Wondering how long it’ll take to get back to “x”?
Ah, the postpartum timeline.
One of the biggest questions I get from newly postpartum clients is how quickly they can get back to ____.
High impact movements.
You name it.
Although postpartum is such a person-specific experience, I’ve created a general postpartum timeline you can use to help guide you through this new and often confusing time!
Here’s a general postpartum timeline:
I’ll break postpartum down into three phases:
- Your body’s foundation: weeks 0-6
- Your gym foundation: weeks 7-12
- Building back to normal: weeks 12+
Weeks 0-6 postpartum
This is full on recovery time. Everything should feel doable, “easy” and safe on your muscles, joints and ligaments.
This is the part you might feel like skipping, but is truthfully the most crucial component for your short and long term performance in the gym.
Skipping this phase is the long road – not the shortcut!
Here’s the areas you should focus on at this time:
- Walking: work on building up to a 30 minute continuous walk by week 6. Start with 5 minutes a day in week one, and add 5 minutes to your walk each day for each consecutive week
- Breathing: nail down the connection breath. This is when you breath into your belly, lats and ribs on the inhale, and engage your core and pelvic floor on the exhale.
- Stretch and mobility: try to get in 10 minutes of stretch/mobility work each day. Focus mainly on the hips, low back and neck.
- Deep core: this coincides with the breath work. FIGR:Postpartum includes all of the exercises you’ll need. Some examples include heel slides, hover plank, knee twists and glute bridge heel taps.
- Light body weight movement: adding in moves like body squats, glute bridges, good mornings and step-ups (all things that mirror our every day movements) will help us feel stronger as we go about our daily tasks! And are safe to do since we literally do them throughout our days in other areas of our life.
Everything during this time should feel no more strenuous than your every day tasks, and should make you feel stronger and more in-tune with your body!
Weeks 7-12 postpartum
If the first 6 weeks were building back your body’s foundation, the next 6 weeks are building back your gym foundation.
Here’s what we’ll focus on during these weeks:
- Body weight movement: continue working on the movements we started in weeks 0-6. We can add in more movement variety, increase reps/duration of these movements, and make them feel like more of a workout rather than “recovery” work.
- Weighted movements: start progressively adding dumbbells, then kettlebells or barbells, to those base exercises. Start with simple moves, then over time progress to more complex or dynamic movements.
- Modified core work: we’ll stick with some of the deep core work we started with, but now we can start adding in modified versions of our normal core work. Moves like bent knee leg raises, modified planks, pallof presses and dead bugs are a great place to start. FIGR:Postpartum also includes all of this core work!
- Endurance: around week 10-12 is the general time when you can start adding in jogging or other endurance-style workouts. Start with 5 minutes and monitor how you feel during, directly after and the next day. If all is good, you can slowly build duration from there! We’re looking mainly for pelvic floor symptoms and core control/stability.
This is a crucial time in your return to the gym, so make sure you really tune into your body and modify when needed! Focusing on form, matching your breath work to each rep, and taking your time with each exercise will pay off huge dividends in the future.
Weeks 12+ postpartum
This is where a lot of the confusion happens.
At this point, some women still feel uncomfortable or foreign in their bodies. If this is you, stick with the same focus points we had in week 7-12 until you feel ready for more challenging work. REMEMBER: there is no prize for pushing past what your body is actually ready for, so stay in this phase until YOU feel ready to move forward!
If you do feel confident in your recovery work and are ready for the next level, this is the when we can start playing with different workout parameters:
- Movement variety: start testing those more dynamic moves, like kettlebell swings, thrusters or DB snatches. Try 5 reps or so at a time, testing core control, pelvic floor function, coordination, and overall comfortability.
- Duration: if your workouts were 20-40 minutes during weeks 7-12, try going for 30-60 minutes and see how your body feels.
- Intensity: workouts should feel like a 5/10 or so during those first few weeks. Now you can try upping the intensity to a 6-7/10 (or more if feeling good). You can do this by decreasing rest time, increasing the speed of your reps, adding more weight, and playing with workout structures.
- Load: progressively build on the pounds for your strength movements. Muscles get stronger when they are forced to perform properly under larger loads, so in order to get stronger, this is a necessary part of the process! The key is to add weight progressively, not all at once.
How long should you stay in this “testing” phase of your postpartum timeline?
You’ll stay in this part of the postpartum timeline until you feel back to normal – whatever normal means for you.
If you considered yourself a beginner or intermediate in the gym, you may feel back to normal right around that 12 week mark.
If you considered yourself advanced or elite in the gym, your postpartum timeline may last much longer. It took a longer time for you to build to that high skill/ high weight work pre-pregnancy, so you should also expect it to take more work to get back to it too.
In my own experience and in most of my client’s experiences, it may take 7-12 months or even longer, depending on your recovery process, to truly feel like you’re able to perform at your normal level again. There is no right or wrong amount of time you spend in this postpartum timeline and it truly is different for each individual!
Continue building the intensity, duration, variety and weights in the gym, over time, at your own pace, and that’s the only way you’ll start feeling like your gym-self again!
Except this time, as a mom, why not get even stronger?
I got you,