Ana Yagües BJJ

BJJ Blog

11/18
2013

The Comeback

I started this blog when I got pregnant for first time 4 years ago. My aim was to find a way to live BJJ outside the mat during the last months of pregnancy and to share my experience with other BJJ practitioners, specially women who were also pregnant or intend to have a family one day and were skeptical about the compatibility of being a mother and a BJJ fighter. I wanted to show that it was perfectly possible since I was going to do it!

 

Since then, I am proud to have not only reach my goal of combining both: motherhood and BJJ, but also have helped a lot of women who addressed me for advice. And I even got so confident with myself  in this multitasking role that I dare to have a second child!

 

Only in the last month, 4 BJJ female practitioners that I know directly (or indirectly through friends) got pregnant and contacted me. It is simple statistics, with BJJ growing up exponentially, every day there are more women practicing this sport which means more women getting pregnant  and having doubts about how to deal with training during pregnancy and what it is even more important (since pregnancy doesn't last forever) what it comes afterward, when pregnancy is over and baby is here... 

How soon after giving birth can you go back to the gym? how long do you need to be able to fight again? Which kind of exercises do you start with? what about a diet to get back into shape?... They are only some of the many questions that go through every pregnant women's mind, and many of them ended in my mailbox.  BJJ is growing up, there is not doubt about it,  but it is still a rather unknown sport. Most of the doctors and midwifes have never heard of it before and are very, really very, reluctant about it. Mostly they just forbid you to train during pregnancy and don't  let you start at least 3-4 months after delivery, if at all.

So women get frustrated and either they accept it  and stop doing BJJ or they end up looking for advice from other women who may have already experienced all this situation before. Like me.

So this article will be like a diary of how I did AFTER this second pregnancy (there are already enough articles in this blog about what to do DURING the pregnancy)

I will write as detailed as possible, step-by-step, what I did from the day my second babygirl Anais was born until the first competition I get to fight. Instead of writing different articles on the matter, I will update this article every couple of days/weeks, so that in the future it is easier for women looking for advice to find the answers they are looking for in a long but single detailled article.

 

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful!

Just a last reminder before it starts... every women is different, every pregnancy is different and of course, every recovery is different. It depends on A LOT of factors how much or how long you can train during the pregnancy as well as how soon you can be back on the mats.

This article is how I am personally doing it. And I must admit, I am not  only not following any doctor advices but even on some aspects going against them. What I follow is only my own experience during the first pregnancy and postpartum recovery as well as my rule nr. 1: listening to my body. If something bothers me, I push a little bit harder to find my limits, then if it hurts, I stop doing it right away and do something else. Put my body to the limits, but never beyond them.

So please, don't take this article and handle it as it was a general receipt that will bring you back on the mat if you follow strictly. It is not. I am not giving a set of rules to follow, I am just sharing my experience with you, so that you can try and find your own way. Please, be responsible with yourself, with your body.

 

  • End of October - a couple of days before giving birth

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72 kg on the scale (13-14 kg above my normal weight) and a very good pregnancy behind me with no kind of complications.

And notice! one of the main factors in determining how soon you can be fit and back on the mat after giving birth is how healthy you were during your pregnancy.

I trained during the pregnancy until the 8th month. The first 7 month I kept doing BJJ and the 8th month I went swimming. Doing the maths, I only was like 4-5 weeks "inactive".

 

  • 30th October - Birthday

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The big day arrived and after a very painful but lucky also extremely short delivery (I arrived at hospital at 11:45 and baby was born at 12:19) I could hold my second baby girl, Anais, in my arms. A wonderful indescribable moment. 

I am an eager competitor. People who knows me, are very aware of it. So I would like to say something to all the female competitors who have their doubts about having children because of the fear they can't keep competing: first, you can (I did with one child and I am going to do it with two) and second, there is no title or medal in the world that will make you feel so intense, happy, alive and powerful as the moment you give birth and you hold your baby in your arms.

 

  • 2nd - 3th November - Move!

After a couple of days in which I mostly lay down, it is time to move. Delivery was good, no complications at all, and I had not episiotomy (vaginal tear) nor whatever, so yes I was sore and everything still hurt and would probably do for days or even weeks, but it was time to start moving.

It is actually very easy to stay convalescing for weeks after giving birth. Don't get me wrong,  after the 9 months pregnancy and the hard task of giving birth, you have all the right to it. And you have probably your family and friends helping you and indulging you in all possible ways. Even your husband is now all love and so attentive that you hardly recognized him!

So why don't enjoy the moment and "lick your wounds" in the most comfortable way?...  First because I was too long sitting around and doing nothing during the last stage of pregnancy  so I needed to move! and second, because the lack of activity and movement will make your body, your muscles, bones and articulations became rigid and rusted. All the "comfort" you are having yet will be translate into  a harder recovery. And I didn't want that.

So after 3 days in which I just moved from the bed or sofa to go to the bathroom, I started to move more and more. But in a gradual way. Don't try to run a marathon shortly after having a child. First I just walked around in my sitting room. I tried not to ask people to reach me things, but getting up and taking them by myself. Just moving around. It is enough for the first days.

It will hurt at the beginning. You will feel soreness all over your body. But nobody said it was going to be easy.

  • 4th- 7th November- Keep moving, walk

Keep moving. More variety of movements and longer distances. 5 days after delivery I made the first short walk outside to catch some fresh air with my husband and kids. I increased the distances I walked every time and tried to use stairs instead of elevators.

  • 8th - 11th October - Gymnastic at home

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Over one week after delivery, I decided to check where my limits actually were and started to do some gymnastic at home.

There is one thing that you can always do, even from the very first day after giving birth: the Kegel exercises. They can be done everywhere and anytime and are very important to strength your pelvic floor muscles, which are the ones that amongst other things, hold back the urine when you sneeze or lift... so I don't have to tell you how important they are for a women who practice BJJ ;)

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Then I started doing easy (aka. boring but necessary!)  postpartum recovery exercises. There are plenty of websites about it so I am not going into detail here. These are some of the exercises I did:

  1. Leg Raises
  2. Push ups
  3. Arm and grips activities (the same I did before delivery, you can check last post entry for this)

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And the best thing, you don't need a babysitter for this. You just lay your baby on her back in front of you or beside you and do your stuff. At this age, she/he will probably sleep a lot, so use some of this time to exercise. Of course, you will want to rest too when the baby is sleeping, but you asked me how I get fit so quickly after giving birth and that is how I did/do it. Plus you don't need more than 1/2 hour for this kind of exercises.

 

Note: Don't think I started so early because I felt fantastic and great. I did feel pain. My hips hurt, so did my breasts that were just getting used to breastfeeding again, i had vaginal soreness as in every other women who has had a natural childbirth... etc.. so i am not a super lucky women with no postnatal symptoms. I was lucky enough to have a delivery without complications and a healthy baby, but I had all the symptoms like any other women. I just push my body to the limits, but very carefully and again never beyond them.

 

  • 12th-15th October - Go back to the mat: Gymnastic and try technique

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2 weeks after delivery I decided to go to the academy and do my recovery exercises there. It is just too boring to stay at home and do them all by yourself. It takes a lot of will for me to do them, so I thought it would be easier if i do them on the mat, where everybody else is training. It would motivate me. And it did (plus I missed my team)

First day on the mat I only did that, my exercises... but the second day, feeling relatively good with no major pain, at least nothing which was not completely normal or I couldn't bear, I couldn't avoid but to try to do some technique. After all, technique is not about strength or speed. It is about learning a movement. And many of the techniques

do not need either a strange or difficult body position. So I started practicing some basics , apart of my boring exercises, like some  chokes from the mount or side control.

Of course I also let my partner do the technique on me and feeling the pressure of a side control and a choke again after so much time ... well, i just loved it and I got the motivation I needed!

 

  • 15th October - Warming up and Drills!

3-4 days more of doing gymnastic and technique and I joined the rest of my partners during the warming-up and the drills part of the training. And I got to do 70% of everything! I did camaraos (hips scapes), jacare, rolling forwards and backwards, push-ups (with knee on the floors).. and as for drills: bridges, triangle-drills, knee on belly,  toreade...

what I coud NOT do yet (not even tried!) was:

  1. lifting any kind of weight
  2. regular sit-ups: if you start too early doing this with the aim of getting a flat belly, you will not only probably slow the healing process but also get injured. Your muscles here have suffer the most significant changes during the pregnancy, were stretched to their limit and are consequently weakened. Most of the women this stretching comes along a painless separation of the central abdominal muscle. You can even feel the gap with your fingers. As long as this gap does not disappear, you can't do sit-ups .You have to build your muscles up slowly and in a smart way. There are some exercises for this purposes, like laying down and expanding/contracting the abdominal muscles. Boring but again, necessary.
  3. takedowns: your hips are not even in their right position yet, an impact on the floor is the last thing they need
  4. and sprawls, for the same reason. 

Next days I felt sore and stiff. I felt like a truck had hit me... but it is the kind of pain I was missing for so long, the pain that tells you that your muscles are working again. And the worst thing you could do at this stage is stopping, so keep training and every day you will feel better!

  • 18th October - Flow Rolling

Not even three weeks are down since my daughter was born, but drilling, technique and exercising worked fine. Not every position neither at every speed but at my own pace and avoiding certain movement/position, I could do a lot and my body, despite feeling rusty and clumsy, was ready to try a flow rolling.

So on 18th October I was able to flow-roll again, light and carefully, with my husband and trainer Samuel Sanvicente. And I must say that it was more exhausting for the mind than for the body. Recalling all the techniques I know from every position, what to do when, interact with my partner all the time, move, move, move... it was hard and I admit, frustrating at times. And not because of the physical limits I still had, but because I had forgotten a lot of things, details...I felt like a white belt. But I know they are not completely forgotten, just hidden in some part of my brain, and that it just will take me some time (hopefully not so much) to remember all of them again. It is like when you learn a language and never practice it. You think you have forgotten, but as soon as you move to the country where that language is spoken, you will quickly remember a lot of it.

  • 19th-24th - Keep doing. Be consistent

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I kept doing my recovery boring exercises (it takes like 20 minutes and can be done from home too). Went to the gym and train like every body else, warming-up, drilling and flow rolling.

Still didn´t do sit-ups nor takedowns or sprawls. I lifted some weight but not much, 5 to 15 kilos top.

My belly was in a good way back to its normal size.... of course, no real muscles there yet.

I train 5 days/week.

  • 25th/26th October - Light Sparring

27 days after my second child was born, I give a try to LIGHT sparring. First I started with whitebelts female partners and of my own size. I don't want to/can´t deal yet with big weight, too strong or far too technical people.

It felt good. Playing from the top feels actually pretty good, no pain. Agility, both mental and physical, is not at its best but it is good enough for this early stage.

Then I tried with my trainer again. He can makes pressure and go harder on me because he knows what he does and I trust him. Best way to check how my body react.

After 2 days, I tried on good bluebelts male partners with top 5-10 kilos over my weight. They make considerable pressure even for light rolling, have very good grips and good technique. All together made me work mentally and physically. Body felt good. I knew then that fighting the European Championship in 2 months is a real goal.

Advice: if you are breastfeeding your baby, do it right before training. First, full breast are painful (and even dangerous if you get pressure on them), for this reason nurse your baby before training to avoid stupid injuries.

Second, the baby will probably sleep for some time so that you can "relax"  and train better, knowing that your baby is well fed and sleeping peacefully.

Use sport bra with protectors. I use the brand "cool guard". They are really good. At least, I can fight with them and not even notice they are there.

Drink a lot. Your body loses a lot of fluids because of the exercises, but it also needs water to produce milk for the baby. So don't forget to drink! 

  • 27th October - 3rd November - Time for sit-ups!

I am very lucky that during my second pregnancy I didn't develop any gap in my abdominal muscles (the one I mentioned above) so that one month after delivery I can start doing sit-ups (During the first pregnancy I had to wait longer because I did have the gap)

So I can do now almost everything like everybody else. Including sit-ups. And though I still get tired very quickly, I do light sparring in every class.

The only things I still don't do are sprawls and takedowns, the hips are still not recovered and i feel like I could get injured there easily. 

  • 3rd November - 20th November - Fight hard

After 2 weeks fighting light and since I feel very good, I start going harder on the fights. I still have not strength on my hips and my leg muscles are quite weak, so i can't work from the guard as I loved to do. But don't matter, then passing the guard will be :-)

I work on passing the guard  and fighting mostly from the top position. That is also quite good as condition training because you get much more tired while working from the top than from the bottom (it is more aerobic).

I also get osteophatic treatment to hurry up the recovery

  • 21th November  - Wrestling

Since our team is very lucky to have one of the best wrestling trainer ever, I decide to join the training. I can't take yet takedowns on me because of the hips (impact on the floor would misplaced all my bones again right after they found their way back to their place) but I can practice technique and do myself the takedowns.  I join the wrestling training 2x at week on the top of my BJJ training, so that I trained some days twice at day, and 6 days at week.

I am lucky (again) to have a very easy baby. She sleeps during most of the practices and my 3 years old daughter, Gisele, goes to kindergarten in the morning. So I train in the morning when I "only" have one kid to take care of. Mondays and Fridays however we don't have morning classes, so i attend the evening practice. It is not so problematic though because Gisele has been her whole life on a mat and she already knows how to behave (most of the time). She plays on her corner while I am training, sometimes she even joins me to "play jiu-jitsu" a little bit ;)

Also the other girls (and guys) on my team, help me with the kids. I am really lucky to have them. It is the best team ever!

Nevertheless, it is not easy. I still wake up every 2-3 hours (nights included) to breastfeed the baby, change wipes, cook, bath the kids, play with my older daughter and all what the "normal" life of a mum implies... when I reached the bed around 22h, I am so exhausted as I have never been. But happy to have used every second of the day for what I love the most: BJJ and my family.

  • 5th Dezember  - I register for the Europeans

I know I am not and I will not be at 100% by the end of January, neither technically nor physically, but I feel quite good and I think I can make some good fights. And does not matter how the result turns out, the mere fact of deciding to compete and preparing for it, the fact of following that goal, is the reason why i am recovering so fast, while i am pushing myself to the limits and why I will be able to fight as I used to do before pregnancy in so short amount of time. So, despite people looking weird at me and telling me "are you seriously fighting at Euros so soon" I register for my 5th European Championships.

Since my condition is my weakest point and because I am 34, I register in masters.
 

  • 27 December - 30 December - Got my weight

Fighting a lot, correcting old and new mistakes, watching the weight. I am down to 63 kg with Gi (remember I was 72kg in the last day of pregnancy). Perfect, I have my weight for the weight class "light", -64kg. That is one above my usual weight class, -58.5kg, but there is no way I can go further down on the scale while breastfeeding and all that. So I am happy and stay at 63kg for the moment.<

  • 1. January - Sparring to death

1st January and my husband/trainer and I go to the academy and train. Which better way to start the year? He helps me a lot.

Since then I have started doing sprawls and takedowns again. Hips feel all right. I start playing from the bottom too. I still miss some strength on the legs and hips but it is getting better.

I fight as hard as I can. Since up to now I don't have opponents in Masters, I change my registration to adults. Adults fight 8 minutes. That is a lot and I am afraid my condition can't take it, so i increase sparring time. I do a lot of sparring always setting the timer to 8-minutes. At least 4 fights without break. I am dead after it but feeling very very happy.

  • 11. January - to be continued

Well, the last 2 weeks before the European Championship I just did a lot of sparring, some weight lifting and condition to get back on competition modus.

At the end, another opponent signed up for masters, so i change my registration back to masters again. And I fought. On the 29th January, 3 months minus one day after the birth of my second child, I entered the mat as brownbelt  at the European Championship.

And I lost. On one f&%$/g advantage. Am I proud? Of course, I fought in the biggest and with highest level tournament in Europe, one of the biggest worldwide, only 3 months after having a baby, being mother of two, and i got to finish with a score 0-0 and lost on one damn advantge.

Yes, I was very proud, and yes, I was very angry. Because I was so close to get gold and i couldn't reach it.

But you know, either you win or you learn. And I learned. And what it is even more important. I could show all the other BJJ female fighters that is possible, hard, but possible, to be a mum and still be able to be amongst the best fighters in the world.

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