The Mummy Returns: Working out after pushing out (a baby)

May 8th, 2011  |  Published in Pregnancy and postpartum, Women stuff  |  10 Comments

Lieke Lekkas shared her training-while-pregnant experiences with us here. Now, an update on what she’s doing as a new mother — and of course, she keeps it real. (On labour: “It was a bit like squatting heavy with a really bad case of constipation.”)


The benefits of training during pregnancy are clear and have been researched, but how about the help that exercise can give you while giving birth… and afterwards?

I know that exercising all those months during my pregnancy helped enormously to maintain my health, which includes body awareness and hormones.

During labour, the benefits were also very apparent, especially when pushing, and overall recovery afterwards. I didn’t really need to push full force and I could control my breath as well as my contractions just fine. It was a bit like squatting heavy with a really bad case of constipation. I didn’t even feel the need to abuse my hubby or anyone else, and no need for medication (too late anyway, since it all took about 19 minutes).

Recovery felt much more rapid than I had expected. And Little Sprout had a 9/10 APGAR score, slept well from the start (anywhere), grows well and is rarely sick.

After 3 weeks I got bored of staying at home all the time and went to my gym for my first training. It felt great. And then I crashed completely for the next 2 months. Oops.

Nutritionwise, I had a complete blackout. I could take the easy way out and blame it on hormones but frankly, it was my own stupid fault, since I didn’t have enough milk to breastfeed and in my panic thought that by eating seven kinds of crap, milk would come too. Milk didn’t come; pounds came instead and piled up everywhere. DAMN.

Now, thankfully, 6 months out I’m back on track, I eat healthy portions and healthy food again, I’m back to training 4-5 times a week, and my extra weight is slowly decreasing into the “green zone”.

Starting up your training again after giving birth is tougher than I thought it would be. Even if you have had a good active pregnancy and have the perfect baby (and let’s be honest, the chance of that is about 1:1.000.000), that baby suddenly takes up vast amounts of time that used to be yours to spend. You start from scratch while being sore overall and you go without sleep for what seems like two hundred years at a time. Your partner is cranky.

And everybody who bothered you with “good advice” during your pregnancy is coming back at you with a vengeance now you’re down and out, with advice on how to raise your newborn cute little purple-faced, snub-nosed turbo poo-machine that apparently only sleeps when you don’t.

So how the hell do you fit your training into that crazy schedule as well?

When and where do you start?

And how long should it take to feel strong again and shrink into your usual shape?

Good news: it is possible and even fun to train with a baby around… it just takes some extra organizing.

get going again

According to your level of fitness and strength and how you feel after giving birth, you could give yourself a training break (not counting short walks with the baby) of at least about 2 weeks.

Start with longer walks with the baby outside when you feel like it. I started with 30 minute walks, 10 days after giving birth, plus some short sets of light squats and careful stretching.

After that: slowly build up your stamina and physical condition.

Take the baby with you whenever you can. They love going places. And they’re asleep most of the time anyway during the first few months when they’re not drinking milk or crapping their pants. My gym let me stash the pram within sight in the kitchen area and my little monster loves participating so I sometimes just hang her in her baby carrier and start training with her hanging on at the front.

in the gym

I found that I could easily do these exercises in the gym and it’s actually most of the stuff I used to do before.

  • Farmers walks (Go light! Your abs are still stretched out and they need time to recover.)
  • Squats (I could do these with stitches, but you might want to skip these at the start)
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Step-ups
  • Cross trainer (heaviest setting)
  • Shoulder press
  • Dips
  • (Modified) light Turkish get-ups


No gym? No excuse: go do some exercise in the park.

Make your initial walks longer as the days go by to increase your stamina. Babies love being outside, and it’s good for them too.

Have fun: find a fallen tree trunk and try log walking for balance, log squatting, backflips (haha)… all fun. As an added bonus, this stuff will make you feel like you’re 10 again.

Other exercises:

  • Pram lunges (or just lunges)
  • Step-ups on a handy park bench or stable non-slippery log
  • Interval short pram sprints (preferably without launching your baby)
  • Squats (using pram for assistance if necessary)
  • Park bench push-ups
  • Park bench dips
  • Park bench plank
  • Stretches (careful)
  • Etc etc. — use your imagination and go by how you feel (Here are some more ideas, from a couple of new mothers at Precision Nutrition.)

Most of the above indoor and outdoor exercises, and many more, are possible with a baby in a pram or baby belly carrier, but be a Good Mommy and please avoid anything that involves lifting heavy stuff that you wouldn’t want to squash your little sprout with if you let go of it. These include dumbbell presses, barbell shoulder presses, overhead squats. Or exercises that involve sprinting or jumping. Duh.

the basics of getting back into shape

  1. Never ever neglect your nutrition for a longer period of time, especially if you have a permanent tendency for Mediterranean curves (like me).
  2. Take your time to start up: pushing the limit is fine, but crossing it might mean crashing. QED.
  3. Ask for professional help if you have to: there is no shame in that. It’s really difficult to keep yourself on the right track day in, day out. This can be anyone from a counsellor to a physiotherapist who specializes in post-pregnancy rehab.
  4. Try something new you always wanted to try but never got around to like dancing, powerlifting or yoga. I started kick-ass street defense classes.

PS: I forgot just how good exercise is for fertility too. Number two is on its way.


  1. Leela says:

    May 11th, 2011at 10:02 pm(#)

    I want to second the advice about being careful and not pushing past your limits…which will be in a different place for a while. Not forever, just for a while. I was way too impatient, did unsafe things 4 weeks after delivery, and thus caused a couple of old foot injuries to come back (plantar fasciitis and a big bad neuroma) plus some new ones: inflamed knees, horrible pulling sensations and pain in my adductors, nasty feelings in my ankles and hips, etc. I had to completely stop everything but yoga and very gentle dancing, couldn’t stand in relevé, couldn’t walk without feeling crippled. My stupid fault for doing ballistic and impact stuff too soon. I was cocky and thought the rules didn’t apply to me. Physical therapy and a deep tissue massage about 7 months in made the knee pain go away, losing some of the weight helped the foot issues about 80-90%, and time brought my strength and agility back. Mainly, time was the factor. So be patient and don’t put yourself in the doghouse with your body.

  2. Friday 5/20/11 • Derby City CrossFit – Louisville, KY says:

    May 19th, 2011at 6:41 pm(#)

    […] Baby / Training After a Baby / CrossFit Mom Squatting Toes-Out Damaged Hearts Pump Better When Fueled with Fats Chasing […]

  3. Annie says:

    May 20th, 2011at 5:22 am(#)

    I had a terrible time getting back to working out after baby #4, because I did too much, too soon and got mastitis–twice! I also was not self-aware enough to take care of other stressors before they became a big deal, and didn’t prioritize top-notch nutrition as I should have (read: too busy to eat).

    This is great advice here, I hope it helps other pregnant and postpartum mamas.

  4. Blog-watch: pregnancy latest says:

    June 2nd, 2011at 12:39 pm(#)

    […] Krista posted up a great post-pregnancy workouts article by Lieke Lekkas who explained what she’s been doing to workout since she gave birth.  It’s pretty […]

  5. Gubernatrix says:

    July 11th, 2011at 9:20 am(#)

    Lieke, I love the picture! So cute! And great article too. People always ask me about this stuff but I’ve not been through pregnancy yet so reading about your experiences is so useful. Thanks and all the best!

  6. Pre-natal strength training - weight training, strength, fitness, weights, losing fat, women's weight training, bodyweight, free weights, powerlifting, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, bodybuilding, olympic weightlifting says:

    July 22nd, 2011at 1:31 pm(#)

    […] If you are interested in more real life experiences, check out my friend Sally Dixey‘s Crossfit-while-pregnant blog, and for a great post-natal story read about my friend Lieke’s experiences via Stumptuous. […]

  7. Megan Jones says:

    March 23rd, 2012at 11:54 am(#)

    Such great advice. I had never really thought about how keeping in shape during your pregnancy could be extremely helpful during the birthing process. I agree that you when exercising you should push the limit but don’t cross it. Listen to your body, it knows how much it can handle!

  8. Gwen says:

    April 11th, 2012at 10:54 am(#)

    I know this article was posted a while ago, but is there any chance anyone has any information on getting back in shape if your pelvic floor is still weak? I’m having trouble finding anything that doesn’t say “NEVER LIFT ANYTHING AGAIN OR YOUR ORGANS WILL FALL OUT ZOMG. How about some swimming, little lady? Also, do nothing but kegels while lying down” and I’m going a little nuts.

    My PT is insisting that my pelvic floor is shot and my organs are going to fall out any second now, and I admit that walking for a while makes things feel weird and bulgy down there, but the PT is incentivized to say “This is all crap and you have to come to me twice a week for a year”, plus, there doesn’t seem to be any good research on this stuff. I just can’t understand how never asking my body to work hard again and only doing kegels while lying down is going to help everything get stronger?

    If anyone has any resources or information on this it would be so great to hear it.

  9. Lieke says:

    April 16th, 2012at 7:13 am(#)

    Hi Gwen,

    I don’t know how long ago you’ve given birth, but I do have experience with this as I’ve had the same problem:
    As far as I can determine from personal experience, the best solution is getting stronger as soon as you feel god enough to do it,getting stronger as in: Sweat and squat!
    Kegels are fine if they’re helping you, but if not try something else is what I’d say. Yes, your organs do need some time (as in a few months, not a few decades) to get back into place but there is NO ffing way they’re going to fall out.
    So by all means, try to get into your routine again slowly if you feel well enough and are tired of peeing your pants every 2 sneezes.
    If you need some exercises besides the ones mentioned above, look at some of the posts on this site. There are also some articles on benefits of exercise during and after pregnancy.
    You could also ask your PT to stand guard and maybe scoop up anything that accidentally drops on the floor while you squat away…

    Happy squatting and congratulations!


  10. mamazee says:

    August 19th, 2012at 4:28 pm(#)

    i loved the SRC shorts (had to order from Australia, as i’m in Canada?) – they were pricey, but awesome to support my pelvis as the hormones stabilized after the birth of my eighth child.

    Also, i found this other website specifically about the “myth” of the pelvic floor? she says it should be called the pelvic wall as it’s not on the bottom :) and you should be pulling everything UP, not IN… which makes sense to me…

    hope it’s okay to post these links? They really helped me this time around…

    I’m aiming both for functional fitness AND a reasonable amount of weight on my 5’2″ frame. After baby #6, i got down to 110 lbs (Zone diet, running, and crossfit) but i had trouble opening the doors at the mall :) – i’m hoping to be a little stronger, and not a ton heavier…

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