Pregnancy and birth are journeys in themselves, and the postpartum time is no different. Often, moms are concerned about getting back into shape, and after ‘sharing’ your body with a growing baby for 40 + weeks, you’re eager to have yourself back. I wanted to share my top 4 tips for adding healthy movement into your life after Baby arrives.
Don’t rush your recovery. Gentle walks might be appropriate before six weeks, but training for a marathon or even a 3 or 5k isn’t! Even the most athletic mothers who I’ve been a doula for, needed to wait that 6 weeks. Check out some Q and Z from ACOG about their recommendations.
Remember, six weeks is a minimum. The key is: Listening to your body (a phrase I hope you got very acquainted with during pregnancy and birthing your baby!). And so, I repeat: Six weeks is a minimum. For me, a gentle hike in the woods at 8 weeks postpartum after my sixth was born started my postpartum bleeding again! Now, for some moms, this hike might have been no big deal. For me, it was too much, too fast. What did I do? I waited a couple more weeks until I attempted such a feat again. And, what’s more – I didn’t beat myself up about it (see third tip, but read the 2nd one, too).
Your abdominal muscles, all of ’em, have really been through a lot! Even if you don’t have or suspect a diastisis recti, treat your tummy gently and safely. I have really benefited personally from Fit2B streaming online workouts. Not only could I do them in my own home, in my pajamas if I like, but they are all built around healing the core — a true healing, mind you, not one that just focuses on getting a six-pack ab look as quickly as possible (and think 6 packs are still cool? This article, or this one, might change your mind!).
Another set of muscles, connected to the core, is your pelvic floor. As the body changes during pregnancy, and your baby grows inside you, your pelvic floor experiences stress. Safe exercises that focus on core strength can’t help but benefit the seat or your core – which IS your pelvic floor. (Did you know that? I didn’t always know that connection!) The creator of Fit2B, Bethany Learn, has several pelvic floor routines, very gentle, and so affirming, for moms (or dads!). Read a lovely blog post from her by clicking here. You don’t HAVE to join the women who say that after they had a baby they couldn’t sneeze without leaking. If gentle exercises aren’t giving you much improvement, though, consider seeing a Pelvic Floor physical therapist. Contact me for references in the Fargo, ND – Moorhead, MN area — they are here, and they can help!
Go easy on yourself. Make your fitness about more than burning calories. Make it about eating healthful calories, getting good sleep, and having realistic and affirming goals — for a good and happy LIFE. Whether your goal is to fit into your jeans again (try not to set a firm timeline!), or to be able to take a brisk walk without being winded, pay attention to YOUR goal, not to the goals (or accomplishments) of others. It can be very depressing if we measure our own goals by others’ goals. We are all different, and we’re all on our own journey towards our best selves. Be gentle with yourself. We can be happy for others, as we are happy when we meet our own goals, step by step.
Don’t be fooled into thinking a gym membership is the only way to get fit after Baby is here, nor is high intensity and large amounts of time going to get you in shape faster. In fact, studies indicate that joining an expensive (and time consuming!) gym is not as likely to make you healthy or help you lose weight as some other slower-going, gentler options, which I’ll focus on below! While joining a gym can be some valuable ‘away time’ (which I want to talk about in another post!), in the early stages, especially if you are breastfeeding on demand, it might be really stressful for your and your baby. So, is there a way to involve your baby and family, and get some movement in your day?
Focusing on being strong in your daily movements. Squatting, reaching, stretching, core-aware movement is safe and healthy. Things like: squatting to reach something off the floor, in a cupboard, getting up and down safely out of bed, off the rug where you’re playing with your Baby or Baby’s siblings, stretching as you pull a weed in the yard or garden, reaching for things off the shelves as you’re cooking, walking around your yard or block. Involve your Baby as you do squats while putting him to sleep, roll on the floor or crawl with her, while keeping your tummy tight. All these things keep you and your family together in that tender postpartum time, but also gives you a sense of confidence and courage as you move forward in postpartum fitness. Katy Bowman of Nutritional Movement has some amazing articles, like this one, so go head to her site right now and read about some postpartum ideas that make fitness a natural part of life!
When you’re ready to burn some more calories, challenge yourself to think not in terms of total time all at once, but small intervals throughout the day — which can actually be more effective, actually, as well as realistic! This article could give you some ideas to start. For me, even just having a cheap-o pedometer (like the Omron HJ-321 Tri-Axis Alvita Pedometer, Black which is the one I use) helped me think about getting in some more motion to my day.
The last aspect of going together is having an accountability partner. It could be your spouse, a friend, or even an online buddy. Reach out to someone who shares your goals, and set up a way to encourage, not race, each other. For myself and good girlfriend, we emailed once a week, striving to get in a minimum of 3 workouts. We set the bar reasonably, too. To count as a workout, we needed a total of at least 5 min, and didn’t specify it had to be cardio, anaerobic, etc. As we are Christians, we dedicated the three workouts to the Holy Trinity! Insert your own motivational idea that will spur you on to good health and happiness.
Disclosure and DIsclaimer: As an affiliate of Fit2B, I do receive a commission if you should choose to join the online streaming Tummy-Safe workout program. However, I am not paid to blog for Fit2B, and my opinions are my own. I’m also an Amazon Affiliate, and if you choose to purchase any of my recommended products, please know that I’m not paid to give a good review. I only include products I have personally used, and felt satisfied with. I’m not in the business of giving medical advice. Every situation is different, and please rely on your care provider and your own research as you make any decisions regarding health, fitness, and your unique pregnancy.