) Your abs may or may not “come back,” but there’s more to core than abs. Speaking of coming back, there’s this odd perception that in order to have really achieved an “ideal” birth, you will have somehow morphed your postpartum body back into its former shape, including tight, six-pack abs. And for some moms that is possible. But for many moms, maintaing a strong “deep core” (transverse abdominus and lower back) is more important, because it is these muscles that actually help you carry your baby, pick your baby up, stand up for hours without back pain, and support overall healing. I advise my mommies to forget about the visibility of their abs for the first 6-12 months and focus on building the actual muscles that will help them stay strong and pain-free as they recover.
2) Having a baby is not a free pass. OK, now for a moment of tough love. You have had a baby (or two! or many!). You’ve done serious work. You’ve been pregnant, then birthed, then recovered. But all of this being said (and a hearty congrats to you!), it does not entitle you to forget about exercise and nutrition. In fact, there is no time more crucial to pay attention to your health than during the early throes of motherhood, when you need to be healthy, awake, alert, and present for your child. Exercise keeps you sane. Eating healthfully keeps you energized and enhances the quality of breast milk (if you are nursing). Establishing a pattern of proper diet and exercise now means you are modeling those behaviors for your kids as they grow – and isn’t that something you’d want for any child?
1) You don’t have to do it alone. Finally, my favorite point as a trainer – in short, it takes a village! Ask your partner (or a family member) to watch the baby for 30 minutes so you can get your run in. Organize a healthy food exchange with mommies in your area so you can cook once but swap meals all week. Join a mommy group or FIT4MOM program that encourages fitness and allows you to work out with your little one. Find a certified perinatal trainer that can come to your home and work with you privately on your pre-and-postpartum health. Even if fitness is already a priority for you, finding a support group of like-minded folks can make it feel like you’re not alone out there – and that’s crucial.
My fit mommies out there – what are your favorite pre-or-postpartum fitness tips?