You’ve given birth to a wonderful, squirming, bodily fluid-leaking bundle of joy (?). Maybe it’s yours and you get to manage the lifestyle change that comes with growing your family. Maybe you’re a surrogate and your life won’t change too much but you still have a lot of recovering to do. Maybe it’s some other combination of factors.
I recognize that there are SO MANY things that a new parent has to deal with postpartum. New and unfamiliar emotions. The baby blues or sometimes postpartum depression. Feeding schedules. Returning to work. The new mental load. And a discussion of all those things will come in time.
But today, I’m answering the question I get most often from postpartum folks:
HOW CAN I SAFELY (QUICKLY) RETURN TO SKATING?
As alluded to before, there are so many factors that can determine how quickly (and how safely) a skater can return to exercise and skating after giving birth:
- the strength of your support network
- adjustment to life as a new parent and all the entails
- mental health issues
- having a new living, breathing priority in your life
- returning to work and how that impacts your schedule
- lacking motivation or desire to train (for the reasons above and other reasons)
- access to childcare
- and more…
This article is going to assume that you are currently in a place where you are ready, able, and excited to return to training and skating postpartum and that you (mostly) have the above list managed in a healthy way. And the information is heavily pulled from the certification programs I went through to work with pregnant and postpartum folks from both Girls Gone Strong and Brianna Battles.
With all the disclaimers out of the way, let’s talk about your timeline to returning.
Oh, wait. One last disclaimer. Every pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period is different for every birth. It’s important to keep in mind that you need to be flexible when it comes to following this timeline. There may be points at which you can move more quickly but there are likely also points that you’ll need to slow down.
Approach your postpartum training with INTENTION now so that you can approach it with INTENSITY in a few months.
Weeks 0-6 Postpartum
We’re going to call this the “rehab and retraining” phase. In other words, the big focus here is allowing your body the time and rest it needs to recover from delivery and bringing your core muscles back online and working together without a big ol’ baby in your uterus. (Remember, that carrying a baby causes our core canister to reshape which impacts it’s function during pregnancy. We have to reteach it to be a canister again.)
Your priorities during these first few weeks are:
- recover from delivery
- get rest (whenever possible)
- build a feeding schedule/routine with baby and family
- re-establish good breathing patterns, pelvic floor/core connection, and gentle movement
Speeding through this phase DOES NOT equate to getting back on skate sooner. This really has to be your priority. During your first 6-8 weeks, your goal is not to return to skates. It’s to heal from the massive trauma your body underwent (sometimes it’s also traumatizing to your brain) and establish routines with your family that will lead to building time and space to get back into the gym and attending practices.
I’m just going to repeat that again because it’s wildly important:Speeding through the first 6-8 weeks of postpartum DOES NOT equate to getting back on skates sooner. Recovery needs to be your priority. Click To Tweet
Here’s what you can do to start rebuilding your routines, movement patterns, and core function:
1) Start practicing the connection breath.
Like I mentioned earlier, the canister/barrel shape that your core functions best in was compromised during pregnancy so the baby could grow to a viable size. It’s completely normal and natural and happens to everyone. But that means that your core muscles have spent the last 4-6 months not firing the way they typically do.
Spending time each day (assuming you’ve been cleared by your doc to do so) breathing in a way that helps you fire those muscles and get them working together again, is the foundation of getting back to training and skating. You can’t lift heavy things well without a strong and functioning core. You can’t skate well without a strong and functioning core, either. That’s the transfer station of all our power, remember?
2) Maybe do some walking?
This is a pretty standard recommendation for new parents to get them out of the house, provide stimulation and fresh air for baby, and start getting back into gentle movement. Should you walk during this time? Sure! However, like with all things postpartum, you should start small with about a 10-minute walk and only increase from there once delivery soreness and pelvic pain start to subside.
It’s important that you find time to walk without pushing a stroller as well. Getting that arm swing and trunk rotation back as you walk solo is a big part of retraining your core and transferring power again.
Lastly, even if you feel like you can walk 15, 30, 45 minutes or more in that first outing, don’t do it. You’d be surprised how quickly exhaustion and fatigue will sneak up on you. Intention now, intensity later.
3) Begin gentle stretching and mobility work.
It won’t look like the stretching and mobility work that you did before you got pregnant or gave birth, but you’re still healing! Some folks find it helpful to do gentle movement to alleviate soreness from delivery (or your new walking routine). With all movements at this stage, we want to start with ones that are more supportive and build from there.
You’ll also find that your body gets twisting in positions that weren’t common before. Like hunching forward to hold or breastfeed the baby and a lot more sitting (and maybe falling asleep in the position, too). Some of the easiest, most gentle exercise to start retraining your core and undoing your hunch are:
Knee Rolls — start with 10 total; breathe like you do with your connection breath to support the movement
Pelvic Tilt — start with 6-8; breathe like you do with your connection breath to support the movement
Shoulder Circles — 5 each direction; keeps ribs and shoulders stacked over hips
Open Book — 6-8 per side to start; definitely use something supportive under your knee, don’t overdo the twist
4) Think about your posture in everyday activities
While there’s no “perfect” posture, there are a lot of postural tendencies that can happen during pregnancy that we want to counteract during this phase (and all future phases). More than try to cram your body into the perfect posture, you simply want to be aware of what your body is doing while you go through motions of your everyday life.
Do you have a tendency to hold your baby on one hip and cant that same hip out at other times?
Are you arching through your lower back and pushing your shoulders behind your hips?
Is your butt getting tilted up higher since your core muscles have been stretched?
None of these things are necessarily bad but they are habits that we want to be aware of so we can adjust them when needed. Think about how you move, bend, stand, and pick things up as you go through your daily activities. Even that small measure of awareness can help build better movement patterns and retrain your core to work together.
It’s important to remember that you should only do what you can do. If anything causes pain or discomfort, then don’t do it. The most critical focus point during the first 6-8 weeks is recovery from a huge event. Mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Some Additional Considerations During This Phase
Schedule a consult with a Pelvic Floor or Women’s Health Physical Therapist. The 6-8 week check with your OB/GYN or general practice MD is NOT looking at the health of your pelvic floor or your core’s readiness to take on training and skating again. That visit is simply checking to make sure that (1) the wound inside your uterus from placenta detachment has healed, (2) any tear, surgical incisions, or stitches are healing as they should be, (3) that you’re breastfeeding well, and (4) that you’re doing okay mentally. (Although these last points are often brushed over.) There are several websites that can help you find a PFPT near you.
Your joints are a little stretchier than they used to be. Thanks to your body dumping relaxin into your system to loosen up your pelvis for birth, all of your joints are laxer than they were before you were pregnant. This laxity goes away and the soft tissues rebuild within the first year but it’s something to consider when you’re training, stretching, or on skates. It’s important to avoid stretching INTO the joint even if you gain flexibility by doing so. Try to remember your pre-pregnancy flexibility and avoid stretching much beyond that. We want our flexibility to come from our muscles, not extra stress on our joints. Also, if you’re experiencing easy dislocations or joint pain postpartum, it’s a good idea to stay off skates until it resolves itself.
There is no shame in seeking mental help. Postpartum depression is real (and normal). Even if you don’t think it’s depression and you’re only experiencing mild sadness after the birth of your child, it’s okay to seek help. If talking to a doctor or a partner seems overwhelming, you can always call the National Postpartum Depression Hotline at 1-800-PPD-MOMS.
If you are breastfeeding, take advantage of lactation consultants. Like with the PFPT, this may not be in the cards for you but if you can see one then do it. You can also join a local La Leche League that can provide you support with breastfeeding, establishing a schedule, and getting out of the house to talk to other parents.
If you are breastfeeding, consider taking a calcium supplement. There are myriad horror stories about postpartum skaters coming back only to break their ankles within a month or two. Breastfeeding can leach calcium from your bones so that your baby is getting enough via your breastmilk. One way to keep this from happening is to increase your intake of foods that contain calcium (dairy products, almonds, tofu) and/or take a supplement. You can wean yourself from the supplement as you wean your baby from breastmilk. BONUS: Getting back to resistance training also helps with bone density, so don’t rush it but know that it’s important.
You’re not alone. Lots of roller derby folks (and general people) have gone through this and come out the other side. Most of us don’t know what we’re doing. You can figure this out. ❤️
Postpartum care and recovery is critical to getting back onto skates. But what does postpartum recovery even look like? And how do you recover well enough so that you can return to derby? The first 4 weeks are all about gentle movement, bonding with baby, and helping your body heal.
This is a gentle and easy strength training prep program for folks in weeks 1-4 of postpartum. It focuses on rebuilding and rehabbing your core and other muscles so that you can move into more intense exercise (like skating) later on.