Hi Hayley,

About two weeks ago, I gave birth to (for Lainey: spontaneous, no fertility treatments) twin boys totaling about 13 pounds of birth weight, by cesarean section. Prior to my pregnancy, I was very active, running half marathons, doing cardio cross training, playing tennis, and attending Pilates reformer classes. Once I was pregnant with the twins, exercise became a struggle due to bad morning sickness followed by pregnancy safety guidelines and extreme discomfort on my feet caused by my extra-large bump. (I gained) 30 pounds, all in my torso area and am 8 pounds above my pre pregnancy weight now. However, it seems that my body has lost all the muscle tone that I worked hard to get and maintain. I'm not complaining, because having the twins leaching off my body in utero meant that they didn't need any NICU time and are healthy. Still, I am wondering how I can safely begin working on my fitness once I get the green light from my doctor to exercise. Do you have any advice?



You need to start back slow, and make sure you have the clearance of your doctor before getting back to the gym. The number one mistake I see most women make, especially those who were very active before becoming pregnant, is they jump back into fitness too quickly. They quickly forget that they just carried a baby (or in your case two babies) for over nine months and believe they can do everything they were doing, fitness-wise, prior to becoming pregnant. If you follow the advice of the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiologists, women who have had caesarean births should wait at least six weeks before starting back into an exercise program.

We have lots of things to blame for this desire to “get our bodies back” or be as fit as we once were, as quickly as possible. Celebrities do it all the time, right? Especially with the help of Photoshop! Your body is different now that you are a mom. I am not saying that you will never get back to where you once were, but you need to take your time, and be kind to yourself along the way.

The first, and most important step, to rebuilding your body is getting your core back. You are at more of a disadvantage because of the caesarean, and if you do not strengthen this area before you start to increase the intensity of your workouts, you are at a huge risk of becoming injured. The havoc that carrying a baby, or two, does to your body is nothing to be ignored. So do your kegels! Every single day! (Click here for a refresher on how to activate your deep core muscles).

The next step is before you start getting back into unilateral work (these are exercises where you are only supported by one foot, such as a forward lunges, step-ups and running) you must make sure you can keep a level pelvis. Begin by doing lunges in front of a mirror while paying attention to the hip on the side of the back leg. As you lower that back leg down towards the floor, the hip must not dip, drop or swing back. Until you can do 10 lunges with a perfectly level pelvis, stick with exercises that have two feet on the floor at all times. Squats, split squats and stability ball hamstring curls are a good place to start for the lower body. Cardio right now should be stationary cycling, elliptical, walking and swimming.

Once you notice that your pelvis is stable, then you can advance to low step-ups, other unilateral exercises and reintroduce a walk/run program to your routine. You can also start to challenge yourself and increase the intensities of your workouts. Remember, it has been a LONG time since you were active so running is not going to be as easy as it used to be (along with the sleepless nights you’re enduring). Again, it is important to remember that you will get back to where you were, but it is going to take time and patience.   

If you are breastfeeding, make sure you are staying hydrated as well as in-taking a few more calories each day to make up for those that you are burning while exercising and breastfeeding. Don’t worry – this should not take long to get back to the intensities that you remember, but if you push too hard too quickly you are going to be plagued with injury after injury. It is better to start slow, and do things right, than to push too hard and have to step back. And this is the same advice I give anyone coming back into fitness, whatever the reason for the hiatus.