One of the biggest points of confusion in postpartum fitness is knowing when it’s “safe” to get back into more challenging workouts.
“When can I run again?”
“When can I go to that HIIT class again?”
“When do I know I’m ready to move on from the rehab-y stuff – like heel slides and figuring out my core engagement breath – to doing workouts that make me actually sweat?”
I hear you.
You want to feel challenged again. Feel the burn. Get that achy, tingly, “I just got the best workout!” kind of feeling again.
Whether you want to get back into CrossFit, that group HIIT class at your gym, an exercise DVD full of jumping jacks and mountain climbers, or something else that puts your pedal to the metal, this is what you need to know first…
There’s a method of training that the best postpartum fitness trainers follow to help their clients get back into doing what they love.
It’s what I call the LCLE Method.
It stands for Learn. Control. Load. Explode.
The idea is simple: you don’t want to just walk into a gym and pick up a 45lb barbell and start doing a round of 50 squats at 6 weeks postpartum.
So you need a system, a method to follow to get from “just getting back into exercise post-baby” to “doing all the jump squats!”
The LCLE Method is the way.
Once you’re beyond the rest phase of postpartum – where you’re literally laying, sitting, lounging (hopefully with a good book, some Netflix and a few supportive family members or friends bringing you food and blankets and chocolate) – it’s time to implement the LCLE Method.
Here’s what it looks like…
Your body just went through a crazy amount of change and all your muscles – especially your core system – need to learn how to move and function without a baby in your belly.
The mind-body connection idea is huge here.
You need to get your brain and muscles connected again and learn how to effectively – and safely – move in your postpartum body. A body that can feel very different than your pre-baby or pregnancy body.
This is where you learn to squat again because it suddenly feels so much different and weird and awkward to squat without that beach ball strapped to your belly and a core that feels kinda like a limp noodle.
This step is critical because it’s your foundation.
Even if you’re a pro. Even if you’ve exercised 5 days a week since you were 12. Even if you’re an athlete. Everyone. Everyone starts here.
Learning the correct movement patterns, learning to connect to your body again, learning to actually listen to your body is the first step.
And you don’t want to skip it.
Awesome! You’ve created that mind-muscle connection again. You’ve learned how to move and be in your new-ish postpartum body.
Now it’s about controlling that movement and working on the details so you feel confident that you know what you’re doing and your body feels strong, capable and in control.
This is about building on that foundation you created in the Learn phase.
You know how to squat well. You know to not tuck your butt under as you drop down low.
You’ve connected to your body again and you can see and feel all the ways awesome breathing, engagement and alignment strategies have helped you recover and continue to help you get stronger.
You know the basics.
Now let’s do some more reps and keep on practicing so that you feel really in control and confident and your body is able to get stronger.
Let’s build some strength – with things like bodyweight exercises and maybe even using some light resistance – before we pick up that 35lb kettlebell.
You’ve done the bodyweight squats. Things are feeling great! You’re getting stronger. Let’s up the challenge by adding some weight.
Load is exactly as it sounds – you’re going to add some load.
This looks like adding more weight, more resistance, more reps, more sets, less rest between reps and sets.
Basically you’re at the point where your body is ready for more challenge. You’ve built a strong foundation and your technique is first class flyer status. Now it’s time to push it a little further. While still being mindful of how it all feels in your body.
Because remember – just because you feel ready for the Load phase does not mean you can ignore any signs or symptoms that are coming up that suggest you might wanna just back off a little (or a lot).
It’s about challenging your body without pushing it over a cliff.
Now you’re ready for what you’ve been waiting for.
Now you’re ready for that HIIT class. Now you’re ready to up the ante.
Now you’re doing jump squats, jumping jacks, running, power cleans, sprints up a hill…
At this point you’ve built the foundation, learned how to move in a controlled way, gained some powerful strength, now you’re ready to explode outta the gate.
You’re here because you did all that work up front.
You’re here because you didn’t jump ahead (literally!) before your body was ready.
You’re here because you have all the strength, strategies and technique in your back pocket to get you over that finish line.
Let’s Walk Through an Example…
Curious how this might actually look in the real world?
Here’s a video that gives you a visual of how you can progress through these steps…
Now I know what you’re going to ask me…
“How long do I spend in each phase?”
And the better question is:
“When do I know I’m ready to move onto the next phase?”
Because every body is different. Every postpartum is different. Every mom is different.
There are so many ways you can know you’re ready to move into the next phase but I’ll make it simple for you.
You’ll know you’re ready to move onto the next phase when:
You feel ready.
I know. Lame and not really helpful, right?! Ha!
But you know that feeling you get when you’ve been doing the same exercise a few times and you just don’t feel as challenged anymore?
You feel like you need to switch things up because it’s starting to get a little boring?
You’re mentally and physically up for the challenge?
That’s when you’ll know – things are getting boring because it’s becoming second nature to you to just have the alignment and do the engagement strategies. Plus you’re strong enough to handle it.
You’ll be ready when you feel ready. Not “I’m just gonna push through this pain and ignore that flashing light going off in my head to stop because I need to keep going to prove something.” No. Not that kind of “ready”.
And then you’ll know you’ve made the right move when:
You aren’t getting any signs or symptoms that you’re pushing it too hard, too fast, too soon.
Leaking during those jump squats? Feeling any pain, pressure, discomfort?
Exhausted after that workout to the point where you could use a 3 hour nap worse than a toddler who spent the whole morning running up the slides at a playground?
Don’t push through it.
Go back to the learn and control side of things and check your technique, form and readiness. Is your form on point? If so, is your body truly ready for this or do you need more time, strength or other strategies in your back pocket first?
It’s all about paying attention to that inner voice – instead of telling it to be quiet and shoving it aside.
You’re a mom.
You’ve got instincts.
Amazing inner wisdom.
You know that van is going to come speeding down the back alley so you tell your kiddo to get to the side, NOW!
Trust your instincts.
Because this is what will set you up to enjoy doing the fitness-y thing you love for the rest of your life.
It may feel like a long process. But it’s short compared to constantly pushing through and getting injured or coming up against uncomfortable symptoms over, and over, and over again.
Mindfully moving through the LCLE Method is the best way to get back into doing what you love.
You do it right the first time so that you don’t have to keep going back for more rehab again and again because your body is actually strong, capable and ready to be pushed.
To getting #momstrong,
P.S. Have a friend who’s dying to get back to her HIIT class but you’re pretty sure she needs to slow her roll? Send her this post.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What phase of the LCLE Method do you think you’re in right now?