Tips to help you navigate postpartum fitness

Guest post by Jane Grates

A professional hiker and runner. Performing at the crossroads of beauty and function to craft experiences both online and in real life. She also writes reviews on sites such as Runnerclick, NicerShoes, ThatSweetGift and GearWeAre.

After women become pregnant and give birth, many feel like they must return to their “pre-baby” body as quickly as humanly possible. Some blame it on the media and Hollywood’s influence, what with so many celebrities practically leaving the hospital, newborn in their arms, and not looking at all like they had just given birth. Others say that a cultural influence is to blame, the constant permeation of a specific standard or ideal of beauty to which all women must adhere, regardless of where they are in their lives.

What’s a Postpartum fitness mama to do? 

The fact of the matter is that once you have given birth, it’s really not very feasible, or in many cases actually possible, to quickly “bounce back” to your pre-pregnant body. Most, if not all, women report that their bodies change dramatically as a result of their pregnancies. Even if women manage to lose the weight from carrying a child, they may still “feel” different, like they are carrying their weight differently than they had before. Of course, stress and sleep deprivation simply magnify all of these feelings.

My advice: take things slowly. Think baby steps — for yourself. Take things a day at a time.

Get clearance before doing anything.

Again, it can be really tempting to jump right in to things. Do yourself a favor, though, and don’t. Wait until you get clearance from your provider. For many women, this may not be until six weeks postpartum. For others, it may be as soon as three weeks postpartum, and for others, they may not get clearance until much later, particularly if they had a medically complicated birth and delivery. Your body is recovering from the major stress of pregnancy for nearly forty weeks, coupled with the miracle that is giving birth. Please be patient and kind to it, even when you feel like it’s unrecognizable.

Start small: really, really small.

Once you get clearance to begin or resume exercising, I implore you to think really, really small. Even if you were used to running five miles a day, pregnant or otherwise — and kudos to you, by the way — postpartum fitness is a whole new territory. Think in very small increments, maybe starting with a five or a ten minute walk. Your body will likely feel very different from how you remember it, and particularly if you are breastfeeding, you may feel uncomfortable initially. Start small and work your way up. Getting a little bit of exercise (and thus, endorphins) can put you in a great mood and can help you get a mental break from the stresses of parenthood.

Incorporate exercise or movement all day long.

Remember that when you’re getting used to postpartum life, you don’t have to exercise only by going to the gym. You can incorporate exercise into your daily life by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, by parking far away from a store instead of up close, and by taking multiple trips to and from your car, carrying groceries, instead of loading up. In this way, some people swear by fitness wearables, such as Fitbits and Garmin watches, because they receive alerts from their devices to move each hour, even if it’s just getting up and going for a few-minute-long walk or going up and down a flight of stairs. A little can go a long way, and it all adds up.

Join a community of postpartum moms interested in fitness.

Finally, because it can be really isolating when you’re a new parent at home with your child, sometimes the best cure is other people, particularly other people who “get it.” Do some research and see if there are any moms-focused fitness groups in your community. Typically these types of groups are very family-friendly, and usually parents can attend classes or runs with their children in tow, in strollers. After the parents exercise together for a while, the children are let free to play amongst themselves.

Postpartum exercise can seem pretty daunting and impenetrable. With some research and some flexibility, you’ll be able to surprise yourself with what you can do. A little really can go a long way, and when you incorporate your baby into your routine, you’ll be setting a positive example for him/her. It can be hard to not think that you’re being selfish by insisting on getting in your daily exercise, but think of it this way. Daily exercise will make you feel better about yourself, it’ll put you in a better mood and reinvigorate you, and it’ll make you a better parent. You’re doing it for yourself just as much as you’re doing it for your family.

Congrats on your recent family addition, and best wishes as you embark on your postpartum fitness journey.

A disclaimer: the advice and counsel that you receive from your medical provider supersedes anything I have to say. When in doubt, definitely consult with your provider instead of relying on the internet for medical advice.

AUTHOR’S BIO: JANE GRATES

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