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Fitness and the New Mom

By Jacki Christopher

Last week on Thursday Guest-Poster Day, you heard from Katie, a mom who used the challenge and accountability of races and triathalons to get her postpartum bod back into shape (Click here). While you might not feel triathalon-ready, especially if you’ve just recently delivered your little one(s), that doesn’t mean the early postpartum phase has to be sedentary.

How Soon is Too Soon? New moms are hesitant to get back into exercise after the birth of their babies. After all, you’ve undergone a fair amount of trauma “down there.” How much jumping around is really safe?

You may want to hold off on the cartwheels and jumping jacks until you’ve had your six-week follow up, but your body is amazingly resilient—you can start walking and stretching within days of delivery. With each week following delivery, you can increase your pace and duration. If you’ve had a c-section, you road back to full-boar fitness may be a little slower, but you can start walking and strolling right away—it promotes healing.

Some considerations:

-Ab muscles aren’t going to be crunch-ready for about 4-8 weeks (good news to some), so hold off on the major core-toning work until your abdominal muscles have had sufficient time to heal.

-Fitness and breastfeeding can go hand in hand—exercise has no detrimental effect on breastfeeding. Just make sure you have a supportive bra to minimize breast discomfort.

-If you start to notice bleeding or spotting, this is a sign you’re going too hard, too soon. Slow and steady wins the race in postpartum fitness.

“I’m Too Tired.” Does sleepwalking count as exercise? Exhaustion is actually the best reason to get back into exercise. Even moderate exercise gives you an energy boost and starts your stamina on the rise. A lot of us have that “all-or-nothing” attitude that sets us up for failure before we even start. Don’t worry about being able to run a 5k. Could you start with a walk around the block? Then maybe increase it to twice a day. Nobody’s tracking your progress here.

Daily exercise also helps combat that subtle bugaboo—postpartum depression, which often masquerades as exhaustion. Getting in a walk of a gentle yoga class will elevate your flagging spirits in unimaginable ways. Think of it as your free mental health medication.

Fitness with Friends. You take an extra step towards health—physical and mental—when you mix fitness with friends. Postpartum depression loves isolation—find ways to get your fitness fix while interacting with people as well. If there are other moms in your neighborhood, step out and suggest a walking group. But you don’t have to have other mommies—there may be some older neighbors that would get a kick out of walking with you and your brood—just ask!

Yoga is individual, but if you are taking a class it’s a communal activity. If you can find a yoga class for pregnant and new mothers, even better! In addition to providing the fellowship you need at this time, fitness done in community means accountability—you’ll be more likely to get out for that morning walk if you’ve got a buddy waiting at the end of your driveway.

And if you’re well-past postpartum… If you’ve never been an athlete or been able to boast good physical fitness, then this is the time to start—motherhood is not for sissies! You and your little ones will have a lot more fun if you have as much spunk and stamina as they do. Think about the area you live in—are there places you could walk to instead of drive? Not only does this get you active, it also teaches kids that the mini-van isn’t the only way to get from point A to point B. If you need a little extra motivation and accountability, join a community play group. Setting your kids on the road to a healthy lifestyle begins in babyhood—and it starts with your example.

Now that you’re a mom everything is different. There are new limitations on your time and your body—taking this honestly into account will help you set up the plan that works for you. Have you found ways to make physical fitness a priority in the life of your family? Share your stories and ideas in the comments section!

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