What Hanz & Franz can't tell you about "ze puny postpartum muscles"


Most doctors or midwives want a new mom to wait until her six-week postpartum checkup to see how she's doing before resuming physical activity. If she was active during her pregnancy and had a complication-free birth, then continuing with low-impact activities before then is probably OK. If that wasn't the case, she'd be wise to give her body more time to recover before getting after it. 

I can't sit still and I thrive off movement so, as you may have assumed, I was in the first group. The endorphins do wonders for my mental health and happiness  - "Adrenaline Junkies" I think we're called. I ran four miles less than one week before my son was born. Granted, it was pathetically slow and I bore a startling resemblance to Kool-Aid in my red maternity running gear - OH yeah! But if pregnancy taught me anything, it was to listen to and honor my body. As much as I love it, running didn't always feel good when I was pregnant so I mixed it up with swimming, walking, and yoga. 

So while I am happy to have crossed into the "safe zone" this week, my focus is to gradually get back into things and avoid injury. I've read and heard too many things about the risks of rushing back into exercise after birth; the most notorious of those risks being diastasis recti (abdominal separation) and pelvic floor prolapse. The terms themselves are enough to instill fear in any woman.

I asked my good friend and Physical Therapist, Rana Baz, for some professional insight on returning to running post-partum. A Graduate of from University of Miami with Doctorate in Physical Therapy, Rana not only uses her knowledge to help athletes rehabilitate from sports related injuries at Haymarket Physical Therapy & Chiropractic but she applies it to her own lifestyle (and has a rockin' bod to prove it)! This lady is awesome; she toured around the country with the Broadway musical, Wicked, from 2008-2010 as a physical therapist to the actors and dancers on the show. When she wasn't working on the show, she was running in road races across the country, even recruiting members of the cast and crew to join her. A new mama to a gorgeous baby boy herself, Rana had some awesome advice to share.

L: What experience do you have with postpartum rehabilitation?
R: When it comes to postpartum rehab I'm my own patient. Woooozers, does everything and anything hurt! As a clinician, when I had pregnant athletes, I worked strictly through Pilate's to gain core strength. One of the most important muscles being the
Transversus abdominis because they will support the lumbar spine and pelvic area at a time when ligaments are lax. As my patient got farther along in her pregnancy, we worked on breathing to improve rib mobility - by the third trimester the baby sits so high that it's hard to breath. Strengthening the core also helps with the all famous low back pain that most pregnant women feel before and after birth. 
L: What tips do you have for re-strengthening the abs after birth?
R: When carrying the baby in a carrier engage your core. How do you do that ? Well, for women, pretend that you need to use the restroom and there is no bathroom insight so you gotta hold your pee. Well hold you pee while carrying your child: engage your core and lessen the back curve that so many women like to "show off". For men: tighten your abs like a friend is about to punch you in the stomach. Both parents can engage their core when carrying their babies. Something as simple as that will save you plenty of minutes of back pain. Another fun exercise is the "flying airplane". Place your baby on your shins as you lay flat on your back. Lift you baby up as if he was flying. While your doing that lift your neck up as well. engage your core and fly baby fly. Make sure your lower back is flat again the mat/bed/couch - if your lower back begins to curve you've lost your core. You want your lower back to lay flat against the bed, again, hold your pee, and don't forgot to lift your neck. Trust me you'll feel it. 
L: How about the toning the pelvic floor?
R: Kegels are a life saver - I mean a forever life saver. Don't ever stop with your Kegels. Do them when driving, standing at the grocery store, breastfeeding, whenever.
L: Any final words of advice?
R: A major point I always discuss with my patients is that it took nine months to put on the weight, it will take nine months to come off. Be smart when training and don't over do it. Your body has been on vacay and needs to come back slowly. Be safe and be strong.

Thanks for the tips, Rana!



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