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Postpartum Exercise and Recovery

When it comes to health, few topics are more controversial than pregnancy.

But one thing we can all agree upon is this: the way you treat your body before and during pregnancy has a huge impact on the health of your baby.

It’s a time when little else is truly in your control, which is why I’m all about “stacking the deck in your favor.”

My colleague and physiotherapist, Marika Hart from Herasphere, agrees.

We need to prepare women better – pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy – for the physical demands of motherhood.” – Marika Hart

About a month ago, I shared an interview I did with Marika about gestational diabetes. What I didn’t share is that after we stopped recording, we stayed on the line to chat about her area of expertise: prenatal and postpartum exercise.

I decided this info was a little too important to keep between the two of us, so we recorded another interview – this time with me in the interviewer seat (this was a first!).

Some highlights from our postpartum exercise and recovery interview:

  • What a giant sack of potatoes has to do with pregnancy exercise
  • How the old-school thinking about abdominal separation (diastasis recti) is changing (hint: “closing the gap” isn’t necessarily the solution)
  • Our views about safe and unsafe exercise in pregnancy and postpartum
  • How long you can expect to wait before resuming exercise postpartum (and the types of exercise you should be cautious with at first)
  • Why she recommends getting a “Goldilocks level of exercise”
  • The 3 risk factors (a trifecta) that set you up for postpartum back pain and how to avoid it
  • The types of exercise you want to avoid early in postpartum recovery and why

The insight she shares about postpartum exercise and recovery isn’t the typical “get your body back quick” nonsense you see all over Instagram, but more about truly regaining strength and function safely. I hope you find it helpful!

Postpartum Exercise and Recovery

Behind the scenes intel: This was recorded while I was still pregnant, so you can hear my personal account of some of the physical challenges I faced. Thankfully, my postpartum recovery has been pretty easy due in large part to following the tips we discuss in this interview (and my Pilates background, of course).

Now I’d love to hear from you:

If you have any postpartum exercise and recovery tips to share, tell us about it in the comments below. Your story might help another mom out, so don’t be shy!

Until next week,

PS – In case you missed it, Marika references our gestational diabetes interview where we discuss how my real food approach compares to conventional nutrition advice. It was an info-packed hour! Check it out here.

PPS – If you’re looking for a great postpartum exercise and recovery program, be sure to check out the MUTU system. It’s endorsed by PTs worldwide, including Marika. If you are a more seasoned athlete (and especially if you enjoy lifting), consider BIRTHFIT[Full transparency: I’m an affiliate for both of these comprehensive programs.]

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Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.


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  1. Thank you both for the info. Although I missed some parts I was able to get the idea (I’m not a native english speaker, I understand written english but listening is much harder!)
    I’m 20 weeks pregnant of my first baby. I was doing Crossfit until pregnancy but then I swiched to pilates. Oh I miss crossfit so much! I thought I could go back to it sooner after birth… But I have now some incontinence problems especially when I sneeze. I had this problem before when I did double unders but I paid no attention to it. I understand now I must do my return to exercise gradually. And talk to my gynecologist about my incontinence.

    • Glad it was helpful, Laura, and congrats on your pregnancy. Yes, I highly recommend seeking the expertise of a women’s health physical therapist. 🙂

  2. Very interesting and such a great subject! I forwarded this onto some of my girlfriends who are pregnant or recently gave birth. I started doing spinning and I notice a couple of pregnant women in the class. I was amazed that they kept attending very close to their due dates. It’s nice to hear that if the mother feels comfortable and does their normal routines with caution, maintaining your normal workout patterns can be achieved during the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Great info!!

  3. Hi Lily! I found your book this year after I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and unhappy with the advice I was given for managing my blood glucose numbers. Reading your book was so helpful and took so much of the stress out of my complicated pregnancy. Thank you for putting in the work for the benefit of mamas like me! I gave birth almost 6 months ago and I regret that I didn’t do more exercise while I was pregnant. I am now trying to get my core back in shape and repair a small diastasis. I am working with a physical therapist on basic core strengthening and she feels like I probably have a bit more work to do before I’m ready for a full-blown pilates class. Do you (or Marika) have any recommendations for postnatal pilates courses or dvd’s I can do from home while baby is napping? Thanks again for all your research and work!
    – Your #1 fan

    • Hi Courtney, I’m so glad Real Food for Gestational Diabetes helped you navigate the complicated (and sometimes scary) diagnosis of GD. 😉

      You’re certainly not alone in having diastasis recti. I also had a small one and was able to resolve it with corrective exercise. Here’s a little more about DR from Marika.

      If your PT thinks you’re ready for more, the MuTu program is excellent, fully online, and can be done at home. Check it out here. Cheers!

  4. Hi, I am really interested in listening to this but it says due to privacy settings I can’t watch it here. Is there a link to where I can watch it somewhere else?…

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