Mom Fitness 5 Tips for New Moms November 22, 2017 07:20 16 Comments
5 Fitness Tips for New Moms
Thanks to Erica for writing this amazing blog about fitness tips for new moms. We will be featuring some amazing moms who want to share their passions through our blog.
Congratulations! You’ve just incubated and evacuated an actual human being from your very own lady parts. As you well know, growing and squeezing a bowling-ball-sized object out of a dime-sized hole takes a major toll on one’s body. The good news, however, is that the postpartum body is really quite trainable and can return not only to its previous state, but a stronger, more stable one- IF you train it properly. Professional runners, Kara Goucher, Stephanie Bruce, and Alysia Montano's all returned strong to qualify for the US Olympic trials in their respective distances after having babies (I’m waiting on you, Adi Nelson!!!). If you’re reading this, you’re PROBABLY not a professional athlete (though if you are, I’d love a shout out!), but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn lessons from them. Take a look at these guidelines that will help you lose weight and rebuild the necessary muscle tone, functional strength, and mobility to carry out the new demands of “momlife”:
1. Restore That Core!!!
This is, perhaps, the MOST important thing you can do to achieve your fitness goals safely and effectively. Pregnancy and childbirth stretch and weaken the muscles and connective tissue of much of the core, including the deep core and pelvic floor muscles (such as the transverse abdominis). Most women also have some degree of diastasis recti- the separation between your rectus abdominals that leaves a gap, making your belly “pooch” out after birth. A weak inner core is also why you might pee every time you sneeze, jump, or laugh (SO annoying, amiright?!) and Kegels are just not enough. Your first inclination might be to jump back into popular “ab exercises” like sit-ups/crunches, planks, and leg lifts, but you’d likely be doing more harm than good. Instead, focus on your breathing, engaging the appropriate muscles, and using small movements to progressively re-train your deep core and pelvic floor.
Rebuilding these muscles will ensure proper function and the stability necessary to carry out more intense movements later on. Exercises done while laying down, like “drawing in,” bent knee marches, glute bridges are sure to help.
Anywhere and everywhere. Walking will increase blood flow, which is important to the healing process while the movement boosts your endorphins (happy hormones), making you feel good. We are fortunate enough to live in a place where I can do most of my errands on foot and our primary mode of transportation has 2 wheels. So we walk (and bike). A lot. In all kinds of weather. If you have a safe place to walk near you (i.e. sidewalks, a path, a promenade, a boardwalk, etc.) and proper attire, then get your tushies out the door and walk. It provides time to bond with your little one, teaching him or her about your surroundings, and is good for your heart, soul, and leg muscles. You’ll kick-start your metabolism, making it easier to lose weight, while showing baby that healthy activity is valuable and important to you (bonus points if you have a dog and bring Fido with you!).
Don’t live in a place conducive to a walk? Look for opportunities to do so in other ways. Park far away from the entrance to the grocery store, head to the mall and walk the corridors, grab your carrier and find a safe wooded trail at a state, county, or local park to walk with a friend. Just move as much as possible, as often as you can. With all the time we spend sitting (resting/healing, feeding, cuddling, etc.), your body will thank you for any kind of activity. The more you try to make it a habit, the easier it becomes to get out the door.
3. Drink a LOT of water.
Seriously. Giving birth depletes us of a LOT of liquid that if not replaced, can leave you feeling dehydrated for days (weeks? months?!). This is especially important if you are nursing. While drinking more water probably won’t have any affect on your milk supply, it’s essential to keeping YOU feeling good. Your brain, muscles, skin, and other organs all need water to perform at their best and now they have to compete with a suckling infant for access. Recovery (from birth and a hard workout) is much easier when your body is well hydrated. You don’t need to overdo it, either. Adding just a few extra 8-ounce servings of H2O to your regular routine can do the trick (drink more if you’re not typically a conscious water-drinker).
4. Start slowly.
The shortest gestation period of any mammal belongs to a species of opossum and is less than 2 weeks. By contrast, an elephant’s gestation period is 95 weeks. Well….thank goodness we are not elephants. And 2 weeks sounds cool until I think about the fact that I didn’t know I was pregnant until roughly week 6, so I guess I’m also glad I’m not a rodent-like marsupial (opossums are GROSS). That being said, as a human, you just spent approximately 40 weeks- FORTY WEEKS- gaining weight, turning your flesh and blood and everything you ate into a baby. Then you delivered it. Then you had to heal from that delivery while taking care of your baby. Your body probably does not look nor behave the same way it did before conception. AND THAT’S OKAY (I repeat…40 weeks)! My best advice here is to get back into the groove slowly. Your full recovery and your baby are more important right now than how you look. Most physicians recommend waiting until 6-week check-up to resume or begin any kind of fitness regimen. Ay sooner and you run the risk of injury or delaying your body’s ability to heal. Walking and a few minutes of core exercises each day until you’ve regained a little strength and stability are all you should be doing at first. Don't overdo it and be sure to progress at a safe rate. I refer you back to rule #1 with retraining your core properly before you move on to anything more intense. When you are ready, add a few reps or new, simple exercises, like squats, deadlifts or bicep curls with light weights to what you’re doing. You can quicken the pace while lengthening the distance you walk as you feel things returning to normal. Some gentle/restorative yoga is a good idea around this time, too. If you do things right up to this point, you’ll be able to kick it up a notch with some running or other cardio and more intense upperbody and core training with little to no problem (aside from, ya know, time and energy). If you suspect any issues, such as a pelvic floor injury or high degree of diastasis recti, speak to your healthcare provider asap.
5. Get baby involved.
So about that time and energy thing…I can’t be the only mom who struggles with finding time to get a good workout in. What I find is that it’s not really finding the time itself, but prioritizing effectively. Based on the schedules in my house, I am very limited in my opportunities to work out solo. However, if I’m willing to change my expectations of the workout, I can get baby involved. Squats, lunges, planks (when you’re strong and ready for them!), and some stretches are moves that can be done while holding or engaging a baby.
Hello resistance training! It’s convenient that they grow and gain weight as you get stronger and want to progress (or are you getting stronger BECAUSE they’re gaining weight?!). If you’ve got a set of TRX or similar bodyweight straps safely anchored in your home, strap baby into your preferred carrier (the Boba 4G is my fave!!!) and bring him or her along for the ride. If you need external motivation, almost every city and suburban area has some sort of mommy & me or stroller fitness classes. They are usually not free, but they get you out of the house to interact with adult humans, provide socialization for baby, and get you your workout. So how much is your sanity worth? A simple Google or hashtag search on social media (i.e. fit4mom or stroller fitness and your city or town) will set you in the right direction on finding a local group. If you live in an area too far from one, start your own! Grab a group of like-minded friends and find a place to put the work in. Your future self, your baby, and probably your significant other will thank you for it.
Patience and consistency are key when upping your fitness game after having a baby. Start small and remember to think about function and stability before any intense training. With some careful planning, you can and will restore your strength and, in turn, your body confidence. Maybe you, too, can qualify for the Olympics Trials. Hey…an old girl can dream, can’t she?
Erica Coviello is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, an ACSM Certified Group Fitness Instructor, a Road Runners Club of America Certified Running Coach, and is currently on maternity leave from teaching middle school science in NJ. Check out @runnercov on Instagram.