Staying Healthy and Active After Your Pregnancy
Congratulations on your new baby! What a wonderful and exciting time this is for you and your family. Of course this is also an exhaustive time for you as a mom, so many things to do or hold or wipe. I am sure that out of all the things you are juggling, exercise is the last thing you are thinking of. The good news is that you should not be thinking of exercise until you have recovered from the birth and your doctor has cleared you to exercise. The bad news is that not exercising can become a habit so once you are medically cleared to start you should.
Firsts things first, mentally you must accept that things have changed (especially if you were athletic before pregnancy). You must set realistic expectations for your exercise program and not do too much too soon. Your mind may be 100% but your body is not, it is important to start your workouts appropriately.
Scheduling time for your workout may be the hardest part. I find that getting up early, before my son wakes up is the best for me. For some it may be during the afternoon nap and others may be after their baby goes to bed for the night, but consistency is what you are aiming for so if it works for you go with it.
I started with fifteen minute workouts and basic body weight exercises. I used squats, lunges, push-ups and crunches, great exercises to get your metabolism started. By doing five sets of twenty I was able to start building my strength back up, a big help when you start carrying that car seat around with your baby inside. I slowly added weights back in to my workouts, but continued to focus mainly on my core muscle groups. I would do these three times a week and alternate days with walking and yoga in the morning.
If running is one of your goals, I have found two ways to do it. Twice a week I use my early morning time to run without my son, I make these runs shorter distances but focus on speed and form. I also run three times a week with my son. These runs are usually longer and slower runs, but with the added difficulty of pushing a jogger with a baby inside, they are still an excellent workout (an added benefit with my son is that he normally gets a nap in the jogger). If you plan on running with a jogger, you must plan your runs wells. You will want to make sure there are sidewalks for the entire route and pay close attention to the weather and temperature.
Doing yoga and active stretching are great ways to help your posture and relieve tension. I found that because I am constantly holding my baby boy and looking down into his beautiful face, that I build a lot of tension in my neck and upper back. A great stretch I found for that is to hold a band or long broomstick straight out in front of you. Keep your feet shoulder with apart and raise your arms over your head and as far behind your back as you can. This will help open up your shoulders and relieve that tension. If you are not familiar with stretching check with a personal trainer or yoga instructor to find some stretches that will target your areas of tension.
As you feel your body responding to your exercises you may find that you have more energy than time, if this is case focus on the quality of your workout and not the quantity. Add some higher intensity exercises into your routine and decrease the rest time between sets. Incorporate some jump roping and plyometrics into your routine also. Plyometrics are basically any type of jumping exercises and the intensity they bring will get your heart rate up. Again for ideas on high intensity exercises seek out a personal trainer, they will be able to target exercises to you and your goals.
I want to talk for just a minute about your nutrition. After child birth this could be your biggest obstacle, especially if you are breast feeding (check with your doctor about staying on your prenatal vitamins – big help). You have to make sure you are eating plenty of good healthy meals to replace the extra calories you will be expending by breast feeding. Find easy ways to have fast but healthy meals and snacks. I prepare salads on Sunday for the entire week. By placing those in individual Tupperware containers in the refrigerator I always have lunch ready. Make sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your meals and snacks (Kale smoothies have become a favorite treat of mine). The important thing is make sure the extra calories you are taking in are working with you and not against you.
You have probably already discovered that this is going to be a physically and emotionally challenging time. By planning your workouts and meals, setting realistic goals and staying consistent you can get through it a little easier. Having a healthy body during this time will be nothing but beneficial to you and your baby.