It is great to see that more and more women are seeking properly trained and qualified personal trainers to help them with getting back to their pre-natal state of fitness or even improving on it. Training post-natal women is a great thing to be involved in as long as you understand the key changes that have taken place in a woman’s body during pregnancy and also in labour and the effect that that can have on training them after birth.
First things first you need to make sure that your client has been cleared by their GP to exercise this is normally given around 6 weeks after birth (12 weeks after a C-section). If the GP has not given them clearance training should not commence until they have. Prior to this low level ADL such as walking and some gentle pelvic floor exercise are OK but the client needs to keep the intensity low and avoid over exertion.
Once the clearance has been given you should carry out a consultation as you would with any client, paying carful attention to the postural deviations and any complications during pregnancy or labour. As a personal trainer you should also make clear to your client that their body has been through a lot and that they may not be able to jump straight back into the exercise plan they had in place previously to pregnancy.
There are a number of key benefits to exercising post pregnancy initially it will help to boost the mood of the client by releasing endorphins, it will help to lose and control weight, helps to boost energy levels, and will improve strength and endurance…. Much needed to look after an energetic baby!
There are however a number of precautions that need to be taken to ensure that the client does not experience any issues with post natal exercise. A key factors is that both the client and the personal trainer need to remember that the hormone relaxin can stay active in the mothers system for up to 12 months. This interesting chemical has made all the mothers ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues lengthen and stretch. This is vital for birth, but as long as this is in the mothers system it has the effect of causing joint laxity. This will make joints much less stable than prior to pregnancy, over time this substance will leave the body. The trainer must try and avoid anything that put high levels of pressure through the joints such as plyometrics or running. This makes a focus on technique very important as faulty technique may lead to increased stress on joints and other supporting structures which may ultimately lead to injury.
Additionally the client should stay as hydrated as possible, this is especially if they are breastfeeding. A breastfeeding woman needs to ensure good hydration levels so that they can still continue to produce milk effectively.
Being a new mum is a hectic time in any woman’s life and this brings with it a couple of issues that a personal trainer may have to deal with. Babies tend not to sleep so well in the first year or so (and for some time after), this means that clients may be tired and miss sessions. During sessions clients may have periods of low energy especially if they have had a demanding few days with the baby. As a trainer it is important to impress upon clients that this is normal and that if the client needs to identify their high energy points in their week and these would probability be the most effective times to train.
The media and the how it creates unreal expectations with your clients is also another important barrier that needs to be addressed. Many celebrities have had their stores published about how they have achieved amazing weight loss post pregnancy. This is not the normal and this needs to be explained to clients to prevent disappointment and possible de-motivation that might occur if clients do not achieve the same amazing weight loss seen in the media.
The personal trainer has two key aspects to work on besides the common weight loss goal of post natal clients. These are the pelvic floor and the addressing of any postural issues that might have arose as a result of pregnancy. This will be covered in a future article, together with effective programming skills for the post natal client.