climbing post pregnancy

Returning to climbing after pregnancy

CityBloc team member, yoga teacher and coach Freya Newbegin offers her insights into climbing after pregnancy, and has spoken to other rockstar climber mums to offer support for the new mums eager to get back to the wall.

In hindsight I think I returned to climbing too soon! I got back on the wall after 3-4 weeks and I think I managed around 30 mins of super easy climbs and traversing which felt fine at the time but looking back, I should have let my body rest a little longer.

Coming back to climbing or any sport after birth is such an individual experience, as every birth is unique with lots of different factors to consider. I will talk a little about my personal journey, but this is by no means the same for everyone.

I had an uncomplicated home birth, with labour lasting around 6 or 7 hours. Baby was completely fine, but I ended up having to go into hospital to have a tear stitched up. It took a few weeks for the stitches to heal and the bleeding to stop and to even feel comfortable sitting on a normal chair! But I was so keen to get moving again that after the 3rd week I decided to head back to the wall.

A lot of women experience ab separation during pregnancy (diastasis) – the fascia in between the 6 pack abs expands to make room for baby and can often take a while to come back together, or sometimes not at all. For me, I was lucky that the gap wasn’t too extensive, and it knitted back together relatively quickly through focussed breath work and gentle core exercises. The main issue I had was an incredibly achy pelvic floor and perineum (due to the birth and subsequent stiches). For the first few months I had a constant dull, heavy feeling, particularly if I’d been out and about or climbing that day. I went to see a pelvic floor physio, which I would highly recommend. The pelvic floor, like any other muscle, needs rehab after injury/trauma. My physio checked if I could engage and relax, and I also had pelvic floor massage to help with the scar tissue. It took a several months, but the achiness eventually stopped, and my pelvic floor function came back as strong as before.

I went to see a pelvic floor physio, which I would highly recommend.

We went on our first outdoor climbing trip when our baby was 5 months old. I had relatively low expectations for what I would be able to climb, my main goal was to get on some rock, have a happy baby and have fun. This helped take the pressure off and it made the climbs I did manage all the more special!

We took our second outdoor climbing trip when she was turning 10 months old, and this time I decided to go with a ‘tick list’ and some goals I wanted to achieve. I really enjoyed getting my fitness and strength back post-natal – I felt that I could really track my progress and see gains each week. It almost sparked my love of climbing again, starting from scratch and seeing everything with fresh eyes.

I decided to go with a ‘tick list’ and some goals …It almost sparked my love of climbing again, starting from scratch and seeing everything with fresh eyes.

I’m now 15 months post-partum and I’m just about starting to feel back to my ‘normal’ climbing self. I still don’t think I’m as powerful as I was pre baby, but it’s difficult to train as often as I was back then, so I’m learning to be okay with where I am and look back at how far I’ve come.

Some things to focus on when climbing post-natal:

  • Breath! The key to getting your pelvic floor and core function back
  • Finger strength and stamina – these will most likely have decreased during pregnancy
  • Hormone fluctuation – particularly if breastfeeding
  • Take your time
  • Fatigue!

Personal experiences from some rockstar climbing mums!

“Keep reminding yourself that your body has just grown and birthed a human”

“Climb with good friends, then you can have a laugh when you try too hard, explode off the wall and get the harsh reminder that your pelvic floor isn’t quite there yet”.

  • Grace Mullany

“After our first baby we returned to climbing and it was quite easy to assimilate our baby into our trips and adventures. Suddenly we had another one and it was very different! A baby and a toddler at the crag or even the route wall felt impossible. We retreated and climbed boulders for 5 years, it was so frustrating, watching others get out and achieve. Fast forward 11 years: we slowly returned to climbing routes, training in a more focussed way and going on adventures. But now we are accompanied by, burnt off by and taught by our children. They climb better and harder than we ever have, watching them compete and climb is a joy that keeps us battling. Remember it’s a long game.”

  • Abigail May

“I was itching to get back to climbing after having a baby but was expectedly daunted. I had no idea what to expect, physically or mentally, returning to the mat while juggling the challenges of a newborn baby, motherhood and a seemingly foreign body.

Each week I step onto the mats, my mind foggy with fatigue (my baby doesn’t sleep) and an endless list of baby/work/life admin tasks but climbing never fails to clear that mist. A couple of hours away from the admin, focusing on beta, strength and friends. I never ever regret a session and I leave each week quietly applauding myself for the progress I have made back to my pre baby climbing self, even if it was simply stepping on the mat that week.” 

  • Abigail Anne

“I had quite significant diastasis post-partum so my return to climbing felt slow compared to what I had imagined. However, from 6 months I restarted my monthly pass which greatly helped my motivation. With support from my husband, I now manage to climb most weeks (big change from pre pregnancy when I would climb 4 times a week!). Sometimes this is without the baby, other times the whole family makes it. The transition has felt difficult at times. Sometimes we are in a good run, and I climb twice a week but suddenly you can find you haven’t climbed for a month. The biggest change is that most of my climbing is now indoors and bouldering. I have had to really change my perspective. Any time I get to climb I count as a win. Currently there is a strong community of climbing families in Leeds, which makes going to the gym so much easier.”

  • Charlotte Lai

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