So you’ve survived 9 months of pregnancy, emerged relatively unscathed from the delivery, and now have this sweet yet demanding little person to show for all your efforts. Now what? We all know that our priorities have now changed thanks to the little life that we’ve created, but we need to take our bodies back too since that’s so important to our self-esteem and confidence as women and now as mothers; your baby will sense and thrive off of the positive energy that radiates from a healthy body image in their mommy. So how do you get there?
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
I completely understand the sense of panic when you leave the hospital still wearing maternity pants and still can’t squeeze your pre-pregnancy jeans past your hips weeks after delivery. The old saying goes, “It took your body 9 months to get that size, it needs time to shrink back.” Keep in mind that your body has just undergone a huge trauma in either delivering a baby or having a C-section (surgery, essentially) so please listen to your doctors’ orders when it comes to healing time. Start activity slowly and pay attention to what your body is telling you. I personally failed to do this (having no babies before, I didn’t know what was “normal” healing and what wasn’t) and started working out 2 weeks post-partum even though I didn’t feel completely healed. At my first checkup 5 weeks later, we discovered that there was still a section that hadn’t healed, so I hadn’t been doing myself any favors by exercising. SEVEN MONTHS LATER, I am FINALLY completely healed. So, please, listen to your body and take your time getting back into the flow of exercise. Enjoy your bonding time with baby and get some rest as needed; those are the most important things in the first few weeks of your new role as mommy. Exercise will be waiting for you when you are mentally and physically ready!
Exercises to “Firm” Back Up
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hated the way my stomach looked and felt after birth. All the cocoa butter in the world couldn’t snap that skin back into place! If you had stomach muscles before, you may realize that they are still MIA even after your baby is out of the way. It’s a hard realization to make, but not one that’s impossible to fix. Just as there are workouts geared toward pregnancy, there are also some workouts to focus on “firming” your body back into shape from all the shifting and stretching that it has endured. Here are the ones that I did (Lindsay Brin’s DVD has 3 trimester-specific DVDs for pregnancy plus a 4th DVD for Post-Natal Boot Camp so it’s a great option all around!):
I especially like post-natal exercises because you know that they are safe for you, start off slow enough that you aren’t immediately doing jumping jacks and round-kicks, and focus on those areas that need a little TLC after pregnancy. My main problem area, as I mentioned, was my stomach and trying to get the tone back. Tracy Anderson’s DVD is absolutely amazing in that regard. This may turn into some Amazon customer review and so I apologize in advance, but it’s great. It was definitely challenging at first and she does offer some slight alternatives if you don’t have the muscle strength yet, but I can say it actually seemed to get HARDER the more I did it. It’s mainly an ab/core strength workout along with some moves to help your hips and spine get back into alignment. But I never felt tired enough that I just couldn’t finish it, and that’s the important thing. I’m sure there are many other awesome post-natal workouts available, and feel free to try them all – whatever interests you and keeps you motivated!
Establish a Routine
If you’ve just gotten home from the hospital, the wave of visitors has passed, and you’re now settling into motherhood, you realize there’s not much “settling” happening. You’re probably stressing over how dirty the house has become overnight, what it feels like to survive on constantly-interrupted spurts of sleep, and how you will ever feel like a normal functioning person again. And then you have to find time to work out too? The best advice I can give you is to just establish a routine that includes your daily workout and “me” time. I typically did my workouts during my son’s morning nap (I prefer morning workouts so then I can get my shower and be done for the day), usually in the same room as him so I could watch him at the same time. Sometimes he woke up and needed something, sometimes he didn’t, but I could generally count on that time to do my workout and that made me feel more sane. Hopefully your baby is able to get on some sort of schedule where you can predict times that he/she will be asleep, and that’s the best time. If you can’t seem to find time away from your baby, that’s okay too. Just include them in your workout! If my son happened to be awake or wake up and still be content to sit by himself, I would talk to him as I was working out – counting reps out loud, telling him what body parts I was moving. Everything can be a teachable moment! If you are lucky enough to have had your baby during the warmer months, invest in a jogging stroller and take your baby on walks/runs so you both can get fresh air and exercise at the same time. You’ll enjoy the time away from the house and your baby will love the gentle rocking of the stroller.
As I mentioned before, change doesn’t happen overnight – at least for most of us – but I am happy to report that you CAN have your body back post-baby. Despite a little extra room in my sports bra thanks to the lovely after-effects of breastfeeding (do I even need a bra anymore?!), my body is essentially what it was before I got pregnant. However, it took what felt like forever to get to this point so don’t be discouraged. Keep up with an exercise routine that’s right for you when your body is ready and I promise you will see results. But know, in the meantime, that you are an amazing woman who has already accomplished an awesome feat. There’s nothing you can’t do now!