Throughout my motherhood journey, I realized that I wanted to use my coaching practice to support other women going through pregnancy and parenthood for the first time (or 7th!). It was initially hard for me to navigate how I wanted to share – I never want to come across as an expert who has no bad days. Let me be clear, there are many bad days! But I’m big on figuring things out – big on solutions and I don’t really like to dwell long on the problems. So a few years back, I changed my health coaching practice to solely focus on this.
Now for the purpose of this post – postpartum exercise. One area I have found a lack of information and resources for new moms is the chaotic and unknown world of postpartum. This is just ONE small sliver of that world, but I look forward to many more posts on this gigantic topic.
Having now birthed three (and no it definitely doesn’t get easier) I wanted to share some of my favorite tips for returning to a “routine”, once cleared by doctors, of course. Getting back into fitness and wellness after having each of my kids, was one way I was able to start to feel good again. BTW, I don’t like saying “get back to normal” because I feel like your life is always your normal. It just changes as you change. I know not everyone has the capacity or support to get alone time for self-care, but I highly encourage every new mom to focus on themselves for even just 5 minutes a day! Here are some of my favorite tips for getting back into a safe and effective fitness routine, postpartum.
Listen to Your Body
If there was one single piece of advice I could give every new mom regarding absolutely everything postpartum, it would be to listen to your body. So you want to try to do some light yoga – well if you start and you begin feeling pain or discomfort you need to stop. While many doctors give the all clear at 6 weeks to resume normal activity, there are plenty of us who aren’t ready for another month, or more. If you feel as though you can jump in – that is the best indicator – your body will tell you when to stop and when it’s ready for more. When it comes to easing back into working out after a baby, trusting yourself and your body is the best thing you can do for yourself.
I’ll tell you straight out that I typically do not start an exercise routine until I am done breastfeeding. While yes, I will dabble in things, I know myself well enough now to know that the morning is truly the best time for me to work out so I don’t come up with excuses and prioritize other things, and that’s ALSO the time my babes needed me when they woke up! For Carmen and Graham, I started exercising regularly again around 1 year after, and with PJ it was around 6 months. By no means was I back at it 8 weeks after delivery.
Find Something that Works for YOU
No matter what program I do or your friend does – you will need to find something that makes you happy. Something that’s attainable and something you actually enjoy. The worst kind of exercise is the kind you dread. And trust me, there are things you will actually like! It took me years to find programs that I enjoy. Right now I’m really loving Studio LB from home. I get it done first thing in the morning with all the kids around so it takes me a while. Use recommendations from others, research them, try their trials, but ultimately pick something that works for you. On the flipside of this – if you know someone doing a program and they can act as accountability for you – that’s kind of a great thing too.
So, here are some additional ideas to get you started!
One piece of advice I got after PJ was born was to look into postpartum-focused fitness classes. Now with so many digital options for fitness instruction, there are dozens of options available to us! Many women begin their journey back into a fitness routine with yoga and this is definitely a great idea because it is something that can be eased in to. Sara Beth Yoga has some really incredible “Postnatal Yoga” videos that guide you through easy, relaxing, and strengthening exercises.
I also recognize that yoga isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for more of a sweat during your workout than what yoga typically provides, I suggest looking into a wellness program, like Obe, Studio LB or Peloton! These guided fitness programs have options for levels of difficulty and even have postpartum specific classes.
Strategize… and be Realistic
I’m big on a strategy, guys! I cannot just jump into things, because for me – it usually ends in failure. LOL. When I knew I wanted to start working out again, I created a strategy. A plan for how I was going to get this done. I knew I had to work out in the morning before my day got the best of me. I also love to sleep so I knew I was not going to wake up before the kids woke me up. This is the “be realistic” part – while you are going to have to give a little bit, don’t create a plan for something you just absolutely will not do. Okay, so morning, got it. But also that means there is at least one kid awake. So the next thing is to figure out what you are going to do – do you have to work out alone? If so, what is your plan for that? If you know the kids will be around, make sure you get them settled with things so they won’t bother you for 15 minutes. I know they will ask me for things throughout the workout – and that’s fine – I just try to get them settled for a period of time. I also recommend taking breaks when you finish a “set” to proactively give them hugs, snacks, breakfast, whatever to keep them from interrupting! 😛
If you’ve been here before, you know I like to keep it real and honest. That being said, it might not be realistic for you to be able to get back to the same level of activity you once had (effort or time!). Don’t be hard on yourself. It’s better to figure out a strategy around working out than it is to jump in with false expectations. Sure, there are plenty of tough mamas out there who bounce right back as if nothing had changed – but for the most part, we have to shift our expectations of ourselves in this new role of motherhood. For some, the shift in expectations might be super small and simple, while others are more drastic. Both are OK and neither is worse than the other. It is crucial that as women, we continue to remind ourselves what our bodies and minds endured (and continue to!). We created and birthed LIFE and are raising the next generation, giving ourselves grace is the least we can do!