Even if fitness was at the top of your list throughout your nine months of pregnancy, there’s still a learning curve when it comes to establishing a postpartum workout routine. While factors like a weak pelvic floor, altered center of balance, and atrophied muscles can affect your ability to pick up exactly where you left off, these seven tips can help you ease back in.
1. Listen to Your Doctor…and Your Body
Your doctor will provide instructions regarding when it’s safe to resume exercise. This may vary depending on whether you had a vaginal or cesarean birth. Many doctors recommend waiting until bleeding has stopped for vaginal births, while refraining for a full six weeks following a c-section.
Additionally, it’s important to listen to your own body. If exercising causes your bleeding to resume or increase, this may indicate that you need to scale back.
2. Keep Up the Kegels
If you did pelvic floor-strengthening Kegel exercises prior to your baby’s birth, it’s not time to quit yet. Continuing your postpartum Kegel routine can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles thereby increasing your ability to do general ab work, like crunches and Pilates. Lack of strength in this area, meanwhile, can slow your healing process and even increase your chances of organ prolapse.
3. Slow and Steady
Pregnancy and childbirth hormones can cause your joints and ligaments to soften and stay soft for up to six months following your baby’s arrival. Don’t be surprised if your joints feel unstable or wobbly. Avoid jerky movements and instead choose slow, smooth activities until stability returns.
Many new mothers find that walking is an ideal entry-level cardiovascular exercise. As you grow stronger and more comfortable, build to higher impact cardio. Swimming also offers a low-impact form of exercise — particularly for women suffering from pronounced pelvic floor issues.
4. Drink Up
Staying hydrated while beginning your postpartum routine is especially important — particularly for breastfeeding mothers. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout. Keep a water bottle handy at all times for convenience and as a reminder.
5. Rest Up
The more rested and restored you feel following your workout, the more likely you’ll be to continue your routine. Having a newborn is exhausting to begin with, and attempting to amp up your exercise routine can add to these feelings. Remind yourself that while it may be challenging now, exercising ultimately leads to more — not less — energy, as well as increased fitness levels so you’ll be able to keep up better when baby is up and running.
6. Buddy Up
If you’re having trouble getting motivated to move, enlist the aid of another new mother who shares your fitness goals. Whether you enroll in a postnatal exercise class together or simply plan on a daily afternoon stroll through the neighborhood with your babies, exercising with a partner can help you stay on track while offering a built-in socialization opportunity — a must for new moms who can sometimes feel isolated during the early days of motherhood.
7. Count the Benefits
While restarting an exercise program can be a challenge, it’s easier to stay on track if you are aware of the many benefits. Not only can regular postpartum exercise promote weight loss, improve muscle strength, and build cardiovascular fitness, it also helps relieve stress, improve your mood, and ward off depression.
One last but very important benefit? Making a commitment to exercise also sets a positive example for your child.
Do you have any tips or tricks to share with other new mothers for easing back into a post-baby fitness routines? If so, please share them in the Comments section below. And remember: you’ll be more likely to hit the gym or trail if you’re wearing clothing you look and feel great in. For Two Fitness’s popular line of maternity activewear is designed to accommodate a woman’s changing shape through pregnancy and in the months after your baby’s arrival. The result? Chic, comfortable postpartum style.