Triathlete’s Postpartum Return To Training

Triathlete’s Postpartum Return To Training: Until recently, exercising during pregnancy was not very common.

It was difficult to find much in the way of evidence that suggested exercising during pregnancy was beneficial, and there didn’t seem to be a lot of information out there regarding returning to physical activity after giving birth. Many athletes that were expecting had to conceal their pregnancies from both their sponsors and their supporters.

As of late, more famous people have been giving updates on their pregnancies and afterwards through social media, and famous athletes like Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher have been bringing awareness to the scarcity of maternity leave in places like the New York Times. This has cast more of a spotlight on exercising and competing during and after pregnancy.

As athletes come back to activities such as running, triathlons, and basketball after having a baby, our opinions about what is feasible are changing. However, the studies done on this matter have not yet caught up.

Coming back to practice after giving birth can be a difficult experience for any athlete. The body makes changes to meet the expanding needs of the unborn baby, influencing the functions of the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and physiological systems.

One potential result of increased resting heart rate and oxygen consumption could be a split between the abdominal muscles. Additionally, it has been established that there are various modifications to posture and walking patterns.

The term “postpartum” usually applies to a period of 6-12 weeks, but not much research has been done on the physical recuperation of athletes in the same length of time.

It can not be determined if the modifications to strength and flexibility caused by pregnancy are temporary, unlike the cardiovascular and physiological alterations that accompany it. It is of great significance to heed your body’s signals as you resume postpartum workouts.

The challenge of returning to training postpartum

Despite the fresh look at the fourth trimester and postpartum period, advice about exercise still appears unsettled.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently released a committee opinion in 2020 concerning pregnancy and postpartum physical activity, which further highlights the absence of suggestions.

Of the document’s 3840 words, only 221 (5.75%)—which is less than one page long—had instructions for the postpartum athlete.

ACOG suggested that healthcare professionals ought to support a wholesome lifestyle and lend aid to moms who are restarting or initiating a new physical exercise program.

They suggested going back to previous physical activities and adding exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor when it is medically permissible. It is recommended by ACOG that breastfeeding moms feed their babies beforehand if they are intending to do any physical activity as having full breasts while working out can be unpleasant.

The part about exercising during pregnancy contained specific information about how long and how strenuous it should be, but the section about returning to sport after giving birth was short and incomplete.

Without much information and given only general pointers to guide them, athletes who have just given birth may engage in or go back to vigorous sports such as running potentially already carrying some risk of injury, including pain which could negatively affect both their physical and psychological wellbeing in the long run.

No matter how good the research and instructions are, it can be hard to get back to training for a wide range of reasons.

Given the changes to the body caused by pregnancy and delivery-related trauma, it is wise to regard recovery from pregnancy and childbirth as one would for a major injury such as a bike accident or a torn ACL.

The severity of the crash and the areas of the body that were impacted can both determine how long it takes to return to cycling after a bicycle accident. How many days did you need to rest from exercise to get back to health? Were there any complications in the healing process?

Someone who merely scraped their knee might not need to take much time off and be back to doing the same activities in no time; however, if someone broke their clavicle, this could be a totally different story.

In the same way, athletes’ pregnancies and the delivery of their babies are likely to be very unique.

Some may not be able to exercise through their pregnancy and may end up on bedrest; some can have a smooth pregnancy, but may experience trauma due to the delivery; then others can keep running up until their due date and not encounter any troubles in regards to the birth.

It is possible that you would need to have a C-section, whether it be pre-arranged or not, which would necessitate that you abstain from picking up any substantial load or performing certain activities that involve bearing weight for a short period.

There is a possibility of either a small tear in the perineal area (a “knee scrape”) or a more extensive tear (requiring long-term rehabilitation and possibly leading to pelvic floor issues) with a vaginal birth.

Most new moms come to realise that resuming their exercise regime is not as easy as they thought it would be. Giving birth is an enormous physical event, so it is necessary to allocate time for rest and recovery afterwards.

No single plan for returning to exercise exists that fits all people as each individual’s experience during pregnancy and after childbirth is unique. Athletes can adhere to certain general principles when they begin exercising again following pregnancy and childbirth.

How to start returning to sport post-partum

It is important to discuss your training objectives with the doctor in charge of your pregnancy as soon as you can, whether you are beginning to exercise during your pregnancy or returning to exercise postpartum.

If you have recently become pregnant, your healthcare provider will look for any reasons why it may not be safe for you to exercise over the next nine months. These can include the risk of early labour, problems with the heart and lungs, or difficulty with your cervix.

Exercising while pregnant is now recommended due to the numerous benefits it can have on both the mother and the infant.

Exercise should be done securely, avoiding any danger of stomach damage or stumbling (such as keeping on simple, paved paths and bike trails with minimum chances of tumbling); likewise, the atmosphere should be safe (eg. not too hot).

If any of the following occur during exercise: vaginal bleeding, dizziness, shortness of breath, contractions, or amniotic fluid leakage, physical activity should be immediately ceased.

Athletes, if their physical condition allows, have been observed to stay active until their due date and each mom should do what is most comfortable and best for them if it means transitioning from running to alternating running with walking or just swimming as the gestation progresses.

After giving birth, the first thing to do is to assess whether or not the mother is ready to restart physical activity. The birth provider can direct the athlete to a physical therapist who is knowledgeable in helping with returning to exercise following childbirth.

A comprehensive assessment by the physical therapist will be carried out to gauge muscle strength, motion, physiological variables (such as sleep, exhaustion, distress, cardiovascular fitness), pain, infection, how the individual acts in response to activity-related evaluation (such as hops and jumps), and also to look at past medical records, to identify any alteration in swimming, cycling, or running movements, and determine where to start.

It is essential to check for problems related to pelvic floor continence and prolapse throughout the period following childbirth, irrespective of how the baby was delivered.

If you experience any signs of urine leakage, abdominal protrusion, an impression that something is falling out of the vaginal area, involuntary defecation, pain while having bowel movements or having sex/putting in a tampon, or pain/swelling in your abdomen, then you should urgently seek a referral for treatment from a qualified pelvic floor physical therapist.

A pelvic floor assessment will typically consist of either an external or internal inspection, depending on the healthcare professional who is providing it.

An internal exam may be carried out 3-6 weeks after giving birth, during which time the therapist will feel the muscles with one finger to assess how the pelvic floor is functioning (tempo, synchronisation, level of relaxation when performing muscle contractions).

It is much less disruptive than a regular gynaecological examination, as it does not involve using a speculum.

If the player clears the assessment and is ok’d by a medical specialist to begin resuming the sport, a progressive return is suggested.

The beginning should emphasize the strength and toughness of the primary muscles that are in charge of the exercise and may have been adversely impacted by labour and delivery. These areas of the body consist of the hips, abdomen, lower pelvic region, and feet.

Recovery from birth

The first phase is focused on recovering. Your body has suffered huge changes, both inside and outside, during pregnancy. This delivery method may include either a C-section, a vaginal tear, or other methods.

Given that you have a uterus the size of a baby in your body, possible scarring, and various tears that need to be mended, you need to pay attention to your body and let it heal. This means availing yourself of rest, having a good diet, taking deep breaths, and finally, rebuilding your Pelvic Floor muscles.

There is a great deal of lochia or bleeding as the uterus returns to its regular size before delivery.

This natural flow of blood may persist for multiple weeks after giving birth and is a great indicator of distress or over-exercising going forward, as this will intensify bleeding and obstruct this essential period of recuperation.

Think about how long the physical labour will take. It typically takes several weeks for someone to bounce back physically after running a marathon, and that may even stretch to a full month for the more strenuous IRONMAN event.

It makes sense to think of recovery times like that of a one or multiple-day event, given that the labour took a few hours to complete.

You have achieved something remarkable, and you need to take some time to recover. One must not overlook the lack of sleep caused by feeding during the night, since this reduces the amount of energy available and brings an increase in daily stress levels.

Reconnecting with your pelvic floor muscles

The best way to have your pelvic floor muscles ready for birth is to do a lot of exercises to strengthen and relax them. You will now have to reestablish the associations between your mental thought and physical action and increase your strength and stamina.

This needs to be done slowly. Take into consideration this kind of Strength and Conditioning plan after (for example) a hamstring injury. You need to strengthen your pelvic floor again but don’t put too much strain on it.

This process should be carried out over an extended period and initiated shortly after the baby’s arrival. Not regaining control of your pelvic floor muscles could negatively affect your life down the line.

For many years, older women viewed leakage of urine during activity as commonplace, but in actuality, it is not okay if one is hoping to start running again.

Repairing your rectus abdominis muscle

Diastasis Recti, which is the splitting of the abdominal muscles, is the biggest factor that could cause your fitness regimen to be ineffective. Stories are going around that suggest the faster and more complete the healing process is if one takes a less strenuous approach for the initial 3-6 weeks.

You should not hold the baby too much but also avoid putting any stress on your torso while carrying objects like a briefcase, car seat, or sling.

Angela Jameson from Physically fit UK comments that having a weak stomach can lead to it becoming overly full and bursting. You can properly fasten it so that the zipper stays shut. When we start to move, the zipper becomes unzipped again.

We want to do the bare minimum to open the zip and do whatever is necessary to help the teeth return to their original position. This will take some time.

It has been acknowledged that the most important aspect of successful reconnection is the vigour of the fascia, which is the Linea Alba located under the abdominal muscles. Therefore, by engaging the fascia, it is possible to steadily enhance trunk strength.

It is recommended that women see a women’s health physiotherapist before running to ensure good pelvic floor health and to rule out diastasis recti before attempting running again.

Before resuming activities, a woman needs to get the okay from her health physiotherapist. They are likely to also have you perform a pelvic floor exercise as well, such as 10 squeezes and holds while standing three times a day. Begin your exercise routine with 3 sets of 3 holds and build up gradually from there.

Rewire your breathing

As the unborn baby increases in size inside the womb, it requires more room. The evidence of pregnancy seen on the outside (the belly) is one way it develops. It also pushes the internal organs upwards.

Following childbirth, two important matters arise: the organs must move to their proper positions, and breathing is no longer impeded by the presence of the baby in the womb.

One way to enhance your lung capacity and amplify your diaphragm’s use is to work on breathing exercises following childbirth. This can link your breathing up with perfect abdominal and pelvic floor work.

A return to training

This is an area that is widely recognized by both men and women. Most athletes have had an injury along the way, so it is a straightforward process that we have done before:

  1. Ensure that you have a normal range of motion

  2. Ensure your movements are coordinated (your muscles are firing and the movements are normal – use the large muscles to perform the primary movements, not the small ones).

  3. Begin to load and stress the system.

  4. Provide sport-specific functional movements

  5. Return to sport

This will aid in going back to practice like it was just another injury, and we should be at ease with this approach.

The major distinction is between steps 2 and 3; a women’s health physiotherapist should give you clearance, and before stage 5, it is best to gain clearance from a sports physiotherapist (preferably one who is familiar with your body).

Many women neglect to do this important task after giving birth, which is a mistake.

Anyone can perform a running activity, or train their muscles, yet the method by which they are doing so might be different than what they previously did or how they should be doing it. This can mean that while they might be able to move in a particular sport, they are not doing the movement correctly, which can result in a rapid overuse injury.

The hormone that helps to soften the ligaments and joints for childbirth stays in the body for a few months after birth, normally until breastfeeding is finished.

This means stabilizing is even more challenging. You won’t be able to count on the ability of your leg to stretch as much, meaning that you will put more pressure on the muscles, and the joints themselves. Thus, you are unlikely to get any speed when running. Meaning you will feel “off” when running.


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