The Postpartum Fitness Trap Strikes Again

Ericka Andersen

Running, CrossFit

Six weeks—that's the standard number of weeks given for women to refrain from exercising after giving birth. With my first pregnancy I made it to five weeks, but this time I was set on getting to six. I was ordered to cease workouts at 37 weeks of pregnancy, so at four weeks postpartum, I’ve been off the sauce for seven weeks total—which feels like an eternity to a fitness junkie.

 

I've gotten used to lounging and the lack of physical movement. I've almost forgotten the glorious endorphin rush that comes with a great cardio session, lifting success, or the incredible way it feels to achieve a physical goal.

 

 

I finally embraced the rest. Yet, watching my muscle tone slip away was like seeing a hot fudge sundae melt into oblivion outside of a window I couldn’t open. It was sad and frustrating.

 

The Trouble with Social Media

I had my mind set to make it to six weeks before I incorporated exercise again, but instead I let disruptive thoughts try to interrupt my plan. I often scroll through Instagram (you do a lot of social media with a newborn on your arm, by the way) and I see postpartum moms talking about getting back to the gym for light workouts at three weeks postpartum. I saw a mom going for a jog at four weeks postpartum. I saw one woman who said her doctor gave her the go-ahead for all forms of exercise at just four weeks after giving birth. I start to feel self-conscious. Why am I not doing that, too?

 

The Postpartum Fitness Trap Strikes Again - Fitness, women's fitness, women's health, exercise during pregnancy, postpartum

 

God knows I'll be starting from scratch—all my muscle tone and strength is completely gone. Why was I waiting six weeks to even take a decent walk? The itch of comparison began ratcheting up. At four weeks postpartum, the long days and nights of maternity leave compounded by those crazy mama hormones, are taking their toll on my mind.

 

Rationally, I know that jump-starting workouts two weeks earlier than planned won't make a difference in the grand scheme of life. I also struggle with pelvic floor issues which are exacerbated by exercise, especially running. I am still getting some weird cramping from time to time, and I have daily headaches that seem to have no explanation. The accidental-peeing situation is also not good, especially when I'm doing anything remotely strenuous, like getting my toddler in the car or chasing him around the grocery store.

 

The Timing Is Different for Everyone

This body just ain’t ready. Looking back at my first pregnancy, I remember thinking how early it felt like I started up again. I was almost embarrassed that I was filming my treadmill run five weeks postpartum. At seven weeks, I realized there’s really no reason for any woman to attempt double-unders.

 

In reality, it isn’t about losing weight or fitting back into my clothes (I do want those things eventually). It’s more of a mental game about getting my fitness back—but what's the rush? I’m not a competitive athlete and I have my entire life be fit. And that’s why I’m taking a minute to reflect on what really matters right now, and that is spending time with my baby girl.

 

I think I’m going to unfollow a few folks on social media, do some healing stretches, meditate, and snuggle my babies for a little longer. Downtime isn’t easy for an active, busy-bee like myself but, for this small slice of life, I can let the mush belly and mellow days just be—they will be gone before I know it.

 

It doesn't hurt to wait the recommended minimum of six weeks before beginning to exercise again postpartum. It can, however, hurt to start back too early or push your body beyond what it’s ready for. Each person's journey is unique and, as usual, we don’t know the real story behind the perfect Instagram shot.

 

Complete Pregnancy

 

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