CrossFit Postpartum

If you regularly read our blog you’ll know we try to keep it varied and interesting and we aim to cover all manner of topics relating to health, fitness and wellness. Our aim is to help you guys cut through the mess of the internet and find the most relevant information on all manner of subjects. This week we’re focusing on exercising after childbirth: should you and how should you?

Going through pregnancy is incredibly demanding and it will put your body and mind through a series of dramatic changes which impact your health and fitness. We often get asked, ‘should I train after giving birth?’

The answer is yes. Regular exercise postpartum will not only increase your fitness levels, it will also help your body stimulate recovery from labor, improve your energy levels and help you to feel less lethargic, aid in weight loss and improve your mood if it needs it. (Exercise is great for relieving stress, will help you switch off and focus on you for a bit and will get you out talking to people and getting some fresh air.)

So how soon after giving birth should you try exercising?

It is highly recommended that you don’t rush back into training before your 6 -week check up. Obviously everyone is different and some might want to get back sooner and others wait a little longer. A lot will depend on your fitness before and during your pregnancy, the support network you have in place and just how accommodating your new born wants to be!

When you do decide to get back to training there are a few things you might notice that have changed:

During your pregnancy the changes in hormones can cause your ligaments and joints to be more flexible and mobile. The tendons and ligaments can become loose and potentially can take months to recover (they take even longer to return to normal if you breatfeed).

You are also likely to experience diastasis recti, the separation of your abdominal muscles, during pregnancy and childbirth. They usually return to normal postpartum but it is incredibly common for them to stay separated. This will obviously effect your core strength and will have to be focused on to make sure you stay safe whilst you train.

So I can train but can I do CrossFit?

Of course you can, but at your own pace! CrossFit is designed as a high intensity program but intensity is relative to the individual so be prepared to go a little easier than you might want to for a bit and be prepared to have to adjust or scale the workouts to suit your capabilities. Make sure you seek out a decent coach and be sure to tell them about your recent childbirth!

Now as experienced as our coaches are in training ladies postpartum we thought this blog would be a load more useful with some input from someone who has actually done it personally. Huge thanks to Saxon Ellie Lee who took a load of time out of her day to answer some questions for us and give us a personal account of training with a new born:

How Long did you wait to get back to training? 

I came back to CrossFit 3 months after giving birth. Much earlier than I thought I would but thanks to my amazing husband Andy encouraging me and stepping up with child care I started once a week and built up slowly. Before coming back to CrossFit I did a 6-week postnatal mother and baby yoga course to ease me in gently.

What was it like in your first few sessions back at Saxon? How did your body react?

Initially, I was really nervous I wouldn’t be able to do anything and wouldn’t know anyone but I actually surprised myself with what my body could do. The coaches were great and able to scale everything. All the Saxons were so welcoming and supportive and I recognised more people than I thought I would. While my body obviously wasn’t as strong as it was pre-baby CrossFit helped me improve my posture, back pain and shift the baby weight.

Have you noticed changes in body postpartum and have you experienced any limitations?

I’m still breastfeeding so even 7 months postpartum I’m still hypermobile in some of my joints so I have to be careful not to lift too heavy in certain workouts and avoid repetitive high impact activities. My core stability is a big weakness and getting better every day but what surprised me the most was how much glute muscle I had lost. I’ve just stared things like skipping and box jumps after a lot of homework on my pelvic floor muscles.

In terms of limitations there is managing to actually get to classes!!In regard to exercise when I’m there, as I said before I’m cautious about anything too high impact, I’m just starting to think about running for very short distances and jumping. My core is improving but if I’m fatigued I have to modify some overhead or dynamic movements to avoid overstretching my abdominals. Everything is scalable so I never feel like I’m missing out and I’m always working as hard as I can. It’s still hard to not compare myself to others in the class, especially people I was on par with before pregnancy.

Is there a certain exercise you enjoy doing that you didn’t before? 

I’m quite enjoying the barbell work. There is something really empowering about throwing a heavyweight around. I’d never really been interested in cleans and snatch but I’m keen to revisit the technique and practice before I start lifting heavy again. 

How does training make you feel? 

Like a real person instead of a bum wiping milk machine! CrossFit helps me appreciate my body and the amazing things it can do. An hour to myself resets my mood and helps me forget the difficult bits of the day. It’s great to have support from friends, it’s not just nattering and small talk people really do listen and care. Obviously there are days where I don’t want to go and struggle with the simplest workout but I’m always feeling better for going afterwards, even if I can’t get off the floor the next day.

The coaches have been great, they have been able to scale and adapt everything during and after my pregnancy. The coaches knew I was pregnant before my own mother! The social support has also been great, there is always someone saying ‘well done’ ‘good job’ even if you don’t feel it. There is a big motivational factor at Saxon without overt competition or comparison between people. 

What is your goal coming back to Saxon? 

 My main goal is to maintain my wellbeing physically, mentally and emotionally. My specific goals are to be able to run to the postbox and back. To be able to do toes to bar again and to be able to deadlift 100kg. I’ve given myself until October 2020. I thought my goal would be to lose weight but I’ve realised it’s not the scales that matter but more my body shape and how I feel about it that is important.

Would you recommend Saxon CrossFit to new mums and what advice would you give them? 

I absolutely would recommend it to any new mum. There are only so many baby groups you can take before you lose your mind and sense of who you are as a person. It’s so important to have time for you and that hour of focusing on nothing but your body and the moment is precious. My body and mind feel so much stronger. It’s really hard to find the motivation to exercise at home, I need someone shouting encouragement at me. I’ve started to see improvements really quickly just from coming twice a week. I can carry my 20kg daughter more easily and throw my 8kg son up in the air, which he loves (I still only pick a 5kg wall ball though!)

If you aren’t sure if CrossFit is for you, just try and give it a go, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

Everything is a phase, this goes for child-rearing and CrossFit. Be flexible in your approach and don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go the way you planned. If you try a lift and don’t get it up be kind to yourself and try again next time. What works today might not work tomorrow but the next time it might, this helped me not to get frustrated. More practical advice is to buy a good sports bra, drink electrolytes before, during and after sessions. Eat extra and drink loads after a class especially if you are breastfeeding. Apparently babies can taste the lactic acid in the milk and some can get fussy. Feed the baby or pump before class. I started off cherry-picking sessions like EMOMs or long AMRAPs to have a conditioning approach but seven months later I don’t look in advance I just go whenever I can fit it in. Do your pelvic floor exercises every day and go to the toilet before you start!

Is it hard to balance training with work and parenting?

It’s is hard to balance everything. Obviously my kids are my priority but I want to be the best I can for them so that means being healthy, happy, strong and (hopefully) living a long life. I’ve found it’s about having a routine, sticking to it and prioritise it where possible. I’m very lucky I have a great husband and mother who can babysit for that wonderful hour. It’s getting easier now my son is eating and less reliant on breast milk. The true test will be when I go back to work full time in the summer. I really want to continue and set a good example to my children about keeping fit and positive body image. 

(Ellie has been an absolute hero with her training since her return and is an epic example of what can be achieved with the right approach and attitude post labor!)

So if you’re looking for something to do to get your pre-baby fitness back or need any help or advice on training postpartum drop us a message and we will do all we can to help!

Again a massive thank you to Ellie for helping us out and thanks to everyone reading x