You see them being offered at your local park, community center, or local gym. You see advertisements for them posted in places where moms frequent. You see images of moms crunching mercilessly away or pounding the pavement with the stroller ahead of them in hopes to get rid of the “baby fat”.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about mommy boot camp + stroller fitness classes. I was not particularly interested in these types of classes after I had my babies, but many moms are, and I absolutely understand why. You don’t have a lot of free time to yourself when you have children—especially a newborn—so you do what you can to try and stay as healthy, fit, and active as you can with a newborn in tow.
There is one free stroller fitness class held in various parks around my hometown (Naples, FL) that is run by women who have NO experience working with the postpartum fitness population and they have upwards of 30 moms meeting every week to do their workouts. I recently witnessed some of the exercises being done in one of these classes at the park near my house which triggered me to write this piece.
Over the years, my coaching career has led me to working with female athletes (and I believe EVERY woman is an athlete), particularly those that are moms or soon-to-be-mothers. I simply could not believe the lack of resources available for us ladies. I’ve made it my personal mission to help this population do fitness better because they deserve so much more than what is generally being offered or targeted at them. New moms are probably the most vulnerable and susceptible to extreme and poor exercises choices because they are so desperate to get their “bodies back” after baby.
I know what it’s like to want to feel like your “old self” again, to be a bit more active, to socialize with other moms going through the same thing as you, and to still be able to bond with your baby while you do something for yourself…and these types of classes seem like the perfect answer. Right?! Well, before I go any further, these classes can actually be very beneficial for you when they are taught by the right instructor who has the knowledge and experience to handle a postpartum client. It’s not as easy as just wait until your 6-week check-up and then you can resume all physical activity again.
The problem is that so many of these “mommy boot camp” classes take that EXACT approach—that new moms are able to immediately resume all physical activity after the 6-week mark. They don’t factor in where each and every single mama is on her postpartum journey and what she may need in terms of exercise. There is WAY TOO MUCH emphasis on burning calories and fat and not enough on healing the body from the inside out before introducing high impact activity.
So, you will typically see most mommy boot camps filled with LOTS of exercises that are detrimental to a postpartum body (and this can even mean a years postpartum body) like: sit-ups, crunches, planks, jumping, running, sprints, burpees…to name a few. And unfortunately, you’ll find that most of these classes WON’T make mention of any of the postpartum topics that these women NEED to hear like: appropriate postpartum exercises and progressions, proper alignment, proper coaching cues, rehab exercises for the core and pelvic floor, Diastasis Recti (what is it and how to check for it), Stress Urinary Incontinence, Pelvic/Lower Back Pain, when to see a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, etc.
The approach that most of these exercise classes take (i.e. pounding a new mom into the pavement with high intensity exercise to help her get her “body back”) will never be the solution for her. In fact, it will only contribute to the problem…even if it’s not manifesting itself right now. Once postpartum, always postpartum, and the exercises and movements that you do both during and after pregnancy ABSOLUTELY matter in the long run.
So please mama…if you are considering participating in one of these classes, please make sure to do your homework before signing up for a mommy boot camp type class. First and foremost…make sure that you have taken the time to participate in some sort of program that will restore the function and coordination of your core and pelvic floor BEFORE adding more physical activity to the mix.
It is also a very good idea to schedule even one visit with a physical therapist in your area that focuses on pelvic floor health. They will be able to give you a much better idea of how well you are healing than will your doctor or midwife. Finally…don’t be afraid to share your prenatal and postpartum health history with the instructor, including how you are feeling and what you may be physically experiencing right now. Also, ask the instructor if they cover such things in their classes like:
- The importance of alignment at rest, during daily life, and exercise
- Teaching how to both contract and relax the pelvic floor
- Teaching the coordination of the core and pelvic floor contractions with breath and movement
- How to assess for Diastasis Recti and know when it has healed
- Tummy safe core, strength training, and aerobic exercises
- Proper lifting mechanics
- How to properly wear baby if wearing during classes
- How to recognize signs and symptoms associated with any kind of incontinence
- How to modify exercise for a prolapse
- How to recognize when exercise is too much for the pelvic floor
I want you to have the best postpartum recovery experience possible. If you need help trying to navigate a core recovery program and postpartum fitness routine then click the link below to learn more about my 8 week core and pelvic floor recovery program for moms: