Often times as moms, we tend to put ourselves on the bottom of the list. Taking care of everyone else’s needs before our own. But prioritizing your own health is just as important as taking care of those dependent on you. While postpartum fitness will likely be an entirely different ballgame, taking the time to move and strengthen the body is one of the ways you can practice self-care that’ll benefit you for years to come. Here are some tips on how to get started:
1. Make sure you are cleared to exercise by your doctor or OBGYN
Many doctors recommend waiting six to eight weeks after birth before starting trying any type of exercise, but it often varies. Women who experience complications during pregnancy or labor may get set them back a few more weeks. And moms who had a vaginal birth will likely have a different timeline than those who had a c-section. If you’re itching to do something before 6 weeks, walking is perfect – it’s not only great exercise but will help you to clear your mind and you’ll probably find your baby will take a nap from the soothing motion.
2. Start slow and gradually build
Your body is still healing from delivery, and with a newborn in the house, you might be feeling more tired than ever. Remember there is no rush to shed the baby weight. Something is always better than nothing (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Start by increasing your walking for a couple weeks, once you feel good with this you can gradually add in gentle strength training exercises and low-impact cardio. Remember it’s important to be kind to yourself during this journey, it has taken 9 months and a lot of stress and pressure on your body physically to grow your baby so it’s going to take time to get your body, strength and fitness back.
3. Give your pelvic floor and core some love
The pelvic floor and core is your breathing system which includes abdominals, back muscles, pelvic floor muscles, and glutes. These muscles also take the biggest hit during pregnancy and delivery. It’s important to rehab these muscles first before you move on to more advanced core exercises and high-intensity workouts. Some exercises to start with include: kegels, bridges, clamshells, heel slides and squats. Avoid: crunches, sit-ups, double leg raises, and high-impact exercises.
4. Alignment and form are key
Paying attention to your alignment in exercises AND daily life is one of the first steps to training your core to work best. Most moms gravitate towards hips being pushed forwards and the ribcage leaning backwards. This is a common posture many have while holding their babies. However, this weakens the core and increases the likelihood of pain and incontinence. The key is to keep ribs over hips as often as you can throughout the day. Also, check that you are engaging your core with every movement you make to optimize core and pelvic floor function.
5. Strength Train and Cardio
Both strength training and cardio have benefits. Strength training can give you the biggest bang for your buck in a limited time and is the best mode of exercise to tweak your body’s shape. Cardio is great for improving mood and heart health. Start with 1-2 days of each, 20-30 minutes a session. You can gradually build from there as you feel more comfortable and strong in your body.
6. Exercise to feel better
Exercise should make you feel better, and energize you. This is especially true when you’re a new mama and exhausted. It can be tough to get started on your workout sometimes. But once you get rolling into your workout, your energy should perk up. Make sure to listen to your body and not over-do-it, stop if you have pain and allow yourself to recover and rest after sessions. The most important thing is that you are exercising safely, to your limits (not someone else’s) and that you feel don’t leave each workout feeling worse than when you started.
7. Remember anything counts
You don’t have to workout for 30 minutes to get a great workout. Working in a few ten minute chunks throughout the day can be just as effective. Life as a mom means there will be interruptions for diaper changes, feedings, and crying babies…so it’s important to realize each workout doesn’t have to be perfect. Be ready to cut yourself some slack. There will be days when you can’t work out, just do your best.
But do make this time a priority. You are not being selfish by taking the time it will actually be beneficial for those you love– exercise releases endorphin’s (happy hormones) which will make you feel better and you know what they say “ happy wife = happy life.”
Author: Brittany Winfrey