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Many of us, especially us second and third-time moms, find that our body changes dramatically postpartum. It is increasingly difficult to not only get motivated, but to find the time or energy to exercise. If there are any tricks on how to move forward into a more desired version of your body after birth, then Katie Breard would know...

Founder of Method by Katie Breard, Katie is a mom who specializes in pre- and postnatal exercise. She is an online fitness specialist who trains pregnant women and busy moms globally, both 1:1 and in groups. We had the opportunity to chat with Katie more about her method of working with mamas, and here's what she had to say... 

What are the best exercises a pregnant mama can do to set themselves up for optimal postpartum health?

Great question! First, exercise during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for your own health and the health of your growing baby. Research has shown that women who exercise during pregnancy have a lower c-section delivery rate and faster postpartum recovery. Studies have also demonstrated placentas upon birth (your baby's lifeline in utero!) from mamas who move!

To set your body up for postpartum health, you want to focus on exercises that maintain (or build) lean muscle mass, especially in your inner thighs, glutes, and lower core. These are super helpful in postpartum recovery and reducing everyday aches and pains at the end of pregnancy. 

Additionally, you want to reduce any exercises that put a strain on the front of your core (think crunches or front planks) from about 14 weeks on. 

My favorite exercise to focus on is low-impact strength training for pregnant mamas!

Is there a time that pregnant mamas should stop exercising?

This is a very personal question and different for every pregnancy. Here are some helpful queues, though.

*If you are doing exercises that strain the front of your core and you notice any coning (when the front of your core looks arched in the middle), it's time to stop.

*If you are running during pregnancy and start to experience any pain or pulling in your groin or lower core, it's time to stop.

Remember, movement in pregnancy should always feel good. This isn't a time to set new PRs for yourself. You should always be able to hold a conversation, and not sweat so much that you feel like you're walking out of hot yoga. 

How soon can a woman get back to exercise post-birth?

Again, a super personal question, and that depends a lot on the type of delivery you had. I always recommend waiting the full six weeks until you are cleared by your OB. During this time you can still move, but focus on walks with your baby or light core engagement exercises, like deep breath work.

What general modifications must be made soon after birth? And do they differ between c-section and vaginal birth?

One million percent. Even if you had zero core complications during pregnancy, you could end up giving them to yourself during the first 8/10 months postpartum by doing the wrong exercises. I see so many women who are cleared for exercise, do a ton of crunches to get their core back in shape, but then actually give themselves an injury known as ab separation, or diastasis recti. This condition actually makes you look more pregnant which is so frustrating, and something no one tells mamas to watch out for. 

My coaching focuses on safe core workouts that exclude flexion (crunches etc.) - think side planks, modified planks, leg lowers, and standing core work. These are all good for both c-section and vaginal delivery mamas.

Given that many mamas are juggling babies/older kids with their exercise routines, what are the most effective exercises they can do in a 10-15 window of time?

Most of my programming for my 1:1 clients is short and effective workouts throughout the week. You want to focus on strength training over cardio. Then spend the rest of your "time" (haha) focusing on getting enough steps and movement in when you are with your kids!

What are exercises to avoid during pregnancy, postpartum and breastfeeding?

For prenatal and postpartum, you generally want to avoid exercises with flexion: anything where your core folds over itself as it would in a sit-up. Pregnant mamas also want to avoid exercises that require them to lay flat on their backs (chest presses, etc). They should avoid heavy cardio that can elevate the heart rate too much and/or overheat. 

Some women are nervous about exercising while breastfeeding because they think they will lose their milk supply - however, there is actually no research to back this up as long as you are consuming enough calories and hydrating!

Quick! Name your top three pregnancy or breastfeeding essentials! They can be items of clothing, specific products or anything else you couldn't live without!

During pregnancy, I lived in Lululemon Align leggings.

For pregnancy and postpartum, I was obsessed with my hydrate Spark water bottle, which measures your water intake! It's like a Fitbit for water.

My baby carrier! I used a baby Bjorn, and my babies lived in it.