Friday, July 11, 2014

8 Tips for Postpartum Fitness

I'm so excited. My doctor cleared me to resume normal activity, which means I can start kicking my own butt again. So today, I popped in a Tara Stiles DVD and did some energizing flow. It felt good...

...hard, but good. I'm definitely pretty weak right now, and I seriously need to be stretched out. Rusty. That's me, a rusty bod. I expected this, of course, having gone through it before.

Back in March, I wrote a post for Kate of Kate Moving Forward. She had just given birth to her first daughter, so I provided some tips for postpartum fitness. Originally titled "What to Expect: Fitness After Pregnancy," I outlined some of the things I wish I had known after Hannah was born.

I thought it'd be appropriate to repost those same tips right here (with the addition of two more tips):

1) Your doctor or midwife might request that you wait six weeks before returning to the gym. After those six weeks, you’ll have a checkup and (if all goes well), you should get the all-clear. The important thing here is to listen to your doctor AND your body. They both know what they’re doing.

2) Your core will be extremely weak. No matter what you did during your pregnancy to help maintain muscle tone and strength, a flat, toned and super-strong stomach you will not have after that baby evacuates itself! Your abdomen was stretched during pregnancy, which means that your muscles were, too. Ease your way back into core exercises with isolation exercises. Especially if you’ve experienced any diastis rectii (separation of the rectus abdominus muscle). And remember, core work will only be a part of your baby weight-loss story.

3) When you run, jump or otherwise move rapidly, you just might pee a little. Too much info? It happens to the best of us, so practice your kegels and wear your pantyliners just in case. Typically, this phenomenon rights itself as the muscles in your pelvis regain their strength.

4) Your workouts will be hard. Really hard. But they’ll feel good. Slow and steady wins the race in this situation. Even though you’ve been given the all-clear after that six-week mark, you’ve still got some healing to do. And your muscles, let’s be honest, have some work to do because they’ve probably taken it easier and easier on the downward slope to delivery.

5) Believe in the “nine months on, nine months off” theory. Baby weight doesn’t fall off when the baby is born. Some of it will, yes. But it’ll be all baby, water and anything otherwise associated with your womb. Any fat you gained during pregnancy will need to come off on its own in a healthy way. Work at it when you get the all-clear and you’ll see results in due time.

6) If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need a comfortable sports bra. The ladies will change on a daily basis to accommodate milk supply and demand. Your sports bra should support this! Exercise comes with bouncing, jogging and otherwise jiggling…but all of this should be done with your extremities, not your chest. And speaking of comfort, you may experience discomfort if you exercise too closely to a feeding or pumping session. Be careful with any exercises that require you to be on your chest/stomach just in case.

7) You will be extremely hungry all of the time. Especially if you're breastfeeding. Take into account the need for additional calories, especially when you start working out again. Now is the time to eat healthy and balanced. Don't starve yourself in the name of babyweight loss. It'll have a reverse effect, and may even affect your milk supply.

8) You will have good days, and you will have bad days. Your hormones are still righting themselves after baby. And let's be honest—you have a different life now. So go easy on yourself when you feel like all is lost in a sea of baby weight, boobs and the constant eat/sleep/poop routine that your kiddo is adopting. Life, even though it's different now, will develop into a new type of normal and you will feel like yourself again. Physically and mentally. You will, I promise.

Bottom line, remember that health and fitness is a unique journey. Listen to your body, mind and soul and, once again, respect what it tells you. And even though you’ve got baby in hand now, keep an open dialogue with your doctor or midwife to facilitate an active, appropriate and successful recovery.

Question: Moms, what's the one thing that surprised you the most when you returned to fitness after baby? What advice would you give to a postpartum mother that's about to return to fitness?

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