Returning to fitness after having a baby – daunting to say the least.
Nothing feels the same. Your thicker, softer, weaker, your sore! You feel like if you jump up and down something might give way . . . . Your weirdly uncomfortable and you basically don’t know where to start.
I heavy weight trained for 1-2hrs a day, 5-6 times a week before Baby #1 and this was a routine that worked for me and my body.
I fell pregnant with my son Noah when I was 21 and we not long after bought a gym . . . So training for me was a lifestyle. I continued to train through my pregnancy and was maintaining 5 sessions a week until I reached 37weeks.
I had energy to train, I felt healthy and strong.
I had a lot of comments made regarding training during my pregnancy, as my stomach was quite large. However research shows the benefits of exercise while pregnant & remaining healthy for the growth of your baby, my doctor advised I was able to continue and my body thanked me for it, I was able to endure and push through a 14hour intense labour and naturally birth my little boy. My postpartum recovery was quick in regards to weight and toneness of my muscles & I could return to my previous training style.
This was achievable for me because of my fit lifestyle prior to pregnancy it wasn’t anything new that my body wasn’t already used to, so I adapted to the baby belly and modified my workouts and cut back on lifting as heavy and simply maintained muscle tone and fitness. Baby dropped down low and the waddle I was performing didn’t allow for anymore workouts so I started to rest at 37weeks pregnant and – 1 week later our little man arrived.
It wasn’t until around 6weeks that I started to feel like I could start some sort of fitness again. I went to my local health clinic to get the 6week check/clear to get back into the gym and I had my ab separation examined – I was sitting at 2cm wide by 3cm long
This was a great result considering the size of my stomach at full term pregnant.
Basically during pregnancy the walls of your abs separate to accommodate baby, once baby is born they need to come back together and for a lot of women that doesn’t happen. Exercises can help achieve this – you need to put in the work to ensure this is done correctly
This separation is classed as a Diastis Recti – better known as the ‘mum tum’
If you neglect to regain the strength in your pelvic floor & ab seperation you can have all kinds of medical consequences including severe back pain from the lack of support from your core, pro-lapse of your internal organs, hernias pop through the gap, large amount of muscle hanging forward on your tummy . . . and the list goes on.
I started back in the gym post baby #1 with no real schedule of training or plan of technique and I was naive to think I could go straight back into how I was previously training.
I vividly remember loading up the squat rack and going down for a squat and the pain that shot through my back and pelvis was unbelievable, I thought I had pulled something.
It wasn’t until that incident that I looked into tightening my pelvic floor and ab separation after feeling how weak it was at supporting my back and dug deep into what exercises I could perform to help and not injure myself.
I brought everything back to basics and was doing a pilates class once a week to improve my back support and pelvic muscles. I was doing slow breathing ab movements twice a day to tighten the separation & with time I was able to feel my core strength return. This is when I was able to start to heavy weight train again and set bigger goals. If I didn’t slowly ease into rehabilitating the cause of the problem first, I could have had long term issues and not been able to weight train at all
With 6months of rehabilitation on my ab separation and pelvic floor tightening I brought the gap back to 1cm wide. Physio class this amount of cm gap as a completely healed postpartum separation.
3 Years Later – Baby #2
When I fell pregnant with baby number 2, my baby girl London – I was hopeful to be able to train to the same intensity that I did with Noahs pregnancy . . And this just wasn’t a reality for me. I suffered from ‘Hypermesis gravidarum’ and was excessively vomiting and sick all day-everyday!
I took medication that didn’t help, I wasn’t eating or sleeping well and I was so extremely ill I could barely take care of my son or get out of bed. The idea of exercise didn’t even cross my mind
When the sickness started to wear off at 24weeks I started to get back into movements in the gym – nothing excessive but to just try and bring back some muscle memory and get the blood flowing.
I wasn’t in the gym long before I started to feel my pelvis grinding. The pubic bone joints were moving unevenly and grinding together and as baby was growing the weight was intensifying the pressure on my pubic bone. I would get into the car and the bones would grind and Id nearly be in tears, turning over in bed had to have been the highest peak of pain and id be in agony. As my stomach grew huge amounts It was getting worse. I ended up in a brace . . .
After seeing a Womens Health Physio through the hospital that I was birthing in I performed a number of classes to practise exercises that could help relieve the pain and inflammation of the joints. There were a lot of foods that were advised to Not Eat vs Do Eat for inflammation & I was doing pool Aerobic rehabilitation
I highly recommend a Physio for your postpartum checks, regardless of weather you plan to be doing weight training or exercise. With each pregnancy you have the gap can intensify and you could end up needing surgery if not corrected naturally postpartum.
When she performed the assessment on my ‘Pelvic Girdle’ diagnosis, due to the intensity of the pain & how she thought this would effect my birth/recovery she strongly advised that I return to her for an examination at 6weeks postpartum to have my pelvic floor ultrasound and my ab separation examined before returning to the gym. She was confident I would need some further rehabilitation
I was unable to train or do any form of exercise from approx. 25weeks onwards in this pregnancy.
My stomach grew, and grew and GREW. I was a hell of a lot larger than I was first pregnancy and I could feel my stomach muscles pulling daily.
The size of my stomach at 39weeks.
Baby London was born – you can read her birth story here http://tiarngrosvenor.com/2019/05/londons-birth-story/
I decided to take progress photos from this point in of my body. For no other reason than to see how far its come
When pregnant with London I knew she would be my last baby, so coming out of her pregnancy it was time to focus on my bodies health – it has been through a lot of hormone changes over the past 2 years so moving forward its time to focus on the health of the shell I reside in.
6 week postpartum check.
The womens health physio was eagar to see my progress after the pregnancy.
The pelvic girdle pain had completely disappeared and I had no inflammation which was amazing and I was able to stop wearing the brace.
She ultrasound my pelvic floor muscle and it was a 10/10 in strength, I had performed all of the ‘post birth’ exercise to strengthen this and she was extremely happy with how that recovered. Especially considering the very fast 1hour labour I endured and the pressure of London in my pelvis for weeks before her birth, we were expecting some damage to this muscle . .
Ab Separation – she was immediately concerned.
My separation was sitting at 5cm wide x 10.5cm long – basically, in need of surgery.
It was the largest separation she had seen . . . .
We spoke about my options and returning to the gym and she strongly advised I do not do that, she could almost guaranteed that I could tear it bigger or cause an injury.
I was given exercises to perform at home 3x a day for 30minutes each session to attempt to bring it in closer than it was sitting at.
I returned to her at 11 weeks postpartum to the results of it sitting at 4cm x 8cm long
I was so happy to know that the exercises were slowly working and I was able to do it on my own with determination and consistency. I now just needed to continue to work on this & bring it even closer together. Where its currently sitting at is still an excessively large separation and not a size that we would be able to leave long term but we are seeing improvements at each visit.
Basic Rule of Thumb when doing the exercises was to lead with the pelvic muscle, then draw in my belly button to my back and hold both of those for as long as I could. When starting out with these movements I was only able to hold for 10seconds, this progressively got longer and I could then hold for 30seconds-1minute and I began to regain confidence
After this check, I made the decision to return to the gym. I wouldn’t recommend anyone else to do this, however my husband is a Fitness Instructor and I am familiar with my gym and what exercises to perform/avoid for my diastis recti so I slowly eased back into it.
I got started back into it with light weights, 3x a week and I changed my diet drastically! Because of breastfeeding I was accommodating her needs and only eating nourish whole foods and avoiding processed, salts, sugars, dairy, strong flavours and basically just eating the same thing day in day out. This was then benefiting her and majorily benefiting my body and I responded very quickly and I had ENERGY
Because of breast feeding it also forced me to eat/drink water more frequently to keep my milk supply up so I was eating 2hrly and drinking 3lts of water per day. In return, my metabolism fastened and I was dropping body fat weekly! I was toning up and fitting into clothes more comfortably.
Returning to Training
I Started a 12 week challenge when I hit that 6week return mark to the gym and I entered it at 59kgs (11weeks post baby) I finished at 58.8kgs with less body fat and more muscle tone – and basically the same weight and this was due to the fact that muscle weighs more than fat so even though the scales weren’t changing, the difference in my photos is major. Time to throw the scales out ladies
These photos are 4.5months of hard work! I have a genetically small frame, thanks mumma! But, to get where I am today thats been all on me. My early mornings/late nights, my consistency, my determination, my sweat and tears, my healthy eating habits and my discipline. No body else lifts the weights for me
I now train a 4 day split – with Ab Separation Exercises to finish each workout.
1 Upper Body Day (Chest and Back)
1 Lower Body Day (Quads and Calfs)
1 Upper Body Day (Triceps, Biceps and Shoulders)
1 Lower Body Day (Glutes and Hamstrings)
3 rest and recover days.
I am avoiding large compound movements while i repair my separation so am targeting more isolated movements to avoid baring down with my core.
My eating plan has been a huge % of my body changes and without the change in diet I don’t feel that my muscles would be growing the rate they are. I am 8months post partum now and still breastfeeding, so high calories and nourished foods are important for my growth as well as supporting bubs needs. With being a genetically small built person I do struggle to keep ‘weight’ on (first world problems I know) but when you’re in the bodybuilding game, you require your body to hold onto those gains
My ab separation at 8months postpartum is currently sitting at 3.5cm x 6cm. While breastfeeding my hormones can effect it fully closing in, I am having a physio examination every 6weeks to check progress – my physio is hoping to see it return to at least 2cm x 4cm
A brief rundown on what I’m currently consuming – 6x Meals a day
Protein – Size of my open hand
Carbs – Size of my closed fist
Veg – enough to fill up
Grains and Good Fats – quick sprinkle of grains & half avocado
Breakfast – Protein, Carbs, Veg & Good Fats
Pre Workout Meal – Carb
Post Workout Meal – High Protein and Carb
Lunch – Protein, Carbs, Veg & Good Fats
Afternoon Meal – Protein, Carbs & Veg
Dinner – Protein, Carbs, Veg, Grains & Good Fats
Muscle Relaxant tea – Chamomile, Organic Chai, Green Tea . . .
Some days I eat 6x meals to my meal plan, other days I eat 3 meals and they are high calorie meals because I’m out and cant fit in all of the meal preps. I aim to consume approx. 2500 clories per day to suit my needs.
When preparing food I basically like it to look colourful, avoid sugars and lots of salts, artificial flavours and additives. We buy a lot of fresh foods so a basic balanced diet is my overall goal
When we have the spare time we like to whip up some healthy treats to eat through the week and get creative with our food just for fun and there are some seriously delicious recipes out there.
I am having fun pushing my body to limits I haven’t felt in years, I am enjoying getting back into workouts with my husband who enjoys pushing me, he runs his own online fitness page where he uploads workouts, recipes, gym apparel and day to day life of a fitness fanatic – you can follow him here – https://www.instagram.com/toddiegee/
We both own a gym so training for us has come naturally. We bring the kids along with us and they have their own set up in the office and kids play corner, we are able to sneak in a 1hour workout while they are there
Managing time with kids isnt an easy task and even though we own the gym I still have to ensure I plan my workout time correctly around my husbands work – sleep times – preschool days. So I fit it in when I can with the small window I have. Some days I just cant get into the gym so I will try and do a 20-30minute super set session at home with a set of dumbbells and 8kg baby.
We make it work
I am loving seeing the dramatic changes that are coming with this new season of my life.
Anyone can tell you that you need to MAKE time to exercise/train, anyone can tell you that there is enough hours in the day and nobody is too busy to exercise/train and anybody can tell you that there is no excuse! But, unless you WANT to make the time to get healthy, than nothing anybody else says to you will change your mindframe.
You can follow along on our gym social media here – https://www.instagram.com/thefactorytaree/