Exercising After Baby
The title is almost an oxymoron, isn’t it? Newborns, no matter if it’s your first child, second or third, are tiny and oh so cute- but, also extremely overwhelming. They tend to require an obscene amount of attention and let’s not even mention the lack of sleep. Okay, let’s mention it. Because it seems to suck the life right out of you. From the moment your baby is born, you put yourself on the back burner. You forget what it’s like to take care of yourself while you are so enthusiastically caring for another human being. But, after a certain amount of time, self-care for mama becomes crucial, not just for you and your health, but for the health and happiness of your family. But, then you get to how.
How do you exercise with this baby? How do you get it done? How is it even possible to get it done?
I’m not an expert in many things really, but after three kids and 6 years of trying to figure out that “how,” here are a few of my tips on Exercising After Baby. Disclaimer: It’s never perfect. But neither is Motherhood.
Before you begin exercising after having a baby it is absolutely crucial to make sure that you have gotten the all-clear from your doctor to resume physical activity. This typically occurs between 6-8 weeks postpartum and sometimes slightly longer for c-sections. You’re doctor will typically check for things like Diastisi Recti, a speperation of the abdominal muscles, and discuss with you other postpartum hormonal and breastfeeding considerations.
Once you’ve been cleared to exercise, my first tip is to take it slow and celebrate all accomplishments- big and small.
Walking is a great start to any exercise program, no matter what your fitness level was prior to becoming pregnant. You can walk with your baby in the stroller, in a carrier or simply in your arms. Another thing about walking is that it will get you out of the house! Being sleep deprived, overwhelmed and alone in your house can get rather, well, lonely. Believe me, I’ve been there. It is amazing what a little sunshine and fresh air can do for your sanity. Start with 10 minute walks and work up to 20-30 minutes. Remember when I said to celebrate the small things? The day that your 10 minute walk turns into that 30 minute walk? Celebrate it. That is a huge accomplishment after having a baby and a wonderful start on your fitness journey.
The more children you have, the more “fun” it is to come up with different ways to involve all of your little ones in this precious time outside. My older daughters love to lead our walks on their bikes or even push their own “strollers” alongside mommy’s.
Some day you’ll be ready to run with the stroller or by yourself, or some day you won’t. Or some days you can, but you won’t want to. The best advice I can give any mom, mom-to-be or moms of multiples is this: you’re a mom. You’re not training to be an Olympic athlete or a professional Body Builder (unless you are, which in that case, you inspire me!). You are training for Motherhood. And that means that when you had a rough night with your 15 month old or you’re on day 8 of quarantine after the stomach bug has run its course through your household, you don’t have to be super mom and do it all.
Run if you can, walk if you can. Or don’t. Take a day or two off. Try as hard as you can to be kind to yourself.
And, when you are ready, get back out there. Remind yourself that again, fitness is a journey. Like life, there are ups and down when it comes to fitness. While there is a beginning, there is certainly no end. The journey is about discovery and will never be about perfection. One day you might get in a really intense, hard core workout and other days your body will thank you for simply completing a few yoga sequences. It’s all about balance… and balancing it on top of Motherhood.
Another great tip for exercising after baby is to get creative with your workouts. Like, really creative.
Some days might seem impossible, but with a little bit of ingenuity it can be done! Whether you are squeezing in a 15 minute workout during nap time or during play time, you can get it done. Strength exercises can be done with dumbbells or resistance bands if you have them, and why not keep a set near the kitchen so you can pick them up while baby is enjoying breakfast in their high chair?
What about those days that you want to workout but baby is not cooperating? Don’t throw in the towel yet! It’s pretty convenient to use your baby as resistance. You might think I’m joking, but any mother who has attempted to workout in her living room can relate to this. Try holding or wearing your baby while you squat or lunge. Jog in place while the baby plays on the floor next to you. Lower into a squat, tickle your baby’s toes while you catch your breath and repeat! Since I usually try to exercise during our morning playtime, that is exactly what the majority of my workouts look like. Do you feel a little bit like a circus performer half of the time? Sure, but while the baby thinks I’m her jungle gym at least I got my workout in. There are also plenty of days that I count running around the house playing “tickle bunny” with my children as cardio. You can obsess over not reaching the level of intensity you wanted or how many calories you burned or didn’t burn; but my advice is- don’t. Any workout is better than none and they should all be celebrated!
When it comes to exercise it is extremely important to make it enjoyable or as enjoyable as possible; because if it’s not, where are you going to find the motivation to do it all over again tomorrow? Change up your routine often. Invite your friends to join you and have fun with it! Find or create a stroller-friendly group that can become your Village. What could be better than getting in your workout and having fun with moms that are going through the exact same stages of Motherhood as you are? Surround yourself with people that inspire you and want to help lift you up.
Change up the scenery.
Find out where the best kid-friendly hikes and trails are in your city. Explore the parks in your area. Let the kids play while you complete a few exercises using the playground equipment.
More importantly, let your kids see the wonderful example that you are setting for them. Show them that physical activity is not a chore. Show them what a happier person you are when you practice self-care. It is not easy to exercise after baby, but it is so beneficial and important for your mind, body, and spirit. Embrace your postpartum body. Embrace the changes that have taken place since you had your baby. Celebrate you. Celebrate how Motherhood has made you into a better person. Awaken and nurture your inner ‘Mama Warrior’. Because mama, you are strong. You are beautiful, brave and amazing. You are loved.