“Starting with the goal of regaining tissue resiliency and biomechanics is where any post-natal program should start,” says Sue Stanley, a Tier 4 trainer in Tribeca.
Strength: "The stabilizing ligaments in the pelvis become more pliable during pregnancy and after giving birth,” explains Simone White, a personal trainer specializing in post-natal training at Equinox Kensington. To re-build your foundation, Stanley suggests body weight core stabilizers, as well kegels to strengthen the pelvic floor. Deadlifts and squats, and upper back and posterior shoulder exercises will help support the new roles of carrying, feeding and lifting your newborn.
Cardio: A weakened pelvic floor can lead to incontinence, so avoid cardio that might challenge bladder control (running, jumping, bouncing) until the core and pelvic floor have been restored. Gentle stepmill sessions or walking (intervals with speed and/or a variety of conservative inclines) allow for more stable movement.
Rule number one: Get cleared for training by a physical therapist before stepping back inside the gym. Then take a measured, and focused, approach. “Slowly strengthening the tissue that was compromised can be an important tactic, so that a weak link does not become weaker,” says Stanley.
Strength: Build up the core and foundational movements (those that incorporate dead lifts, squats, lunges and rowing) to get the body functioning as a integrated whole. The nature of the surgery will always dictate how best to reintroduce the body to exercise; Jayne O’Brien, a Kensington Pilates manager who specializes in post-breast cancer surgery, tells her post-op clients, who face a weakened upper body and abdominal cavity, to focus on arms, core and upper body using exercise bands and weights to increase strength and flexibility.
Cardio: If the surgery impacted your lower body, try the arm ergometer or swimming with a pull buoy. If upper body, try walking, or water walking or jogging once incisions are healed. Starting over is an opportunity to build your base and improve your form. "Don't look at it as a setback, but rather a second chance to do things right," says Stanley.
“Keep moving—the worst thing you can do is to stop exercising,” says Nick Weiss, a Tier 3+ personal trainer in Kensington. “Injuring one part of your body actually offers you the opportunity to focus on an aspect of your fitness that you don’t normally think about.”
Strength: If you are typically bench-pressing, then work on flexibility, mobility and the smaller muscles that will help with stability, says Weiss, who suggests Pilates mat classes. “It’s these factors that will help you work out better and stronger when your injury has healed,” he says.
Cardio: Because injury is often the result of movement dysfunction, it's not a matter of controlling intensity but discovering what caused it and addressing that, explains Stanley. She suggests breaking it down to simple movements that are less repetitive, or cycling between different cardio methods; arm ergometer, cycling, and simple ViPR movements, for example.
Be smart about how you supplement your workouts. “There is often systemic and local inflammation as a result of training peaks and the event itself, so eating to bring down inflammation is very important,” says Stanley, who name-checks fish oil and turmeric as two foods that do just that. Proper sleep, hydration and manual therapy round out a good-for-you routine.
Strength: Think of this as a chance to re-balance the body, introducing new disciplines (such as Animal Flow or ViPR training) and focusing on the movements that got secondary attention while you were training. Antoni Akagi, a Tier 3+ and the personal training manager at Equinox Kensington, suggests either cutting down sets by one or lowering repetitions, while increasing rest and recovery time.
Cardio: Work in a different energy system, says Stanley. If you did a marathon, try sprints. Or swimming, which is low-impact yet tones muscles and increases cardio while giving joints time to recover.