Regina blogs over at Good One God and she has a gift for writing hilarious pieces about motherhood, as well as great posts on style and exercise. She is currently my hero as I delve back into exercising after baby...I mean, the girl ran a triathlon while she was breastfeeding!!:
The first post-partum workout is as frightening as the first time I attempt to wear my normal jeans. No matter how hard I try, my backside and stomach won't allow it. Yet, when both pivotal moments are approached with patience and proper technique a normal sense of self and a fully buttoned pant can and will be reclaimed and better than ever. As a mom of three with another on the way, the following are my tips and tricks to not just get back to the level of fitness that existed pre-pregnancy, but continue to grow with a stronger mind, body, and spirit while our newest bundles watch from their bouncy chair.
It's mostly mental
One of my least favorite pop-culture paparazzi questions thrown at the rich and famous, and thus, imprinted on the body images of the normal is "How do you plan to lose your baby weight approximately 10 minutes after birthing that baby?" Offensive on so very many levels, the concentration on the physical appearance of moms, new and old, reduces all the incredible things of which our feminine figure is capable and makes it much more about who can get back in shape fastest and with the best new nursing boobs. For me, post baby workouts, and all workouts for that matter, should be about function and strength so as to fulfill the duties of our lives with confidence, comfort, ease, and fun. Flat abs are a just a bonus. The way I see it, maintaining a healthy mindset that concentrates on health and strength, rather than looks and one day buttoning our pants, is a much more efficient way to actually get to the point of buttoning our pants and then running in them.
Practice during Pregnancy
Muscles have memory, and do want to "get back" to their natural state. One way to ensure that they get their faster is by maintaining a comfortable level of fitness during pregnancy. My favorite, and most joint friendly recommendation is swimming. My particular masters team is coached by the "Killer Whales." Little did they know just how literal my current shape would take its name. Keep an eye on rapid heart beat, rapid breathing, too much exercise induced sweating and waddle along to your favorite tunes. Abs are not off limits! Try sit-ups or burpees, squats, walking, jogging, yoga, pilates, zumba, or whatever your two little heartbeats desire.
One of my favorite parts about being a mom is how much motherhood has inspired me to make new fitness goals, and grow in gratitude for the ability, albeit amateur and horribly uncoordinated, to do them. Take an opportunity away from me during pregnancy (skiing, comfortable running, hot yoga, etc. X 8 million) and I'll finally realize all the fun things that I do want to try. While at certain points in my post baby recovery, adherence to goals has left me much too tired and even injured, choosing reasonable goals to aspire towards has also been helpful and fruitful. For instance, while still pregnant, I might sign up for a race months and months away, pick a particular time goal for a 5k, or decide that I'd like to complete a new exercise or difficult movement by a certain date to keep me grateful for all the fun things that even a very short and uncoordinated mom can do.
A Serious Six Weeks
If we consider labor to be what it is which is the equivalent of at least one but potentially 8-10 marathons, the thought of taking off several weeks in a row might sit better and help us do the same. Carrying and delivering a baby takes a serious toll on ligaments, joints, and internal muscles whose presence may have otherwise gone unnoticed until motherhood unleashed their beast and made it nearly impossible to sneeze without crying out in anguish. While each woman will heal at a different pace and might even get the doctor go ahead to resume normal activity, the postpartum body tends to communicate its needs and desires much more clearly than we might want. In my experience, if bleeding continues activity should not. If it hurts, it isn't healed, and working out with a body not totally healed only leads to injury and more pain. As well, if more children are desired, keep in mind that recovering well after the first and second can aid in a happier, more stable pregnancy and recovery for the children to follow.
Baby Steps for the Baby Mama
After delivering my second baby I was so over eager to work out that I drove to the track 10 minutes after my doctor gave me the go ahead to begin normal activity. I told myself I would run 3 miles at my pre pregnant pace. After one successful lap, I left crying, hurting, and TMI!!! bleeding again. Start slow and stay there!!!! Pelvic exercises like kegels, light pilates, and lots and lots of stretching will allow the uterus and abdominal muscles to prepare themselves for normal activity. Shocking them only makes them mad!
Strength Train with a Guide
If possible, work out with someone that knows how to to ensure gaining strength instead of sore muscles.
Anticipate Work out Interruptions and/or Cancellations
A crying baby, messed up nap, bad feeding, 18 loads of laundry, meals that need to be made, other kids, baby up all night, bad mood, colic, clothes that are too tight, messy house, accidental flood, crayon on the walls, nap protests, thrown pasta, breast milk ruining a sports bra are all valid and probable reasons why you might cancel your workout. Its ok.
Stay at Home or Join a Gym with Childcare
There are tons of floor workouts to be done in 10 minutes that will get a heart rate up while the kids play (or destroy something- it can happen quick).
There are also great babysitting places at gyms! Find what works and have a blast doing it.
The responsibility of bringing a new life into this crazy world is inherently stressful. Allowing fitness goals to be a source of stress is a great way to go completely crazy, and hate every minute of getting in shape. Finding things that are fun FOR YOU will relieve stress, increase endorphins and allow for mental rest. For some of us though, fitness will never be fun. It can, however, be a source of spiritual edification and personal growth. By reaching goals and feeling good about ourselves, we moms will be better, stronger, faster, and all that other stuff printed largely on athletic Tshirts.