I’m going to be honest here — I did not want to write this post. In fact, I actually wrote a draft of this a few weeks ago and didn’t end up hitting “publish.” The whole “post-baby body” discussion is tricky and very personal. After having two babies less than two years apart and failing to really get back into a workout rhythm between the two, I decided to get serious about regaining my pre-baby strength. Yes, part of this is about vanity — I do “want my body back” (I have been pregnant or breastfeeding now for over 3 years straight, sooo… yeah. I would like to reclaim at least some small part of myself — though I think this is bigger discussion which deserves its own post on another day); but more than that, I want to feel strong and healthy and keep my back in shape.
Those of you who know me or who have been reading the blog for a bit, already know that I have a bad back. I had surgery 14 years ago but have continued to live with severe restrictions and occasional bouts of awful pain.
After having Prim I never really got back into a good workout rhythm. I had a new baby and went back to work and then moved across the world to Amsterdam and promptly got pregnant again… All of which are reasonable excuses for not exercising — but overall it wasn’t a good thing for my back or health. After having Lark I started to realize how much strength I had really lost. I could feel my lack of core stability every time I lifted the girls, and started to feel the familiar ache of constant pain beginning in my lower back. Having been through 9 months of excruciating pain prior to my surgery 14 years ago, I now live in constant fear of it returning. Any twinge makes my heart stop; any bout of pain sets me into a minor panic.
I finally decided that I needed to commit to myself to get my body and core back in shape. Yes, it is partially to (hopefully) rid myself of the last ten pounds of baby weight which are clinging to me like I’m a life boat on the Titanic, but it is mostly so I can live my life without pain. (And let me tell you — avoidance of chronic pain is an amazing motivator.)
After hearing rave reviews from my sister about this website specializing in diastasis-safe, post-pregnancy workouts, I decided to sign up for the Birth to Fit Mum 12-week program. Even though I didn’t have diastasis recti, my abs were still severely compromised by my two back-to-back pregnancies, so a lot of regular ab work was too intense for me.
In case you’re curious, or maybe a postpartum mama yourself looking for exercises to do at home, I thought I would write out my current routine and link to the exercises. I try to do all of this four times a week, and sometimes add a fifth day where I do a shorter Bar Method workout (usually 45 minutes). Bar Method Online has a lot of different options — targeted and full-body workouts in 20, 30, 45, and 60 minute sessions with prenatal, beginner, mixed, and accelerated level options.
I start with 60 minutes of accelerated or mixed-level Bar Method and then go through some variation of the following exercises three times afterwards (it takes about 20 minutes):
- heel slides x 10 each side (either straight or oblique)
- curl up x 10
- bird dog x 10
- pushups x 10
- plank x 30 seconds
- side plank x 30 seconds, each side, with 10 hip lifts up from the floor
- single dead leg lift x 10 each side
- reverse lunges x 10 each side (if you click the link, fast forward to the 30 second mark to see the exercise)
- squats x 10
- pushups x 10
- tricep pushups x 10
I finish with the Bar Method final stretch sequence.
Some of the above exercises change every 3 weeks, as they are part of the Birth to Fit Mum 12 week program, which works through four progressive strength sequences across the 12 weeks. I specifically added the curl up, bird dog, and planks due to my bad back. These are the “Big 3” exercises for back pain, recommended by Stuart McGill, a renowned spine surgeon.
After completing the 12 week Birth to Fit Mum program and adding Bar Method for the last 7 weeks, my back pain has disappeared and my core is so much stronger. While I am (yes, vainly) waiting for the last few pounds to disappear, I’m trying to be patient and remember that the way I feel is good enough reason to continue to work out right now and that the last of the weight will come off eventually. I mean, honestly, 12 weeks ago I was struggling to get through a 30-second plank on my knees; now I can power through a 2-minute plank on my toes, no problem.
If you are a mama or mama-to-be who is looking for safe pregnancy or postnatal workout options — especially ones you can do at home, Bar Method Online and these pregnancy/postnatal workouts are awesome. The Pregnancy Exercise website has specific programs for during pregnancy, post-birth (the Birth to Fit Mum program I started with), and beyond. I have now moved on to the Super Fit Mum program, which despite its hokey name, is quite a good workout for strength-building.
If you have any questions about either of the programs I’m using (which are not sponsored in any way, by the way!) feel free to leave me a comment or send me a message.