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Tips To Get Back Into Pilates After Pregnancy


Tips To Get Back Into Pilates After Pregnancy

Image Source: Natalia Deriabina / Shutterstock

Tips To Get Back Into Pilates After Pregnancy

If you find yourself searching for ways to get back into your workout routine after pregnancy, especially for a complex exercise like Pilates, you’re not alone. The changes that occur in your body during and after pregnancy can make previously simple activities seem unfamiliar and puzzling.

Combining a shifting center of gravity with a weakened core, you may find that your postpartum Pilates experience is quite different from pre-pregnancy. According to Melissa Bentivoglio, a celebrity Pilates instructor and founder of the at-home reformer FRAME, Pilates is known for its ability to realign the body and build strength, flexibility, and core stability. She emphasizes the importance of exercising caution postpartum and being mindful of your body’s readiness to incorporate exercise, respecting your body’s intuition.

Pilates is a commonly practiced exercise during pregnancy, with appropriate modifications, involving slow, controlled movements that engage the core and focus on breathing. Despite not being associated with intense sweating, Pilates works multiple muscle groups simultaneously, necessitating careful consideration before restarting it.

How soon can you get back into Pilates?

The timeline for returning to exercise after childbirth varies. For an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it’s recommended to wait a few days before light stretching, walking, and gentle exercises like kegels. Typically, doctors advise waiting until the six-week postpartum check-up before resuming exercise. For individuals who had a cesarean section, it may take up to 12 weeks for the doctor to clear them for exercise, as the incision site needs time to heal.

Many factors and complications can influence the postpartum period, such as diastasis recti, a separation of abdominal muscles. Thus, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider regarding your unique situation and the type of exercise you plan to resume.

What should you remember when you get back to Pilates?

Once you have the green light from your doctor, here’s a guide to reintegrating Pilates into your routine:

  1. Meet your body where it’s at: Start at a fitness level that suits you and gradually increase the challenge. In Pilates, controlled movements are essential to maximize muscle engagement.
  1. Take it slow: Returning to Pilates postpartum requires patience. It’s essential to acknowledge individual experiences, muscle memory, and recovery timelines.
  1. Focus on the mind-body connection: Pilates relies heavily on the mind-body connection, helping elevate mood and restore a sense of self. Intentional activation of specific muscles improves exercise effectiveness.
  1. Get back to your breathing: Proper breathing is critical in Pilates as it facilitates muscle activation without holding your breath.
  1. Modify when necessary: Modifications can help achieve intensity and prevent strain while rebuilding strength. For instance, performing a plank with bent knees can keep the core engaged without risking abdominal separation.

What are the best postpartum Pilates exercises to do early on?

Begin with gentle exercises like pelvic tilts, focusing on controlled movements, and modified side planks to engage the core stabilizers and inner muscles. These exercises can be incorporated through at-home reformer classes or practiced without equipment.

“Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Inhale to prepare, and exhale as you slide one heel forward along the floor, straightening the leg. Inhale to return to the starting position,” the instructor states. “Repeat with the other leg. Focus on engaging your core and maintaining pelvic stability.”

“Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Inhale to prepare, and exhale as you lift your hips off the floor, creating a straight line from shoulders to knees,” the instructor explains. “Inhale to lower your hips back down. Focus on engaging your glutes and core, along with the inner thighs and pelvic floor.”

“Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Inhale to lift one leg off the floor, extending it straight in front of you,” she says. “Exhale to lower the leg back down. Repeat with the other leg. Maintain good posture and engage your core.”

“Sit or lie comfortably. Contract your pelvic floor muscles as if you’re stopping the flow of urine,” she says. “Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat several times throughout the day to strengthen the pelvic floor.”

“Lie on your side with your head supported by your arm and legs straight and stacked. Inhale to lift the top leg toward the ceiling. Exhale to lower the leg back down. Repeat on both sides to work on hip and outer thigh strength.”

“Find a low plank on the forearms, place a glider or towel under each foot, and slowly slide your right foot out to the right side as far as you can without changing the position of the rest of your body. Bring your legs back together and repeat on the left side. Brilliant exercise for incorporating adductor muscles (outer thighs), glutes, and pelvic floor.”

“Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Curl your head, neck, and shoulders up to look at your thighs, extending your arms long at your sides hovering just above the mat. Begin to pump your arms up and down a few inches as you inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts until you reach 100. Keep the movement controlled, and modify as needed for comfort.”

What are the Pilates exercises to avoid postpartum?

Equally important to what you do? What you don’t do. Below, Bentivoglio shares movements to avoid when you’re getting back in the swing of things.

“Avoid exercises that place excessive strain on the abdominal muscles, such as full sit-ups, double-leg lifts, and especially placing strain on the lower abdomen, which can further create muscle separation,” she says. “These movements can stress the rectus abdominis and may not be suitable until later in the postpartum recovery.”

“Twisting movements that put significant strain on the spine and abdominal muscles should be avoided,” she says. “This includes exercises like Russian twists or advanced spinal rotations.”

“Steer clear of high-impact exercises that involve jumping or sudden, forceful movements,” she says. “Your joints, especially if you had a cesarean section, need time to recover, and high-impact activities can increase the risk of injury.”

“Avoid exercises that involve unsupported back extensions, as these can strain the lower back,” she says. “Examples include full extension backbends or exercises where you lift your upper body off the ground without proper support.”

“Movements that involve deep flexion of the spine, such as deep forward bends, should be approached with caution,” she says. “These can place stress on the abdominal muscles and may not be suitable during the early postpartum period.”

“Skip heavy resistance training exercises that place a significant load on the muscles,” she says. “It’s important to start with lighter resistance and gradually progress as your strength and endurance improve.”

“While gentle stretching is beneficial, avoid excessive stretching or overextending your muscles,” she says. “Hormonal changes during pregnancy and breastfeeding can affect joint laxity, making it easier to overstretch and potentially cause injury. Relaxin, which is a hormone produced during pregnancy, can be found for up to six months postpartum and can create destabilization in the pelvis and joints.”

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