How to Exercise After Pregnancy

My postpartum journeys have been different EVERY time.

First baby I gained 60 pounds and took about 9 months to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

Second baby I gained 50 pounds and it took me a year to feel myself again.

Third pregnancy I gained about 40 pounds and so far lost 5 pounds.

5 years.

3 pregnancies.

3 healthy births.

3 beautiful and healthy babies.

Stretch marks.

Saggy Skin.

Melasma Spots.

Night sweats.

But here’s what I know —> EVERY postpartum journey is different, even our own. Stop comparing your previous journeys and postpartum bodies. This body I have today is completely new. It’s now completely carried 3 babies. This body is good and I am so thankful for my body, my health and the ability to move.

Just remember mama…

YOU DON’T HAVE TO HATE YOUR BODY TO CHANGE IT, AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR BODY TO LOVE IT.

IF a goal of yours is to start feeling strong and healthy after having a baby you can TOTALLY do it, BUT  you need to learn the proper way to exercise after pregnancy. Your body will be exhausted and worn out afterward, and you may need to take it slowly until you receive the all-clear from your health care practitioner. After any intense endurance race, your muscles, hips, and internal organs will need some time to recover.

That said, it’s not long before many new moms start wondering when and how they can return to exercise after pregnancy. According to Nicole Dorsey, M.S., a Los Angeles-based exercise physiologist who specializes in pregnancy and exercise, picking up your pre-baby activity level slowly (but soon) is a must, as long as your health practitioner gives the OK.

Not only will your return to exercise after pregnancy help shed the baby weight, but consistent exercise has a ton of other health benefits for new moms.

“Being active again can boost your energy, restore muscle tone, condition the abdominal muscles, prevent lower back pain, and help stave off postpartum depression,” says Dorsey, who teaches postnatal fitness classes.

How Soon Can You Exercise After Giving Birth?

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), exactly when you can return to exercise after pregnancy depends on the type of childbirth you had. In the past, the rule of thumb was to wait six weeks before you started a fitness routine. However, the ACOG now says that if you had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it’s normally fine to start gently exercising a few days after your baby is born, or whenever you feel ready.

If you delivered by cesarean section, ask your doctor when it’s safe for you to exercise after pregnancy. A C-section makes things tougher but not impossible. Returning to fitness after having a baby can be nerve-racking. There’s nothing to feel bad about if you take it slow and tune into your body — you know your strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else.

“Your return to exercise is normally easier if you were moderately fit and strong during your pregnancy, if you had a natural delivery, and if you maintained a moderate exercise program throughout,” says Dorsey.

6 Tips for Exercising After Pregnancy

1. Ease into it

Return to exercise slowly. Try 10 minutes at a time, then 15, 20, etc. Gradually increase the intensity and length of your sweat sessions, slowly add resistance to a bike, or incrementally increase the incline if you’re working out on the treadmill. But be reasonable. “Don’t initiate a new sport or return to barrel racing or bungee jumping within the first few weeks after having a baby!” says Dorsey. “Be good to yourself and use common sense.”

2. Vary your routine

Switching up your exercise after pregnancy can help you stick with the program. Start with long walks or Beachbody On Demand programs like Pre & Post Natal Barre Blend. Dorsey also stresses that strength training is extra-important for new moms. “You’ll be constantly holding, nursing, and carrying your baby for the next few months,” she says. “Most new mothers suffer from stiff necks, weak arms, and very poor posture. But regular strength training and other resistance exercises can counter these effects.”

3. Include your baby

Don’t wait until you have childcare to exercise. Rather, pick a workout your baby can be part of. Include your baby by pushing your little one in a stroller, or putting her next to you while you stretch or perform core work.

4. Grab a postnatal partner

Workout buddies are key to accountability. Knowing you have someone counting on you will make you less likely to skip your fitness session. Also, be sure to warm up thoroughly and cool down after every workout.

5. Drink up

Guzzle plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise to stay hydrated, especially if you’re breastfeeding; your body and your baby both desperately need the added healthy hydration.

6. Be prepared if you’re breastfeeding

Some studies have indicated that intense exercise (marathoners were tested) can cause lactic acid to build up in breastmilk. This won’t harm your baby, but it may make the taste of your breastmilk unpleasant. However, many breastfeeding moms run triathlons and marathons without having their milk refused by their babies.

What to Wear When You Exercise After Pregnancy

Nursing moms should wear supportive bras, and time their feedings with workout sessions. You may want to feed your baby or use a breast pump right before exercising so your body is more comfortable (your breasts will not be so likely to leak) and your mind is more at ease.

Most importantly, be comfortable in the right clothes, have patience, and be lenient with yourself. You just ran the most grueling marathon of your life!

Not only are you recovering from childbirth, but you’re also dealing with sleep deprivation, changing hormones, and the demands of caring for a newborn.

It’s OK if you need to take an extra rest day or cut a workout short. Remember that some exercise is always better than none, and even 10 minutes of exercising that beautiful new body will almost instantly improve your mood and energy level!

 

Before and After

Caroline Foster

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July 7, 2022

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