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Personal Training Post Pregnancy Clients: Top 5 things to know

by Cassandra Forsythe

Post pregnancy clients come with specific issues. Dr. Cassandra Forsythe wants to make sure you’re prepared to help them.

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How many times have you been approached by post pregnancy clients that just had a baby and are looking to get their bodies back?

Or the long-term client that returns to you soon after giving birth? Some of you may have dealt with this, but unfortunately, were unprepared for what you should do.

The good news is that if it’s been more than a year following the birth of her child, depending on her fitness level and level of function, your client should be good to follow a standard training program that works for most new clients.

But, what do you do when this client is coming to you just weeks or a few months after delivery? What do you do then? If you’ve never had a baby yourself, you probably had to ask her what she could do and go with that (which is a good approach because each client is different). But, wouldn’t it be better to have more knowledge on your side so you’re better prepared for what she can and can not do in the gym with you?

In this article, we’re going to look at the Top 5 things you need to know when dealing with early post-pregnancy clients. Some info listed here might be TMI, but guess what? It’s reality, so deal with it. (insert smiley face here).

#1 – Breastfeeding

Many women today are choosing to breast feed over bottle feed given the plethora of benefits that are offered to newborn babies from mother’s milk. From the bonding benefits between mother and child, the nutrition benefits for baby that out-surpass formula, and the cost-savings, be prepared for your post-pregnancy client to come to you with this on board.

But, how do you train your client in this state? For most women, breast feeding makes their breasts larger, more tender and more apt to leakage (Yes, I said leakage). Your client will hopefully know the benefits of breast pads, but if she doesn’t, don’t be shocked if she suddenly rushes out of a training sessions holding her chest. She’ll soon get it after that.

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Because her chest area will be more delicate, you do want to avoid excessive plyometric exercises with this client. Try not to make her jump squat, burpee, and box jump all in the same sequence. It might put her over the edge. Just like breast pads, hopefully your client will also know the advantage of an extra supportive sports bra, or doubling (even tripling) up on her sports bra to help give her more support, in an already awkward situation. If not, gently suggest it.

She’ll also appreciate it if you avoid prone exercises during this time, such as prone bench Ys, Ts, Is, or prone supermans, so try not to program those in, please.

 #2 – Incontinence

I told you that this article might have more information in it than you may feel comfortable reading. But, this is what really goes on with a newly post-pregnancy client, so keep your eyes open.

I started having issues with incontinence after having my daughter two years ago. I was  back teaching classes and working out 3 weeks post-delivery, when this issue really hit me. In hindsight, this was probably a bit too early to return to exercise, but I was feeling good and was ready to get back in the game.

The scenario was that I was leading the warm-up in front of my group class and was doing jumping jacks. All of a sudden I felt something warm in my crotchel region (crotchel may not actually be a word, but it works here, so I’m using it). I thought, “That’s odd, what’s that?” and kept going until the warm up was done. Turns out that this warmth was actually me peeing myself right in front of the class which I saw once I looked down. Yep, I did and they saw it, and the grey yoga pants I was wearing did nothing to hide the issue. Pretty embarrassing. Thankfully they were all too nice (or shocked) to say anything. You live, you learn I guess.

To this day, myself and many other women who’ve had babies, have some varying degrees of incontinence. From worrying about what’ll happen when you sneeze, to slight leakage during jumping movements, it’s a very real and normal side effect of having a baby.

One female friend of mine pointed out that she never really understood the role of panty liners until she had a baby. Now she knows… and so do I. But, the show must still go on, and so will your training with your client.

For me, the worst offender for incontinence is jumping jacks. For other women, it’s running or any jumping movement. If your client seems uncomfortable with certain activities like these right after having her baby, give her some slack and leave them out of the program.

 #3 – Lack of Energy

Especially in the early months, there are many good reasons your newly post-pregnancy client is going to be more tired than normal. From the lack of sleep due to a regularly feeding baby, to the energy demands of producing milk, to the newness (and fear) of being a parent. All of these things suck the life out of her.

Some women have more energy right after having a baby, but that doesn’t last that long, especially if sleep is few and far between.

Listen closely to how much energy your client has. You can still push her, but give her more rest if she needs it, or cut her workouts a bit shorter if she looks like she’s going to die. Keep her happy and energetic with what energy she does have, and you’ll keep your client instead of losing her to her bed.

 #4 – Scatter Brained

When my daughter was 3 months old, I remember taking her out with me grocery shopping, and in the process not only did I leave my house with the door wide open, I also left my cell phone on top of the car roof and drove away with it still there. Thankfully the sliding noise on the roof caught my attention. If not, I was out the cost of a new iPhone. Not cool.

What was going on here? Where was my brain? Apparently sleeping only a few hours here and there, coupled with a crying baby who needed my attention, and still trying to run my own business (I was running my own group training business at the time. Today I have my own gym), sucked out a few important brain cells.

Your newly post-pregnancy client is going to be the same. If she can’t remember the routine you both did last week, or misses a training session (not cool, but cut her some slack), don’t be shocked. Her memory will return and you’ll both be on the path to greater accomplishments together… without forgetting about them.

 #5 – Poor Recovery

Especially if a woman is breast feeding, and due to lack of sleep, her muscles are not going to recover as quickly as they did prior to being pregnant and having a baby.

Her nutrition is going to be vital here, but so is her post-exercise routine. Make sure she’s doing plenty of foam rolling and static stretching that compliments the routine you just did with her. If you have her squatting and lunging heavy in a session, ensure you hit up those areas with some quality self-myofacial releases. The cool down part of her workout is going to be just as important as the exercises you select for her actual program.

Nutritionally speaking, nothing compares to a nutrient dense, whole food, high-quality fat, protein and carbohydrate diet. Her appetite is going to be great at this time, but don’t let her waste her calories on potato chips, soda or chocolate. Sure, she might be able to get away with that to some degree if she’s breast feeding, but those foods don’t contain what her body really needs to build and repair her body (and her baby’s).

Encourage her to focus on pre- and post-workout nutrition if she’s missing these. Ideally a complete protein coupled with a whole food carbohydrate should be what she chooses within 1 to 2 hours before her workout and 30 mins to an hour after. Before her workout, adding some whole food fat (nut butter or avocado) will help to keep her blood sugars stable, in a time when they may be dropping more than usual.

In Summary

When a woman brings a new baby into this world, it’s both a special and challenging time for her, especially if she’s used to pushing herself hard both in and out of the gym. As a trainer, give her the routine she needs to rebuild her strength and stamina,  but understand that her body is in a very different state than it is normally.

She may look relatively normal, but don’t let this fool you. There are things going on with her that you need to understand so that you can help her be and feel her best, otherwise you may lose your client to someone else that has the patience and understanding that you should easily have as well.

About the Author
Cassandra Forsythe

Cassandra Forsythe is a mother, entrepreneur, author, nutrition expert, and fitness and health enthusiast. Since 2009, in Connecticut, she runs her own fitness facility, Fitness Revolution Vernon, which has transformed the bodies and lives of hundreds of women and men across the state through proven exercise and nutrition methods. Cassandra Forsythe has authored two nationally published books for women, The New Rules of Lifting for Women (2008, Avery), and Women’s Health Perfect Body Diet (2008, Rodale). She’s also written for and been featured in major magazines such as Oxygen, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, and Delta Sky, and is an Advisory Board member for Women’s Health magazine, PrecisionNutrition.com and Livestrong.com. You can find out more about Cassandra and her fitness facility at www.cassandraforsythe.com