Six weeks ago I gave birth to my son Dylan. He’s my first baby and despite my planned home birth, he decided to do his own thing and was born by Caesarean section on July 16th.
Now as I mentioned, this is my first baby and so I’m no expert but I have had a really positive experience returning to exercise. Some of it is undoubtedly luck, but also being in great shape prior to pregnancy and then staying active and continuing to ride during my pregnancy certainly helped. Being that my recovery has been quick and easy, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve done that I believe have helped. One or more of these things may help other new mothers navigate return to exercise.
It should go without saying that this is my experience and not intended to be medical advice. Returning to exercise quickly might be the last thing you want to do, clearly that’s cool too. Each to their own, do what makes you happy.
Started physical therapy at 20 weeks pregnant - Early in my pregnancy I asked my midwife for a referral to see a pelvic floor physical therapist on the recommendation of my doula. By just establishing care with a great physical therapist I was able to be seen throughout pregnancy and then critically I saw her for the first time three days after giving birth. This quick start of PT was fundamental in my quick recovery.
Got back on the bike quickly - This is obviously very individualized but my PT cleared me to get back on the bike (on the trainer) at my first appointment. So three days postpartum I was on the trainer. This quickly reduced the fluid I was still retaining from surgery and even though it was 15 minutes at the easiest of zone 1, it made me feel great.
Have your partner take family leave - My husband took his full 12 weeks FLMA, this was something that I insisted on early because I knew it would be critical to my recovery whilst giving him a much needed break from work and time to bond with our baby. Having him home allows me to get out on the bike earlier in the day before the exhaustion of little sleep has really hit me!
Restarted training with my coach - The accountability of being coached really helps me. When I’ve had three hours sleep and I’m exhausted it’s so easy not to get on the bike and do a workout. But I always feel so much better when I’ve been on the bike even it it was an easy zone 1 ride. Its as good for my mental health as much as my return to fitness to be on the bike every day.
Smart feeding timing - I'm breastfeeding exclusively and so I feed him immediately before I walk out the door to ride (see photo above) and then feed him immediately on my return (if its a ride over an hour or so). I also make sure I plan ahead, last weekend I had a three and a half hour ride so I started expressing milk the day before so that I have sufficient milk to leave for him while I was out.
These suggestions are not the only ways to get back to training, and they are not applicable to everyone. Maybe your state or country doesn't have paid time off for the non-birthing partner, maybe you've had a vaginal birth and the idea of sitting on a bike saddle after three days seems like a medieval torture technique, but these are just my experiences and so far my postpartum experience has been fantastic all around!