The baby is here and you’ve finally been cleared to start exercising again.
Maybe you’re chomping at the bit, or maybe you’re a little nervous. Either way, there are lots of great post-pregnancy exercises you can do to get back into the swing of things.
What’s important to remember is that exercise after having a baby isn’t just about getting fit. Your body did something incredibly hard, and even though you’ve got the go ahead from the doctor, it could be in recovery in some form or another for many months.
Post-pregnancy exercise is just as much about getting centred and finding balance as it is about feeling comfortable in your body again – no matter what it looks like.
Take Your Time
I was one of those itching to get back to my workouts. I had hoped and planned for a very fit pregnancy, but restricted activity in the first trimester, a broken foot between the second and third and nearly 50 pounds halted those plans. When I was finally cleared to get back at it, I went to a barre class, but didn’t raise my hand to tell anyone I was in post-natal recovery.
After I struggled through the cardio, combo and seat sections of the class, I literally cried when the instructor had us doing body rolls for ab work. I was so disappointed in myself and my body, I didn’t go back.
It’s a very stark post-pregnancy reality that pushing too hard early on could actually set you back. I definitely wasn’t paying attention to my body like I should have been.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Wait for your bleeding to stop before getting back to it, which may take a while. If you’re still bleeding when you get the doctor’s all clear, pay attention to how certain exercises affect you. When your pelvic floor is still weak, work on strengthening it so you don’t pee yourself when you do jumping jacks.
Running or other intense cardio may make you bleed more.Limit yourself to gentle jogging or walking until you’re fully recovered. If you’re struggling with abdominal separation, don’t put yourself on a 30-day plank challenge. Don’t be afraid to take modifications in class.
The best instructors will care for your mental well-being at the same time as helping you physically. Even if you spend your entire yoga class in child’s pose while your classmates are doing complicated inversions – getting there is half the battle!
Build a Tribe
If you’re struggling with post-pregnancy depression or anxiety, you certainly aren’t alone.
During pregnancy, we may notice a little bit of a shift (no drinking, dietary restrictions, maybe even imposed rest), but mostly – we’re still ourselves. When the baby comes, our marriages or relationships get thrown for a loop.
We’re sleep deprived and overstimulated at the same time. We’re battling to do everything we need to do for ourselves, for our baby, for our significant others and wondering whether or not to ask for help. It can be incredibly overwhelming.
Allow yourself to feel that, and seek help if you need it. An article from Huffington Post suggests that whether you join a group exercise class you can take your baby to, or go for a nice walk with other new mums, there are absolutely benefits – physical, emotional and psychological.
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the anxiety you feel from trying to have it all together right away – pour it out to your friends, family or other new mums who can relate.
Walk Before You Run
I keep saying the same thing in different ways, because it’s an important message you need to hear. Even if you were a seasoned marathoner before baby, you shouldn’t go out for a hard 15-mile run on day one.
Start out with walking. Your bones and organs were all shifted around during pregnancy, you carried weight in different places for a long time, and your joints feel different. You have to work slowly to get comfortable with your “new” body so that you can keep advancing. Doing too much too soon will cause a major set-back.
Try exercises that are low-impact like yoga and barre. Always tell your instructor (if you have one) that you’re post-natal. Stretch a lot.
You’ll be running or doing the heavy-duty stuff soon enough, so enjoy the time your body needs to really recover.
Take time to breathe and meditate through stretching routines. Classes like yoga and barre will really help you get centred and to find balance. Something that can be incredibly difficult as a new mum.
Stay Hydrated and Eat Well
Especially if you are breastfeeding, but even if you aren’t, drink plenty of fluids and eat well.
I’m not saying you can’t indulge yourself, but try to eat healthy when you can. If you eat healthy, you’ll influence baby to eat healthy when the time comes (you could even try making your own baby food, with the help of a delivery service if needed – it’s actually kind of cathartic and stress-busting to do).
Give Yourself a Rest
Rest is actively restorative. It’s an important part of any workout regime (prenatal, postnatal or no-natal). Even though everyone advises it (solicited or not), you rarely get to sleep when the baby sleeps.
So it’s OK for you to incorporate relaxation into the end of your workouts, or even instead of your workouts.
It’s a bit of a cliché but there’s truth in the saying, ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup.’
I love my barre workouts because my instructor begs me to be selfish for one hour, to make good use of the time I’m away from my family, to turn my thoughts inward and do self-work. Yes, I’m absolutely shaking and sweating and doing physical, external work. But I’m also meditating, working through frustrations and proving to myself that even if my mind feels weak or wobbly, my body will carry me through if I take care of it.
Being selfish for an hour or so even enables us to be more selfless later.
We can all harbour guilt for any time spent away from our family or new baby. It can be even worse when we go back to work. Just remember, a healthy mummy is a happy mummy and a happy mummy means a happy family.