Thinking about getting back your pre-baby body? Let me guess, maybe you’re looking to lose a bit of weight, reduce that post-bump bulge and tone up those muscles which have lying dormant during pregnancy? Well good news, it’s all very achievable.
To help you on your mission back to fitness Rob Jones, fitness boffin at StrideFit, a Brighton and Hove based fitness outfit, has some helpful top tips on how to exercise safely and effectively post-pregnancy.
1. Take it easy
So you want to get back in shape fast, but now I’m saying take it easy?? As ever I have my reasons, let me tell you why…
Having had several months supporting the weight of the baby and probably not having been exercised hard for the many months with bump, you’re body probably won’t be hugely appreciative of tearing straight into a hardcore exercise regime. Don’t worry you’ll get to the challenging maximum calorie burning exercise, but right now let’s take it easy – choose an exercise regime that lets you get back to fitness gradually. So top tip one is simply to let your body ease back into exercise nice and slowly.
2. Moderate exercise is good exercise (for the time being that is)
Kind of linked to tip one, but definitely worth spending another paragraph on, top tip two is not to push your body too hard from day one and to keep your exercise moderate.
Regular exercise for 30 minutes (such as brisk walking) is just fine for new mums, so don’t beat yourself up that you’re not yet legging it round the park encased in Lycra. Plus, with a lack of sleep probably being enemy #1 to energy levels, you’re body will love you a lot more if you don’t go hell-for-leather straight away. Of course, once you feel you’re back in the groove, there will be no stopping you!
3. Get yourself that all important fitness goal
This sounds boring doesn’t it? Goals for this, targets for that, god it’s like being back at work or something, isn’t it? BUT (a big but), setting yourself an exercise goal, whether it’s to lose ‘X’ amount of weight or walk/run for ‘X’ many minutes without stopping, will have a incredible effect in keeping your mind focused.
Thought about what your goal is yet? You have? Good work. Now the next vital step is to set a deadline for that goal (uh oh, sounds like work again, but stick with me on this.…). Once the timing is set then we break it down into smaller chunks – mini goals if you will – that will be more easily achievable within shorter timeframes. Final step, you guessed it, get going! (Remember to see tip 10 on rewards).
4. Keep up those pelvic floor exercises
Now the muscles of your body, specifically the pelvic floor muscles, will have just spent several months supporting the additional weight of your baby. These muscles will have taken a lot of strain. So tip 4 is to spend quality time looking after this group of core muscles.
Why? Well a stronger pelvic floor means a reduced risk of stress incontinence. This means we need to make sure pelvic floor exercises are an essential part of your workout. A quick reminder on a simple workout for these muscles: 1) pull up on the pelvic floor as if you were stopping weeing midflow, 2) hold for 15-30 seconds, and 3) repeat at least 1-2 times.
5. Protect your joints
During pregnancy the body produces almost 10 times the normal amount of a hormone called relaxin. The job of this protein (as its name would suggest) is to relax the pelvis so the baby has room to pass through the birth canal. Unfortunately relaxin has a systemic effect, which means it will also relax other joints across the body. High impact exercises and/or activities that jar or stretch out the joints (such as running and yoga) may cause damage to the tissues. The first couple of months post-baby you may have higher levels of relaxin circulating in the body, so tip five is to start back to exercise with lower-impact exercises or perhaps specialist yoga/exercise classes that cater to new mums.
Remember to seek advice from your doctor if you feel excessively tired or have persistent soreness in your joints and are in doubt.
6. Find a friend
You’ve got an inkling of what your exercise goal is. You know roughly what exercise you like. Now what’s next? Simple, head out and press-gang some like-minded mates into exercising with you.
You’re much more likely to stick with regular exercise if you find some social support. By planning a regular time to meet with mates to exercise, or a regular class you can all attend together, you’re much more likely to stick to training goals. Plus you can have a nice good catch-up!
7. Choose an exercise that fits with your life
Pretty straightforward really, the more an exercise routine/session fits with how you live and approach life, the more likely you to adhere to it regularly. By combining this with the above tip – joining like-minded friends – then you, my friend, are onto a winner.
Other suggestions for shoehorning exercise into your busy day: combine a brisk walk with taking your baby out for a walk in the pushchair or Baby Bjorn (to make it more challenging choose a hilly route); make a point of doing your pelvic floor exercises whenever you brush your teeth or wash-up, you’ll be strong in no time; finally make the exercise fit by splitting your workout over the day, i.e. walk in the morning, 15 squats before lunch, 10 dips and push-ups before dinner.
Shameless plug time: a Personal Trainer is an excellent way of exercising when and where you have time plus getting good results. StrideFit offer a free 1-hour consultation to discuss your needs and will put together a training programme individual to you. Feel free to contact us anytime for a chat.
8. Involve your baby and/or your partner
Baby friendly classes are a great way of involving your baby whilst getting a workout that will cater to the needs of a new mum. Some great examples of decent classes are baby yoga and buggy fitness classes. Negotiating time for your partner to look after the baby while you have some time to workout is also a great way of getting exercise whilst having time to yourself.
Shameless plug number 2: StrideFit offer regular Training in the Park held in the lovely local park spaces of Brighton and Hove sessions for groups of up to 15 people. The beauty of this group session is that mums can exercise in a class with like minded others which can cater to their specific exercise needs, whilst dad takes over and walks/plays with the baby nearby in the park – you can’t get better than that!
9. Steer clear of comfort eating
By no means am I recommending you starve yourself, no no no. Many of you will be eating for two so it’s important that you eat well and keep your strength-up. However what I am saying is to keep an eye on what you eat when you feel like snacking.
With the dreaded lack of sleep that comes hand-in-hand with a new entry to the family, and with the feeling of being holed-up at home for what feels like most of your life, comfort eating may start to sneak in. When I say comfort eating I mean snacking on high sugar and fat treats. Unfortunately though eating these snacks means the waistline will probably grow and your mood will be up and down like a rollercoaster.
What’s the solution? By snacking on healthy foods with a low glycemic index (GI), such as a handful of nuts or fresh/dried fruit, this can help provide sustained energy and stop hunger pangs. As the theory goes, foods with a lower-GI will take longer to digest in the stomach therefore provide a gradual release of energy.
10. Reward yourself!
Here’s the bit we’ve all been waiting for (drum roll please) the prize at the end! Once you achieve a mini-goal, or even the final big goal (see tip 3), it’s important to reward yourself for all the hard work and good effort you’ve put in. Go and choose a treat that that won’t undo all the hard work but which will make you feel even better than you already feel, for example treat yourself to a massage, facial or manicure.
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