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Tips & Techniques to Get You Back to Full Strength

Returning to Life and Fitness Postpartpum

Abby Schenk 
 • 
October 4, 2021
Returning to Life and Fitness Postpartpum

My girlfriends always say to me “you’re a PT, so you know what to do post baby right?”  Wrong- the fun thing about being a PT is that there are various advanced certifications and specialized areas of practice within our profession. One area that is very specialized and niche is Women’s Health Physical Therapy. Women's Health Therapist are amazing individuals trained to help women from all stages of prenatal, postpartum recovery, and pelvic floor health.     Pelvic floor weakness and tightness can indicate cause for seeing a Women's Health Therapist.  Pelvic floor dysfunction can stem from natural aging, deconditioning, pregnancy, poor C-section healing, lifting injury, or low back injury.  Symptoms can vary amongst women and are not limited to only pain or incontinence.  Women's health Physical Therapy is a critical step to allow healing of pelvic floor secondary to the trauma of delivery. This would be similar to doing Physical Therapy to heal a rotator cuff injury.  I have seen a Women’s Health Specialist in the past for pelvic floor pain multiple years ago and WOW did it help.  It not only helped the pelvic floor pain, but it helped my ongoing low back pain I had when sitting and lifting.   

So back to having a baby!  My pregnancy was smooth for most all of the 36.5 weeks. On 7/1/2021 I delivered a beautiful baby boy, Carter Leroy Schenk. Hats to all the mama’s out there because unlike my pregnancy, my delivery was not smooth. The delivery was the hardest marathon I have ever completed.  Not to mention it took me longer than it takes me to run one >3.5 hours.   Like most mama’s I felt having that little bundle of joy in my arms was the most amazing reward in the end.  I was not, however prepared for what my body was going to feel like during recovery.   I have always felt like I maintained a high level of fitness after competing as a Cross-Country and Track athlete in College.   My pre-pregnancy routine consisted of 5-7x a week of fitness including cardio, strength, and endurance.  This regiment included lifting weights,  Olympic lifting, resistance band training, running, rowing, and cardio/hiit training.  The break down was roughly running, biking or rowing 3-4x a week, strength training 2-3x a week, and cardio/hiit training 1-2x a week.  I had some recovery and soft tissue days in there too - probably not enough!  During pregnancy I maintained my fitness with the above and modified along the way.  I also had some guidance from a friend, Kristine, owner and personal trainer at FIT Project.  Kristine has additional certifications in strength and conditioning with emphasis on training during pregnancy. 

 As most, at 6 weeks I was cleared by my OBGyn to return to prior level of working out and fitness.  Even being a Physical Therapist I was like ok...what does that look like?!  As you can see from my video with our very own Women’s Health Therapist, Ashley Dougvillo I had a lot of questions and concerns with pelvic floor and return to fitness.  Since I had pelvic floor issues in the past, I knew that carrying a baby for 9months could not have been easy on an old injury.  Plus, I had already started to experience some new symptoms such as pelvic floor heaviness, incontinence, pressure/pain.  I knew it is NOT ok to pee your pants, have pain with sex, have heaviness when squatting, or back pain when lifting.  However, I did not exactly know what to do to prevent this.  So, I reached out to our Women's Health Therapist, Ashley, and we discussed how to properly transition back to fitness, running, and when to see a specialist to guide you along the way.   

 Here is my takeaway: 

 

    • Your post-partum recovery depends a lot on your pre pregnancy and prenatal fitness level.   
    • Start slow- breathing exercises and walking are very important initially.  Depending on how that is going you can start incorporating body weight strength around 3-4 weeks. 
    • If you are not experiencing any heaviness, incontinence, or pain then 6-12 weeks you can start incorporating higher level activities running, jumping etc. However, 12 weeks is a safer time frame to start plyometrics but AGAIN depends on you and your recovery. 
    • Seeing a women’s health specialist for consultation postnatal is indicated majority of the time to assist and guide you in exact step by step recovery for safe reentry.   
    • You can see a women’s health specialist at any stage of postpartum even years later but the SOONER the better!  
    • Stop activities and modify or see an expert if you have leakage/incontinence, pelvic floor pain, prolapse, heaviness 
    • A walk to run program is encouraged when beginning running but continue to listen to your symptoms for speeding up or slowing down training 

See Ashley and I dive deeper into this discussion and her thoughts on specifics for return to run/work out! 

 Here are some examples of exercises I have been currently working on 10-12 weeks postpartum.

Meet the Author
Abby graduated with her doctorate in Physical Therapy from the St. Francis University in 2013. Since graduation she has been spending her time advancing her manual and professional skills through additional certifications. Her vision is to be able to offer elite services to her patients through spending quality one on one time in order to education, specify individualized therapy sessions, and make a greater long-term impact by creating adaptable changes. Her mission is to refine the physical therapy experience by creating a path of recovery unique to each and above the standard of care. Abby ran cross-country, track, and was on the high school swim team. She went on to run cross-country and track in college and was All- American, and captain. She loves working with the fitness athlete, the collegiate athlete, and the active adult population because she understands personally what it feels like to be both on the injury and recovery side. Abby understands life happens and the body gets tired of our daily poor movement habits, however her intention is to prevent injuries from interfering with your health and fitness goals. Her mission is to empower her patients to be their very best self and move freely without pain or restraints. The outcome is accelerated healing by providing the highest level of skilled services for each patient’s needs. Combining a patient’s dedication, higher level sport-specific conditioning, and movement re-training, the result will be the best you. Some of Abby’s advanced training includes: Rock tape and Certified Rock Blades Technique Specialist, Blood Flow Restriction Certified, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, Myofascial Decompression, Myofascial Release, Pose Certified Running Technique Specialist, amongst other advanced education.
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