Return to Exercise Postpartum

  • How to Return to Peloton Classes Postpartum

    Introduction

    A question I hear a lot is “How do I return to peloton classes postpartum?”. Peloton already has some great postpartum strength classes but what about the cardio classes? Don’t worry. As a Peloton fanatic and postpartum exercise coach, I’ve got you covered. Below, I explain the what, when, where, why and how of returning to peloton workouts postpartum.

    Getting Started

    When you are first returning to exercise postpartum, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

    1. Get Medical Clearance

    Even if you had an active pregnancy, it’s a good idea to get medical clearance before returning to anything more than walking and restorative exercise. Our bodies did something pretty amazing by creating a human and laboring or enduring a c-section. Some of the healing is hard for us to see. Getting clearance at your postpartum follow up appointment, around 6 weeks postpartum, is a great idea. 

    2. Start with Short Workouts

    Starting with short workouts gives us an opportunity to see how a workout impacts us without requiring a ton of recovery time. These first workouts are essentially a test to see how our body responds before adding on more. 

    I recommend starting with a 10-minute workout and adding on in small increments ( about 5-10 minutes). In the 48 hours following a workout, you will watch for pain, incontinence, excessive fatigue or hunger, and/or a dip in your milk supply. If you are symptom-free, you can move onto the next time duration. If you did have any of those symptoms, I recommend figuring out how you can resolve these issues before lengthening your workout. For example, if you were excessively hungry, could you eat more after your workout. If your milk supply dipped, consider if you need to hydrate more. 

    3. Wait 48-Hours Between Workouts

    This isn’t a forever rule, but it is helpful the first few weeks. It gives you an opportunity to see how a workout impacts you, including the day after the workout. You may also find you need more recovery time right now. Lack of sleep, stress, and breastfeeding can make it harder to recover from a workout. If you are not recovering, you likely won’t see the progress you are hoping for. 

    4. Stick with low-intensity efforts

    In the first few weeks returning to exercise postpartum, stick to low to moderate intensity workouts. You shouldn’t be out of breath. This will make it easier to recover from workouts, so you can workout more consistently. Working out every day will over you more value than one hard workout every five days. Keeping workouts low intensity also leaves you with energy left in the tank. This is really important for parents who need to be ready to go with the flow.

    5. Pay Attention to Pain

    Oh, how I wish I had taken my own advice on this one. About 4 months postpartum, I injured my meniscus when I ignored a weird feeling in my knee and decided to play tennis anyway. I ended up spending months in physical therapy instead of running or playing tennis.

    If something feels off, trust your instinct. Thanks to hormones, lack of sleep, and sometimes lacking pelvic stability, postpartum people are at a higher risk of injury. Reach out to a physical therapist who works with postpartum people to help you understand what is going on and your unique action plan.

    Your First Peloton Cycling, Row, and Tread Classes Postpartum

    We’ve talked about some guidelines to help you return to exercise postpartum. Now it’s time to get to the fun stuff! Not all classes are created equal when it comes to being postpartum-friendly. Here are some details to look for when choosing classes the first few weeks.

    Cycling

    Start with low-impact or beginner rides. They tend to include minimal, if any, time out of the saddle. Standing on the bike requires a lot of core strength and stability. If we don’t have that available, our knees are more vulnerable to injury and we may experience a lot of downward pelvic pressure and/or leaking. These classes also focus on form and tend to use really supportive language. If you are competitive like me, it can be hard to ignore an instructors cue to “leave it all on the table” even if that’s not your goal for the day. So I like to remove the temptation and focus on lower intensity classes.

    It’s ok to choose a more intense class because you love the instructor, music, or live class timeslot. But make sure you go into with a plan. Ignore the class cues if they don’t align with your goals for that workout. And, of course, have a blast!

    Row

    Rowing is a new love of mine. I like that it is low-impact and a full-body workout. It’s generally safe to start rowing again when you have been cleared to resume exercise. However, you may need to adjust your form and technique as you work on regaining your core strength. 

     

    The Lean Back

    Be cautious with the backwards lean during the drive phase if you have diastasis recti or show signs of coning. If you are having trouble controlling abdominal pressure, consider removing or minimizing the lean back while you focus on ab rehab.

    Use Your Breath

    You may feel a lot of outward or downward core/pelvic pressure during the drive phase. If so, use your breath to support your movement. For many people, starting their exhale before they push off will help engage the core and pelvic floor muscles. 

    Use Both Sides of the Body Equally

    After having a baby, some people find themselves accidentally favoring a side. Make sure you are sitting facing forward, not leaning to one side, and pushing off with both feet equally.

    Tread/Outdoor Runs

    Running is a higher impact activity than cycling or row. Therefore, many people return to running later than other lower impact activities. Based on the guidance from this Internal Journal of Sports Therapy paper, you may benefit from the strategy below. I highly recommend checking out the linked journal article for a first-hand overview of their recommendations and additional details. 

    Postpartum Weeks 3-4 or Later
    • Start walking 15 minutes or less; increase frequency and duration as long as feels good
    Postpartum Weeks 5-7 or Later

    Transition to walking up to 30 minutes or less as long as continue to be symptom-free

    Postpartum Weeks 8-12 or Later

    Complete a Return-to-Run Self-Assessment and/or get a professional assessment from a physical therapist who works with postpartum runners. This will help you understand your body’s ability to handle the impact of running and what strength exercises you may want to start focusing on. 

    If the assessment goes well, you can consider adding short running intervals to your walks. The run intervals should stay 60 seconds or less. The recovery interval should be at least twice as long as the run interval. This isn’t a sprint. Run intervals should be a low to moderate intensity level. If you can’t get out a long sentence, you are going too hard. 

    I’d recommend sticking with Peloton Walking classes during this phase. The recommended run segment durations are shorter than you will generally see in a Walk/Run class. And remember, there is no benefit to starting this phase if it feels bad. You may find spending a few weeks focusing on strength training makes the run intervals feel a heck of a lot better. 

    Postpartum Week 13+ or Later

    Assuming all is going well, you can transition to Walk/Run classes. Peloton has a great 8-week intro running program called “You Can Run” (Tread) and “You Can Run Outdoors”. I recently completed this program and loved it! Even as an experienced runner and certified run coach, I really benefited from their cues during each walk/run.

    There are two things to keep in mind if you start this program. First, you may need longer recovery segments than they are prescribing and that is ok! Remember our guidelines and don’t be afraid to shorten a run segment or a workout if it is too much. Second, returning to running postpartum is rarely a linear process. So there is a decent chance you aren’t going to perfectly stick to their timeline. There are a million reasons why you might need to repeat a class or take it late. I know we all want to earn the badges, but go at your own pace and try to enjoy the process. You will get there!

    Conclusion

    I hope this was helpful! Still have questions? I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to message me at erin@therunningdoula.com or DM me on Instagram (erintherunningdoula).

    Want a custom plan? Check out my coaching services!

  • 13 Tips to Start Training For Your First Race Postpartum

    Training for your first race postpartum can come with a few surprises. Here are 13 tips to help get you to the finish line!

    Women making a plan with colorful post it notes

    Before You Start Training

    Below are a list of topics to help you start planning to train for your first race postpartum.

    Knowing your why is the key to staying motivated and knowing how to adjust your plan, when needed. When we don’t know our why, we may make decisions based on how we have always done something instead of what makes sense in this particular moment. So ask yourself a few questions:

    -Why do I want to train for this race?

    -What does success look like to me?

    -What details do I care about most? What details are not important to me?

     

    “Realistic” is a really important part of this statement. Training after kids will most likely look different than it did before kids. Not just because you are recovering from building a human being in your body. But also because you are likely busier, getting less sleep, and potentially experiencing more self-doubt than you ever have before. You want to create a plan that:

    -Fits the time you actually have available on your average week

    -Feels like you can “win”

    -Allows enough time to prepare for your even

     

    They say raising kids takes a village. Well, there were times when I was returning to running postpartum that I felt like I needed a whole state. At first, I was confused why I was struggling so much. I had returned to running from breaks/injuries before. But this time was different. I had more going on and less felt in my control. I ended up finding help in three places:

    An amazing PT/run coach – she is pelvic/orthopedic PT, endurance runner, and mom, so to say she “got it” is an understatement

    Athletic mom friends – sharing my challenges and hearing their challenges reminded me I was in good company

    A run group – I started my own run group. I loved the existing groups in town, but felt like I needed something a little unique for this phase of life. I wanted a group that made it easy for someone to say “yes” even if they were worried their kiddo would need to nurse, dirty a diaper, flip out, etc. Needless to say, this group has been amazing!

    I can’t stress enough how much seeing a Pelvic PT, who was well-versed in supporting postpartum runners, helped me. If you are in the Madison-area, I highly recommend Dr. Taylor DeMars at Peak Endurance Physical Therapy.

    Dr. Carrie Pagliano also has some great, free, online “return to run” resources that I use when training. This includes a return to run self-assessment that helps you identify potential strengths and weaknesses that may impact your running. I like to use the self-assessment to kick off my training program, and I repeat it about every 3 weeks to see how my strength training is progressing.

    As I talk about in “What You Really Need to Know About Stroller Running”, I really thought running time should be “me and only me” time. But that didn’t set me up well to “expect the unexpected”. I was often skipping runs because something came up. Getting a run stroller really helped me get in a walk or run more consistently.

    Also, it turns out it can be a lot of fun to have your kiddo join you for a run or even a race. It’s definitely a different experience than running alone but not necessarily an inferior one. In fact, I love the way people cheer me on at 5ks when I have the stroller. And it’s fun sharing something I enjoy with my kids. Not to mention, you will start noticing that races these days are filled with aspirational, badass stroller runners.

    This may sound silly but it’s a necessary step because people’s feet often change during pregnancy. So make sure to try on your running shoes before the day you plan to run. If they don’t fit, consider heading to a running shoe store to try on some pairs in person. I love online shopping as much as anyone, but your foot may have changed in more ways than just adjusting your size. So it’s great to have a professional help you find a shoe that feels good.

    Female runner tying her running shoes outdoors

    During Your Training

    Congratulations! You’ve started your training. Below are a few things to expect and watch for during your postpartum return to run training program.

    I often joke that parenting is one big opportunity to learn how to adapt and go with the flow. Just this past weekend, I had a training run planned. The weather was great and our schedule was wide open. But about an hour before my run, my husband went from healthy to vomiting. Unfortunately, stuff like this happens . . . a lot. But it is possible to make your training work with these kinds of surprises. You just need to be mentally prepared for it and ready to adapt. Need some ideas for how to get a workout in when you can’t run? Check out my post on “How to Choose an Alternative Workout When you Can’t Run”.

    There are more and more studies about the importance of sleep when it comes to increasing our fitness level and avoiding injury. Unfortunately, the news isn’t great for a sleep-deprived parent (aka me). But before you call it quits, remember knowledge is power. We can use this information to make smart decisions about prioritizing sleep when possible and managing expectations when prioritizing sleep isn’t possible. 

    And remember if you aren’t seeing the results you would expect from your workouts, don’t immediately assume you need to work out harder and more often. Take a look at your sleep, along with your stress management and food intake, to consider whether your body is getting what it needs to recover and build fitness from your workouts. 

    Oh how I wish I had taken my own advice on this one! When I was 4 months postpartum with my second child, I was eager to get back to my old hobbies. I had done a lot of things “right”. I had an active pregnancy and visited a pelvic PT around 10 weeks postpartum for an assessment and return to exercise game plan. But something happened around 4 months postpartum that turned my rational brain (and a decade’s worth of knowledge from working in prenatal/postpartum fitness) off and my desire to do something “normal” took over. I went to a cardio tennis class. Everyone was so sweet and made comments like “wow, it is so amazing you are out of the house.” So when something felt off in my left knee during the warm up quad stretch, I decided to ignore it. I had had this twinge of pain a few times in recent weeks and always seemed to be fine later. And there was no way I was walking off that court after everyone was so proud of me for showing up. Well, that was a mistake. I ended up minorly tearing my meniscus and spent months in PT instead of playing tennis or running. 

    So if you are experiencing pain or somethings feels off, I highly recommend reaching out to your care provider or PT. Pain is complicated. It can be a sign of injury, muscle weakness, muscle tightness, or a complex combination of factors. During training, I have had pain where the solution was strength training and other pain where the solution involved breathing and relaxation exercises.  Having a skilled provider offer an assessment and plan is a total game changer. 

    When we think about building strength postpartum, we often focus on the pelvic floor and core muscles. But we forget about our feet and ankles. Starting a run program while you are still working on your core/pelvic stability can ask a lot of your feet/ankles to stabilize and respond to impact. So incorporating foot/ankle exercises can help us adapt to this challenge. Want to learn more? Check out GaitHappens on Instagram

    It took me years of running to understand that training plans only offer a starting point to work towards your running goals. Most people will need to adjust their plan along the way based on how they feel, their progress, and time availability. There is no shame in adapting your strategy, in fact, it is incredibly smart! I recommend checking in about every 2-3 weeks to decide if/how you want to adjust your plan for the next few weeks. Check out this “Check-In Worksheet” to learn some questions you can ask yourself. 

    I love to cheer on professional runners and triathletes as they return to running postpartum. I am so grateful they are sharing their experiences, bringing attention to the challenges of postpartum recovery, and giving us mega doses of inspiration. But unless you are a professional, too, remember your plan should not look like their plan. This person has a totally different athletic history than you. They have advanced skills when it comes to reading their bodies’ signals and knowing when to push/back off. Not to mention, running is their source of income, so they may make decisions and take risks in their return plan that don’t make sense for a casual runner. So cheer on these amazing parent athletes and steal some inspiration from their grit, but don’t compare yourself to them. 

    At the end of the day, remember you are choosing to train for this event. So try to enjoy the road to get there. Most of us ran into some hiccups, speed bumps, or freakin’ mountains during our path back to running. My own progress has been anything but linear, but I still love it! So on the good days, give yourself a million high fives. And on the tough days, remember forward is a pace, you are amazing, and this is hopefully just the first of many wonderful races ahead of you!