Starting an exercise class post-baby? 3 really important questions to ask your trainer.

I was talking to my friend who was about to start a ‘buggy boot camp’ following the birth of baby number two. I mentioned a few things to consider when starting the class (not local to me), and it led to a conversation about the fact I was telling her stuff that she didn’t know about (nor would I expect her to). While I think awareness of the ‘why and how’ to exercise safely when early postnatal is improving amongst mums – and the fitness industry – still all too often I hear stories about Personal Trainers or class leaders prescribing ineffective or worse, downright unsafe exercise for this special group.

The simple fact is, your wonderful human-producing body needs to be looked after and treated differently to before. So, to help you separate the good from the bad, here are 3 REALLY important things to think about, or to ask your new trainer before starting any post-baby exercise classes:

1. Does the trainer have any relevant qualifications? If fitness professionals are working with women – and particularly postnatal women – then it’s fundamental that they have the necessary knowledge and skills.  There are lots of courses out there tailored specifically to understanding the impact of pregnancy and birth on women’s’ bodies and what that requires in terms of healing through exercise, so ask what qualifications they have.

The fact is every woman’s birth experience is different, and good qualifications allow trainers to account for and deal with this. Sure, some mums have little or no incontinence issues, muscle or joint pain, tummy weakness or other common postnatal issues, but in my experience most DO! And that means in very simple terms, at least in the short term, ruling out some common exercises like crunches, star jumps, planks, press-ups, burpees, weights, sprinting, or bouncing up and down. But it also means looking at the client’s body as a whole; how are they breathing, eating, sleeping, and exercising their pelvic floor? I pride myself on keeping as up to date as possible with my skill set and knowledge, which being a Holistic Core Restore® coach allows me to do.

2. Do they plan to, or have they asked you any relevant questions about your birth, your pelvic floor or core health? Most trainers or gyms ask a set of standard medical questions as part of new client consultations. But as mentioned, every pregnancy and birth is different, with a unique set of (non-visible!) results which will impact what exercises are safe for you to do. A good postnatal trainer will always specifically ask about and understand each of their clients’ individual postnatal needs, from their birth to pain, to ‘leaking’, and offer adaptations on exercises, or particularly for large classes, a safe base for everyone to work from. So if they don’t, either consider another class option or tell them what you are experiencing and ask how you should adapt your workout! All Holistic Core Restore® coaches prescreen with over 50 questions before starting any programme with any prospective client.

3. Have they, or do they plan to check if you have a tummy muscle separation or ‘diastasis’? This is a key one, as working on the stomach is normally a key thing new mums want to improve the appearance of, but also an area where you can do yourself more damage than good if the trainer doesn’t know what they are doing. It’s really important the trainer checks whether you have a separation of the muscle above and below your belly button (some women do, some don’t) and if so to what degree. It’s really common, usually, nothing to worry about (most women experience at least some separation post-birth) and can absolutely be worked on, but it really impacts what exercises you can do. Crunches, anything involving lowering two legs when lying on your back, planking too early, or lifting/swinging heavy weights or kettlebells, for example, will cause additional stress on muscles which need care and attention instead and indeed can worsen issues like leaking urine, which is common but not normal post-birth conditions.

The key thing here is to know that the right class or trainer is there for you, but it might take some research and time to find the right one. The cheapest option is rarely the best one, so invest in that incredible body of yours, be confident to ask the right questions, and I assure you, you will see much better results!