Similarly, Mundell's postpartum program includes an eight-week "core-floor restore" program of daily core and pelvic floor strengthening exercises that can be completed at home in 6 to 7 minutes. Mundell recommends that women visit a pelvic floor physiotherapy specialist for an internal exam to ensure that the pelvic floor muscles are functioning well and there's no prolapse of the organs happening; she has healthy clients wait two weeks after delivery to begin the two-phase regimen. The first four weeks focuses on rebuilding a strong foundation—important recovery and healing is still taking place during this early postpartum period so Mundell keeps moves basic with an emphasis on restoring proper alignment.
"In pregnancy, we tend to see alignment change because there's so much weight on the front side of the body—usually the pelvis will drive forward and the rib cage will fall back to counteract the new weight on the front side of the body," says Mundell. "Postpartum, we're seeing that still happen, so we need to adjust and get that rib cage back over top of the pelvis in order for our body to create core stability."
The second four weeks is a kicked-up strength-building phase that includes core training, abdominal activation, low back moves and exercises for the pelvic floor and glutes. Mundell usually gives the green light to return to total body, low-impact, interval-based strength training at six weeks postpartum.
"Circuit-style training can be great for keeping the heart rate pretty high during the workout. Say we have a circuit of 4 exercises with 10 to 15 reps of those exercises and we go through rounds at a pretty quick pace with good form," says Mundell. "Then we rest and let the heart rate come back down before getting back into it. That's what we typically want with cardio activity—interval training, which is usually our biggest bang for our buck if we're talking about fat loss."
To be clear, none of Mundell's workouts include high-impact moves in the first four to six months postpartum. Mundell recommends low-impact strength training circuits, walking, swimming and even cycling as preferred forms of exercise and stress release during this critical recovery period.
"In pregnancy, we have all this weight, this downward pressure onto the pelvic floor, organs, muscles and connective tissue. Not only do we have that weight pushing downwards, but we also have hormonal fluctuations in the body that are making the connective tissues more lax and loose," explains Mundell. "We just don't have the support in the pelvis that holds vital organ—the bladder, uterus and rectum—up in the spots they should be in [postpartum]."
Resuming or starting impact activities like running, where your feet strike the ground hundreds of times per minute, on a core that isn't stable can cause injury and exacerbate conditions such as incontinence and prolapse.