Weightlifting postpartum can be tricky. On the one hand, you’ve just had a baby and are over-the-moon with your new addition. On the other hand, you may be anxious (or at least thinking about) returning to the gym.
There is a lot to consider when returning to lifting. You may be recovering from vaginal tearing or a C-section. If you’re nursing, you may be dealing with larger (and possibly leaking) breasts. Postpartum hormones may be wreaking havoc on your emotional and physical well-being.
Do not be discouraged. You can return to lifting, even if it’s a slow start. Here, you can read articles with tips and advice for returning to the weights.
This is a tale of two very different postpartum experiences.
I had my daughters less than two years apart. I was 30 when I had my first, and 31 when I had my second.
My pregnancies were virtually the same. I never had cravings or morning sickness. I worked out throughout both pregnancies, lifting right up until my water broke with both girls.
They arrived at almost the exact same gestational moment — both born at 37 weeks and 2 days — although my first came at 7:43 in the morning and my second arrived an hour and a half earlier.
My labor and delivery with each girl was textbook. I didn’t have an epidural with either and, when I had the urge to push, I got each of those stinkers out in a few pushes.
But after my first daughter, I had zero desire to return to the gym. I went through the motions, but I didn’t enjoy my workouts. It wasn’t until I stopped breastfeeding (well, pumping as we never got the hang of breastfeeding) at 10 months that I finally felt that part of my old self return.
When Katherine Trakhtenbroit walked into the gym, Patrick Curtis didn’t know what what to think.
Born with club feet that were later surgically corrected, doctors told her she would never run. She has a shortened achilles tendons and limited ankle and foot mobility. She has hypothyroidism. She’d just had a baby via C-section and was still recovering.
Anneke Cannon worked out her entire pregnancy. At 33 weeks, the powerlifting coach hit a lifetime PR, deadlifting 330 pounds. Three days before giving birth, she benched and deadlifted 80 percent of her max.
“I found that lifting kept me sane,” she said. “I was so used to lifting for strength or aesthetic goals but never lifting because it was something I actually liked or made me feel good. I found so much power in learning to listen to my body and moving and lifting because it felt good.”
After 22 hours of unmedicated labor, she gave birth to her son, Miles.
“I think training and staying active during pregnancy immensely helped with labor and delivery,” she said. “I think that lifting helped me maintain stamina both mentally and physically. I went into it knowing that I could do hard things.”
After having Miles, Anneke (pronounced: “Monica” without the “M”) thought she’d be able to return to training within weeks. She thought she’d bounce right back. But life after baby is a whole new world and Anneke faced some harsh realities.
Postpartum fitness is tough. It’s hard to know when to return to the gym, when to push, and when to rest.
It should go without saying that if you experienced complications during labor and delivery — episiotomy, c-section, etc. — your recovery and return to exercise will be much different than a woman who had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery.
A big concern for women hoping to return to the gym is how her workouts may impact breastfeeding. The old school way of thinking was that if a woman exercised, the lactic acid that built up would result in a sour tasting milk.
In his chapter on breastfeeding and exercising in “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy,” Dr. James F. Clapp writes, “The concern that regular exercise during lactation alters the quality and quantity of the breast milk had its origins in the dairy science literature, which indicated that even modest increases in physical activity decreased milk production in cows.”