Getting back into shape after a C-section

by For Two Fitness August 22, 2014

Did you have a c-section? Are you unsure about how to get back into shape after having a c-section? Read fit mom, Chelsea’s, tips below. Chelsea is a runner and mom to 1.5 little boys. She blogs about both at

Getting back into shape after a C-section:

Getting back into shape after a c-section. Like many first-time moms, I spent the weeks leading up to my son’s due date reading about labor and delivery and wondering what his birth would be like. And like many first-time moms, I wanted it to be the most “natural” experience possible. Labor would be brief and uncomplicated; he’d just slide right out. There would be smiles and cuddles and instant bonding. Angels would sing.

I was certainly not going to be one of those women who had a C-section, especially not a scheduled C-section. But then all of a sudden, at 34 weeks pregnant, I was. My little guy was in a breech position and other factors made my doctor feel it was unwise to try to turn him. And so, without (much) further ado, I found myself on an operating room table mid-afternoon one Monday in December 2012 while my baby was being born just like Julius Caesar.

Another part of my first-time -mom fantasy was that, sure I’d be a little sore and tired after delivery, but I’d be able to resume running within a few weeks of my son’s birth. I made a training plan for a 10k in March. And then I got out of bed for the first time after the operation. Do you know how hard it is to brush your teeth when, even with high-octane pain medication, you can’t move anything between your shoulders and knees? Instead of spitting, I just sort of dribbled toothpaste in the vicinity of the sink. Walking and even sitting upright during the first 18 hours after surgery were incredibly painful and exhausting. I tossed the 10k training plan in the trash.    

But then a funny thing happened – something I never believed would happen as I lay in the hospital bed, unable to reach a cup of water one inch out of my grasp. I got better. A few weeks after my delivery, I was able to go for a short walk again. Then I started run-walking and finally actually running. I made it to the starting line of that 10k in March and even ran a 1/2 marathon personal record later in November.    

Getting back into shape after a c-section.

While, everyone’s recovery is different, if you find your well-made labor and delivery plans being scrapped in favor of a date with a scalpel, fear not. Regaining and even improving fitness after a C-section is possible.

Here are a few things that helped me when I was making my comeback:

  1. Respect the fact that, in addition to brining a new human being into existence, you just had major abdominal surgery. Repeat after me, “major abdominal surgery.” You aren’t a wimp for taking pain medication. You aren’t lazy for taking 6 weeks or 8 weeks or more to recover. Keep this fact in mind when you are framing your accomplishments as you get back into shape. It may be frustrating to only be able to run a mile, but to say, “I went out and ran a mile this morning only 8 weeks after I had major abdominal surgery,” sounds pretty impressive.  
  2. Listen to your doctor. On the other hand, with all the upheaval having a new baby brings, it can be tempting to try to rush back into your old fitness routine too quickly in an attempt to feel “normal” again. However, not allowing yourself the proper recovery time after delivery can derail your fitness goals and – at worst – do serious damage to baby making parts you might want to use again in the future. A uterus is a terrible thing to waste.    
  3. As soon as you get the okay, start doing abdominal/core exercises. In the words of my operative report, “…the underlying rectus muscles were dissected off bluntly and with Mayo scissors”. That probably means my days as a belly button model for anyone other than my son (“Mommy’s bee-bo!) are over, but – leaving that aside – strong ab muscles are so important for good posture and stability. Focusing on core work early and often can help prevent aches, pains and injuries later on as you add intensity and miles.
  4. Find a good coach or training plan. Once I got the okay to run again, I started with a couch-to-5k style training plan that incorporated lots of walking and run-walk intervals and built up to 3 miles of continuous running after several weeks. In the midst of the fog of living with a newborn, it was helpful to not have to think about what I was going to do as a workout on any particular day. Plus, using a training plan encouraged me to include more variety in my workouts (cross training, strength workouts, interval training) than I normally would.      
  5. Don’t be afraid to push yourself. There is going to come a day when you are ready to workout hard again. Go for it! (Unless your doctor says otherwise.) Have faith that your ability to push your limits and make progress. It may take some time to get back into shape again, but you can do it!


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