From C-section to a 5 Minute Plank…

From C-section to a 5 Minute Plank…

It’s RACE WEEK over here so I’m ready for a few easy days before my all out sprint of a race on Saturday.  It’s been a while since my last 1 mile race (16 years in fact!) so I am not exactly sure what to expect.  How does one train for a 1 mile race?  I’ll clue you in although you probably already know… a lot of speed work! I have become quite familiar with 200’s and 400’s lately. 

I’ve also been working on planking almost everyday the past two months.  It’s been a gradual process but I would really like to reach my goal of 5 minutes this summer.  I mentioned this on my Arkansas Runner Mom Facebook page and my sweet cousin-in-law noted that since having her c-sections trying to plank for any length of time was a little difficult.  This got me thinking about my own c-section recovery history and I thought I would mention it here.

My last c-section- January 11, 2011

Having a c-section (let alone 4 of them) was never in my birth plan. In fact, the day c-sections were discussed in my childbirth class I honestly wasn’t listening because I assumed that is just something that happened to other women.  After all, I planned on having as natural of a birth as possible and would only consider using an epidural as a last resort. My mother gave birth to five children naturally and I assumed I would take after her.  I might have been naive but I thought surely someone who has run a marathon (and could handle pain) could manage having a baby.   I quickly learned that the two are very different and no amount of fitness could prepare me for what was in store.

After a long labor and pushing for almost 2 hours, I had to face the obvious- my daughter wasn’t budging and we needed to get her out as soon as possible because her heart rate was dropping.  I had an emergency c-section and we didn’t even realize when she was born because there was no crying.  She wasn’t breathing and it was the scariest few minutes of my life.  She was put on oxygen and I am so thankful to God that within the hour everything was much better.  Suddenly how I had her did not matter at all.  At the risk of sounding morbid, I am pretty sure that if we had live 100+ years ago one or both of us would have died during childbirth without the use of modern medicine.

Holding Abi for the first time- a few hours after she was born (July 1, 2004)

When my water broke with my second and labor seemed to be progressing very fast naturally I begged my doctor to let me try to VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean).  He agreed to let me try and this time I pushed even longer- almost 3 hours.  My son’s heart rate was fine but towards the end I just knew it wasn’t going to happen.  I could not push a baby out no matter what position I tried and I just needed to accept that.  So my son was born via c-section and when we immediately heard his cries we were very relieved.

Anthony- April 19, 2006

With my third and fourth I planned on a c-section from the start.  I had made peace with my body and how I have babies. Having a healthy baby is the goal. 

Anna- April 21, 2008
Ashton- January 11, 2011

Recovering from a c-section (at least in my opinion) is extremely hard. In a c-section, the abdominal wall is cut open and organs are moved to the side to get the baby out of the uterus.  It takes time for these muscles to heal.  I was determined to nurse my babies which only added to the challenge.  Besides the usual nursing issues, the entire abdominal area is unbelievably sore and sensitive but it can be done.  In my case, I just needed assistance getting into a nursing position and then I needed someone to hand me my baby.  My husband was right there to help me every step of the way.   I also needed assistance walking to the bathroom, taking a shower- you name it those first few days.  A nurse told me after my first c-section that every day you will feel 100% better than the day before and I found this to be true.  The first day or two can be so painful but it helped knowing that tomorrow I would feel stronger.  The first week I took the pain pills my OB prescribed.  At first it was around the clock but after the first few days I spread it out longer and longer.  I never take regular pain meds in day to day life and I know some argue against it but when I’ve had a c-section and I’m in excruciating pain- hand me the pain pill.  I’m not trying to be a hero.  I’m just trying to survive.  When I was able to wean myself a little I switched to Tylenol for a few days and by two weeks I was able to function fine without anything. 

Most doctors recommend waiting 4-6 weeks to start any form of exercise after a c-section.  Yes, the recovery is much different from a vaginal delivery.  I have known women who resume running within 1-2 weeks after a regular delivery.   I was able to jog a slow mile when Ashton was 4 weeks old.  With my others I might have waited 6 weeks.  The c-section area felt fine while I was jogging but afterwards my stomach muscles felt a little sore.  This is normal.  They just need to get strengthened.

As far as ab exercises- I never felt ready to even attempt them until my baby was at least 3 months old.  I found this area to be so sensitive and sore that any ab exercise put too much strain on the muscle.  When I did start back I would do some light crunches and simple knee planks. With Ashton (my last baby) I was more anxious to get back in shape and tried to do too much too quickly.  Of course, this led to my sacral stress fracture which temporarily put a stop to all forms of exercise.  Once my pelvic bone healed I was determined to strengthen my core so I started a simple push-up and sit-up regimen that I have continued to this day.  I started this routine when Ashton was 5 months old and I know it has helped tremendously.  When Ashton was 9 months old I started a CORE challenge streak.  Basically I challenged myself to commit to doing push-ups and some sort of ab exercises every day. 

October 2011

To be honest, it took almost a year for the c-section area to feel completely healed and back to normal but I was able to do exercises that first year that felt safe and made me stronger.  I ran my first post-baby marathon a few days after his first birthday.  I had planned to run one much sooner but the stress fracture threw everything off and my body needed time to heal.  This injury taught me to rebuild my running base slowly.

Sorry to go into so much lengthy detail but I think it is important to note that everyone is different and what one woman is able to do might not work for you. It can be very dangerous and counterproductive to compare yourself to other new moms.  I remember reading a few running blogs by new moms when Ashton was a young baby and I felt like I was way behind.  My baby weight was taking its sweet time coming off and I felt extremely out of shape.

Patience.  It takes time.  Start with a small goal.  For me it was to start a simple 10 minute routine every night.  In my case I did girl push-ups and some ab exercises (leg lifts, crunches, etc.).  It wasn’t a Jillian Michaels workout but it was enough to get me started.  (Nothing wrong with Jillian but I’m pretty sure if I would have tried something like that I would have felt overwhelmed and would have quit after one or two tries.)  I had to keep my routine doable so I could stay consistent with it. I kept working on my core and I increased my cardio slowly.

As far as the 5 minute plank… When I first heard about this it actually sounded easy.  I tried to do 5 minutes right off the bat and by 1 minute I was already dying! Immediately I got discouraged and quit planking all together for a few months.  Several weeks ago I decided to try again but this time start with a 1 minute goal.  Baby steps.  If it’s been a while since you have done any ab work you might want to start with 15 seconds or 30 seconds- the important thing is not the time it’s the fact that you are simply starting.  Every few nights I would increase my time by 15 seconds.  This week I hit my longest plank time ever- 3:30.

I am slowly working my way up and once I reach my goal of 5 minutes I will most likely change things up with side planks, etc.  I’ve also made a new goal to be able to do 3 pull-ups by the end of the summer.  I can only get about halfway up on my first one so I have a long way to go but I’m just going to keep trying. 

Another planking tip… I like to keep my phone or i Pad handy to watch something on Netflix while I’m planking.  It helps keep my mind occupied a little.  I’m warning you- these will be the longest seconds and minutes of your life!

If you are trying to get back in shape whether it be from childbirth, injury or for any reason be patient and set obtainable goals.  It’s ok to have a big goal but I think it helps to have little reachable ones along the way.  I know this helped me!  Do not assume your best is over what’s the point in trying.  I have had my best running times after giving birth and after my stress fracture injury.  It has not been easy and there have been quite a few road blocks and bumps along the way but it has been so worth it. 

Ab exercises post baby?  How soon do you like to start?
Any planking or pull-up tips?

When was the last time you raced an all out mile?

12 thoughts on “From C-section to a 5 Minute Plank…

  1. This post feels so much like what I went through! My first was a knock me out emergency c-section scenario, and though everyone was so surprised by how well and fast I recovered (compared to otjers). It felt awful and slow to me. My second was VBAC (though almost not), and that recovery was so much better. When I run super hard my c-section scar still gets tender at times, and I still have about a two finger gap in my stomach muscles when you do the ab separation test. It’s Ok though, she was worth it, and the surgery was necessary.

    1. For some reason my friends who have had c-sections seem to recover faster than I did. Not sure what my deal was but the last time (when I had my tubes tied) it was even worse. That’s awesome you were able to VBAC. I really wanted to – mostly for the sake of the recovery. I just remembered how hard the c-section recovery was and I was hoping I could spare myself that pain. Not so much! But like you- DEFINITELY worth it and when surgery is necessary we do what we have to do.

  2. I took my time after each of my three babies before running or doing ab exercises. Each child weighed less than the one before and each labor & delivery was faster than the one before. I am almost positive that if I went for #4, I would have the baby at home because I couldn’t get to the hospital quick enough! Despite the easy deliveries, however, I felt in no rush to push my body.

    Funny that we have almost the exact same goals right now as far as planking and pull-ups! I am also trying to get to a 5:00 plank by August 1st (arbitrary date) but I’m only at 2:30 right now. And I’d like to do 3-4 pull-ups sometime this summer. If I start from a full hanging position, I can only get halfway up, too. I’m keeping at it and also doing Insanity right now so I’m interested to see how long it takes me to get there.

    So amazed that you had four c-sections, Tia!!

  3. That is a great story Tia! Such a reminder that everyone is different. I think women get so many messages about how birth should be, or bread feeding, or getting back to pre preggo weight…hard not to feel pressure. I was lucky to have a breeze of a delivery and post baby recovery and ran 2 days after I delivered. Ultimately though, how fast we come back does not matter. I love following your journey because you are very determined but also very patient, a v good combo for a great runner:)

  4. I was lucky enough to have no problems with vaginal birth – didn’t even need stitches after. So I could start doing ab stuff (just contracting the muscles while lying in bed) straight away. Recovering from a caeserian is so much more complex. I could never understand why anyone would actually choose to have one – and I’m not talking about mothers who have to have one. It’s hard enough with a new baby let alone recovering from major surgery while you’re looking after one.

  5. Thanks for sharing! Great planking form, by the way! My first son was delivered by c-section because he was breech, and I was disappointed to miss the natural experience. I was lucky to be able to have a VBAC for son #2, albeit with at 23 hr labor and 3.5 hours of pushing! But you’re right, how they come into the world doesn’t really matter as long as they’re healthy! Keep up the awesome work!

  6. This was very interesting. I didn’t even realize you had delivered by C section! Yes..major incision there.
    It’s interesting you note that some women return to running within a week after a vaginal delivery. I wanted to SO bad. I finally was convinced to wait a few weeks because, as my midwife explained it, you have to wait for all bleeding to stop, because the place where the placenta detaches is a wound that has to heal. It heals on its own time frame..Took me almost 5 weeks with my third (made me almost CRAZY). The thing that has changed most in my body is probably my rib cage. It is expanded from pregnancy, and there is no way I can fit into my wedding dress anymore, even weighing less than when I got married. ha!

    You are doing great with the planks! They are tough!! a good core workout is essential for good running…When you get to 5 minutes, what will be next?

    Thanks for sharing this “I have had my best running times after giving birth and after my stress fracture injury. ” That’s so inspiring, considering you ran collegiately!

  7. Great advice! I have never had a c-section, but I have heard the recover is difficult. I am trying to stay in as good a shape as I can this time around, so I don’t lose too much by way of fitness level. It always takes a couple of weeks, though.
    Thanks for the tips and good luck with your mile!

  8. Hi Tia,
    Thank you so much for such an encouraging post. I delivered a baby on 5th Feb 2014 via a c-section. I was totally not prepared for it. I have a very active life style and I was unsure of how to get back to my previous fitness level. Your blog was so encouraging. Thank you so much for sharing.. it really gives a lot of hope.


  9. I also want to lose weight, but I do not like sports, I do not like dieting. I can not resist the temptation of food, I can not adhere to exercise, how can I do?*(welcome to my bjd web*

  10. Thank you so much for this post! Before pregnancy I was just starting to love running, but at four months post-partum it’s still mostly walking or else I get too sore.

    I have had very little luck finding people saying anything other than “after six weeks your incisions have healed.” Thank you so much for sharing your story.

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