You’ve just given birth to your beautiful baby. Things are both chaotic and wonderful, but you have very little chance to take care of you. Getting sleep feels like a luxury, let alone finding time to exercise!! And yet, your body has changed, and it would be wonderful to work on getting back in shape.
But when do you start? What kinds of exercise can you do so soon after birth? And what if you can’t figure out how to fit it into your new life?
I have worked with many women during and after their pregnancies. Even though each woman has her own individual pace and response to exercise, there are some principles and tips that can help guide you in your exercise journey. Take a look at these tips, find what works for you in your unique situation – and allow yourself to do it in your own time and in your own way!
Consult with your doctor. There is some evidence that women can start exercising as soon as they feel ready if they had an uneventful vaginal delivery (which is often sooner than the 6-week period advised by healthcare professionals in the past). Of course, always make sure that you consult with your doctor before jumping into anything substantial – especially if you had a C-section or any complications.
Don’t hit it too hard. Relaxin, the hormone that softens the ligaments and connective tissue during pregnancy, can remain in your body for several months after giving birth. Since this can make your joints hypermobile, be careful to avoid overstretching or over-stressing your joints when you first return to exercise. In general, jumping into any intense exercise program too quickly can cause injury. Return to your workouts slowly and naturally, and be patient with the pace your body needs to take!
Abs are key! Pregnancy takes a toll on the abdominal muscles, and relaxin can soften the muscles as well. Your core muscles are crucial and should be the first muscles you target. Before you think about your “six-pack,” though, begin with kegels (repeatedly drawing up and tightening the muscles from the front opening of the vagina to the rectum as if lifting a hammock with your buttocks relaxed) and pelvic tilts (tilting the pelvis upward while pulling the deep abdominal muscles into your spine – try kegeling at the same time, too!).
Exercise for shorter periods of time if necessary. It can be extremely challenging to find time to exercise, especially at first. Physical exercise does not need to take place during one lengthy session to be effective. Take a few 10-minute walks with your friends or with your baby stroller. Take advantage of a friend or relative who can babysit to run outside or jump on an elliptical for 20 minutes. Do a short abdominal workout next to your baby while she is laying on her playmat. Be on the lookout throughout the day for opportunities to be physical no matter how brief they may be.
Know that it will make you feel better. Exercise has been shown to help prevent and promote recovery from postpartum depression. It can also help boost your energy levels during those times you are feeling tired from waking up all night. Listen to your body when you’re profoundly fatigued since this could lead to injury during exercise (or perhaps signal a problem), but don’t shy away from working through low energy levels.
Have fun!! Exercise should become a regular part of your life that you crave. Take the time to find the class, gym, activity, or trainer that you love, and you will stop viewing exercise as a chore but rather a great way to let off steam, lose weight, and feel strong and happy around your baby!
Mahri Relin, owner of Body Conceptions, is a NASM certified personal trainer and an AFPA Pre/Post Natal Exercise Specialist. Deemed one of the two “Best Body Sculpting Workouts” in New York City by Vogue, Mahri and Body Conceptions have been featured in Redbook, DuJour, Fitness Magazine, The New York Times, Vogue and Well + Good. Mahri was a trainer for Tracy Anderson and Creative Director for FlyBarre at Flywheel Sports. Among their other services, the Body Conceptions studio has a full roster of pre- and postnatal certified personal trainers who help women maintain strength, stamina and muscle tone before and during their pregnancies and return to their pre-baby bodies quickly. Mahri is a graduate of Williams College and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest. For more information on Mahri and Body Conceptions go to www.bodyconceptions.com.
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