If you’ve just had a baby, then one of the things you may be juggling on your mental back-burner is how to get your body back into shape. The physical challenges associated with pregnancy and giving birth are like nothing else first-time moms have experienced, as you now know.
While the joy of a child tends to supersede the pain of pregnancy and childbirth, now is a time when most new mothers need to focus on their own lives as well as that of their newborn child. Getting back into shape may seem like an insurmountable challenge, and something that’s going to stay on the back burner for years.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. From facing those hidden hurdles that can sneak up on you, to practical ideas for things to try, this post has you covered.
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
Getting Back Into Shape After Baby
Things To Consider:
Visiting a specialist postnatal personal trainer is just one option for mamas seeking a postnatal exercise routine. But exercising postpartum requires a few more considerations than working out pre-pregnancy did. For instance, you might want to look into the best postpartum underwear if you’re thinking of heading to an exercise class!
The most significant challenge you’re likely to face, however, is an emotional one – particularly if you’re used to being super-fit. There’s likely to be gap between where your fitness was prior to pregnancy and where it is today. Some women have a hard time getting over the frustration of not being as fit as they once were.
Then, there are the physical restrictions to consider. This is especially true if you had any physical difficulties with either pregnancy or the labor/birth process. I have two close friends who both had C-sections after labor stalled. They had their physical recovery from the C-section itself. But they also had to recover from the physical exhaustion of 36-48 hours’ labor before surgery.
I was fortunate to have relatively quick and painless labor/birth experiences, by comparison. But my pregnancy with Kimmie coincided with emergency wrist surgery; I was still recovering from that when Kimmie arrived, five months later. In addition, high blood pressure put me on bedrest for the last six weeks of my pregnancy with her, and kept me on bedrest until she was three months old. All of these situations added extra challenges to keeping in shape both while I was pregnant with her, and for many months afterward. As someone who was used to biking metric and full centuries before becoming pregnant, this was a lot to adjust to.
Therefore, the best advice is to be gentle – both with yourself, on an emotional level, but also physically. Because the last thing you want is to injure yourself by going hard too soon; this will stop you in your tracks for sure. Instead, think of low-key ways to get back into exercise. For example, you might try stroller walks in your neighborhood. Or if you’ve already got other kids, maybe some low-key walks in your nearest state or national parks is a good place to start, as this will be great exercise for the whole family.
The Logistics Of Getting Back Into Shape
Another big challenge for new parents, especially first-time parents, is finding the time to get back into shape. Your entire life as you knew it is gone.
For me, the biggest adjustment was that I could no longer pop out to the gym whenever I wanted to, because chances were good my husband was at work (or sleeping), and someone had to be available to tend to Kimmie (and later, both girls).
If you’re used to gym workouts, this may be time to switch gyms to one that includes childcare facilities as part of your membership fees. Or you may need to negotiate with your partner, as I did while pregnant with Kimmie. I made my husband promise that he would help me get out to exercise 3x/week, as soon as I was able. If you have family or friends nearby who can cover an hour of childcare here and there, this is another good bet.
When you can’t get away from Baby:
If you can’t get someone to cover Baby while you workout, then see if you can find any Mommy-And-Me exercise classest. We have many “aqua tot” pool exercise classes in our area. Aqua Tot classes are usually for mamas with little ones between 6 months and 2 or 3 years old. I did some of these with Kimmie while pregnant with Essie, and they were a great form of fun, gentle exercise.
Mommy-and-Me yoga classes are another super bet for mothers with babies or toddlers. Essie and I did several of these, once Kimmie was in preschool, and Essie loves yoga to this day.
You could also look for a new moms’ stroller-exercise class or group near you. Or look for a mommies’ group (such as our local Meetup) where you could organize such an activity. If these won’t work for whatever reason, then consider one of the workout-at-home options listed below.
Things To Try:
Whether you’re new to exercise or just trying to adjust to life post-Baby, these options are perfect for new mamas:
If you were hard-core before pregnancy, you might be tempted to jump right into high intensity interval training. But starting with something gentler is a much smarter choice. Yoga is ideal for this.
If you’ve never tried yoga, you might be surprised (as I was when I did my first practice) at what a muscle workout it provides! Yoga poses focus on toning key muscle groups and supportive muscles. You’ll be amazed at which muscles you can “rediscover” as you try to wrap your brain (and body) around different poses. The gentle, slow progressions of yoga sequences will give you an underlying foundation of strength. And rebuilding that basic muscle tone is a key first step to resuming any pre-baby cardio routine. With a muscle foundation, you’re much less likely to injure yourself when you do get back in that high intensity state of cardiovascular exercise.
Swimming is a super option if you have access to a pool. Because there are no sudden jerky movements, swimming is a very supportive form of exercise. In addition, the resistance from moving through water means your joints will experience less stress, which is one of the leading causes of injury when weight-training.
Swimming is also great for fat loss, as you can make swimming a pretty high-intensity workout without risk of injury. But there are lots of ways you can workout in the water without having to swim a stroke. I’ve spent a lot of time doing water workouts after recovering from surgery, and running laps in shoulder-high water is still my favorite form of running. For even more of a challenge, you can add water-friendly ankle and wrist weights. Pushups and leg lifts on the side of the pool will also tone your muscles. So will doing arm moves underwater with wrist weights or resistance paddles.
3. At-Home Exercise
If your confidence has plummeted from all the changes your body has experienced, maybe working out at home is a good place to start. One super-low-stakes option is the Fitdeck Postnatal exercise cards. Fitdeck cards are packs of cards that contain exercises you can do at home, usually without any special equipment. My brother Evan gave me the Mama-To-Be gift set (which included the postnatal pack) when I was pregnant with Kimmie. Even if you have only a couple of minutes, you can grab the deck and do a few exercises. For a long time after Kimmie’s birth, they were all I could manage, and I was so glad I had that set!
And here’s an even better option, now that pretty much everyone has smart devices loaded with their favorite apps: Did you know that you can now do Les Mills classes at home? All you have to do is download the Les Mills app! This means you can do Body Combat or Body Pump (or Flow, my personal favorite!) at your own pace, in your own space. That way, when you’re able to return to the gym, you’ll have a head start on resuming your favorite classes.
What about you? If you’re past this stage, what was your favorite hack for getting back into shape after giving birth? Let us know in the comments!