C-Section Recovery: Restorative Sequences for New Moms
These workouts will take you through eight weeks of rehab exercises, or what I would call 'reawakening.' The point is not to increase your lift total, build endurance, or lose the infamous baby weight.
The sole focus of this cycle of workouts is to get you in touch with your core muscles again, because like myself in the above description, you're probably wondering where they went.
The goal of these workouts is to begin the slow process of healing after a c-section. The workouts are posted three times a week and focus on three critical aspects of recovery:
- Restoration of the Abdominal Muscles
- Re-conditioning the Body With Regular Walking
These workouts are intended for women who are still in the first eight weeks of recovery post-cesarean. You can start the routines as early as two days after your c-section. The goal of this cycle is to get you to a point where you are comfortable walking up to one hour at a moderate to brisk pace with a stroller.
There are four two-week phases and you will gradually increase the length of walks and amount of exercises during each week. Each workout includes a short meditation practice to help you process your birth experience and adjust to the mental and emotional demands of caring for a newborn.
Phase 1: Supine Exercises and Walking Focus
During this phase, most of the exercises you do will be in bed. The emphasis is on reconnecting with your transverse abdominal muscles. You'll also do a minimal amount of walking.
Phase 2: Walking Focus 1
We'll continue the supine exercises in this phase, but shift the focus on gradually increasing the length of your walks and the option to push baby in the stroller.
Phase 3: Upright Exercise and Stretching Focus
At this point we'll transition to upright exercises to start gently rebuilding strength, with gentle seated and supine yoga stretches as well.
Phase 4: Walking Focus 2
For the final two weeks we'll build up to one hour walks at a moderate to brisk pace, with the option to push baby in the stroller.
You'll notice an emphasis on walking. I've had two experiences with walking after a c-section. My first daughter was born in Belgium and the experience was very different than it was in the United States. I didn't walk for three days after the delivery and had a very hard time with it, as I described above.
The second time, I walked six hours after delivery. It certainly wasn't comfortable, but I was able to at least stand and walk to the end of the room and back. Maybe that's just because I knew what to expect, but studies do show that early ambulation makes for a faster recovery.
"By taking the time to slowly reconnect with your core muscles and heal, you will prevent problems in the future."
Another guiding principle in these workouts is minimizing diastasis recti that might have occurred during pregnancy. Although my diastasis was minimal after my first c-section, it was huge after my second and took a long time to heal. By taking the time to slowly reconnect with your core muscles and heal, you will prevent problems in the future.
Finally, throughout the entire cycle I have included brief meditations for each day. Life with a newborn is a huge adjustment, whether you're a first time mom or have a whole pack of kids running around. Fortunately you don't have to go retreat to a cave to have a fruitful meditation practice. Devote five minutes to meditation each day and I guarantee you will notice a difference. Ideally, it helps to meditate in a quiet room with no distractions.
If you experience pain at the incision site at any time during these exercises, stop immediately. Feel free to modify the workouts as needed and increase or decrease the intensity as you feel comfortable. Congratulations on the birth of your baby and best of luck in your recovery!
Phase 1: Week 1, Day 1
Phase 1: Supine Exercise and Walking Focus
This two-week phase focuses on reconnecting with the transverse abdominal muscles with simple supine exercises you can do in bed. You will also work up to twenty minutes of walking each day. In meditation the focus is processing your birth experience and addressing any fears or anxiety you might have about your birth experience and life with a newborn.
A. Supine Exercises
- Belly Breathing x 10 breaths: Breathe deeply and focus on expanding through the diaphragm. When you exhale, draw your navel in toward your spine.
- Leg Slides x 5 per side - Lie in bed with your knees bent. Slowly slide one leg out until it is fully extended, then draw it back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
- Pelvic Tilt x 10 - With your knees bent, raise your pelvis off the bed and lower right away. Repeat.
Walk for 3 minutes, then rest for 2 minutes. Walk for 3 more minutes. Repeat at least once more later in the day.
As a mom, doula, and pre/postnatal trainer I've found that processing your birth experience goes a long way in gaining peace and acceptance after having a baby. Women who have had c-sections sometimes feel regret or a lack of involvement in their birth, and meditation can help heal those feelings.
For this meditation find a quiet place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and count ten slow breaths, in and out. Quiet your mind and prepare to ask yourself these questions:
- What emotions do I feel when I think about my child's birth
- Do I feel any guilt or regret about any aspects of the birth?
- Have I accepted these aspects?
From here, complete the Shifting Perspectives Meditation.