Those first postpartum months are such a special time for mom and baby. For me, both my pregnancies were a time of joy, but also a time of confusion. Not only are our hormones going crazy but our bodies just don’t feel or look anything like we expected. There’s so much pressure to “bounce back” and often it can leave us feeling emotionally drained trying to figure it all out.
As a fitness professional and a mom of two myself, I see two main groups of women who emerge after having a baby when it comes to fitness. There’s the mom who is so overwhelmed with her new role that she can’t even fathom attempting to exercise again. And then there’s the mom who is also as equally overwhelmed but has extreme goals and goes full force back into hard intense exercise and back to her “pre baby” life way too quickly.
I think each experience will be different for different moms and babies. The important thing is that you listen to your doctor or midwife's recommendations and also listen to your body. Doing nothing is going to leave you feeling unhealthy, unmotivated and de-energized. While getting back into exercise too soon can cause injury and even unnecessary anxiety. I think the biggest thing is to find balance between those two extremes where you are easing back into moderate exercise and letting your body recover to a healthy and strong place over a consistent period of time.
Here's my top tips on getting restarted with exercise post pregnancy:
1. Be flexible
I remember my first workout post partum with Sofia (my 2nd). It was a complete disaster, not gonna lie. Nora, who was 3 at the time, was climbing all over me. Sofia was in her bouncer and ended up needing to be changed, nursed and held multiple times within a 30 minute time frame and I was honestly a complete hot mess! The biggest thing I've learned especially with two kids is to set your expectations LOW and know that its okay to stop and press pause multiple times. Its okay to not work at 100% effort and its okay to get interrupted. You have to be flexible when you have babies that are unpredictable!
2. Pick the right program
The post partum period is a delicate time when you really need to focus on recovery. Be sure to wait a solid 6 weeks before starting normal exercise and be aware of common problems such as ab separation, back pain, joint pain and core weakness. If you have any of these problems its a sign for you to not dive into an extreme program too quickly. Looking for a program that is designed specifically for new moms is really the best option! If you just wing it you probably won't stick with it and you may injure yourself. If you see programs that use the word “extreme”, “restriction” or “diet” run far in the opposite direction. This is not a time in your life when you should be doing anything extreme. The biggest physical issues you should be working on post pregnancy are core strength, stability and flexibility. There's absolutely no shame in modifying exercises or starting with a low impact type workout. You are literally starting over from scratch after having a baby. Your body has been depleted and there's no need to push yourself to maximum levels right away. Most programs will have modifications so follow those as needed!
On top of that, choose a program that is going to give you a mapped out plan to help you ease in and that gives you lifestyle results. When you decide on a program make sure to schedule it in and map it out as best you can.
3. Focus on the small daily wins
You truly need to take it a day at a time. Focusing on the long term results can seem overwhelming and daunting! Find something in each day, each workout, each meal that you have improved on from the day before and give yourself a pat on the back for making those small wins happen each day. Instead of focusing on a big weight loss goal, focus on that fact that you made the effort to go for a walk that day or that you made a healthy meal. Small wins over time compound into BIG wins - so keep going!
4. Find a support system
Getting plugged in with other new moms has been KEY on my journey. Knowing that there's other women in your exact same position and that totally understand what you're going through makes it SO much more do-able! When you can vent about hard days, having a fussy baby and celebrate the great days with other moms it makes your journey so much more enjoyable. The encouragement you get from group support with other women on the same journey is a GAME CHANGER!
5. Fully commit
Don’t just go “half” in. If you want to truly see long term results its about long term consistency. That doesn’t mean you need to be perfect but that does mean you need to commit for the long term. I personally was not fully committed until I decided on a true plan of action. When you're ready to get results, you need to fully commit. But that being said make sure you give yourself grace to have the flexibility you deserve in your routine!
I hope that these tips help you to get re-started with exercise post pregnancy in a healthy and balanced way!