I am excited to have Shannon from Orange On sharing her thoughts on being in shape after having three beautiful babies. It’s a popular topic and it’s nice to have a fresh perspective since I am always yappin’ at you!
Thank you, Shannon, for being a guest for me while I soak up some rays!
I am so thankful that I was able to carry and give birth to three wonderful children. They are a blessing and a joy to me (most of the time). I think that pregnant women are beautiful and that it is truly amazing how our bodies change in the process of building another person. I would be lying however if I said that all the changes were positive. Some of the changes are annoying and others are downright embarrassing. For a long time I thought I was the only one having these thoughts, but I’ve since learned that most women experience some lasting alterations to their former physique.
I was an athlete before I had kids. Fitness is an important part of my life and in many ways I am in much better shape now then I have ever been. That being said, there are a couple things that are different about how I approach my workout after having kids. If you or someone you know is having a baby, it may be good to know what to expect for your workout post-partum. It can still be great, but it may be a little different.
Before I give the list let me add a little disclaimer: Everyone is different. Every pregnancy is different. Every mom is different. Every baby is different. What I describe may or may not be similar to your experience. If you disagree leave a comment and share your perspective!
1) Jump training scares me
As a former collegiate volleyball player, jump training has been a part of my routine for as long as I can remember. Squat jumps, split jumps, tuck jumps, box jumps, from jumps, stair jumps, block jumps – all of these moves were a part of my regular workout plan. About three months after my first baby was born I tried jumping again for the first time. It happened organically without me thinking about it. But when I landed I had to stop and make sure that all my organs were still intact. I didn’t hurt, but it felt weird. It definitely wasn’t the smooth, easy motion it once was. It’s not the going up part that feels so strange, but the coming down. It was like my insides were floating suspended in a tub of jello and when I land they get bounced all around. This feeling started to dissipate over time. I can do jump training now and feel almost normal…. Almost.
2) I have four different sizes of sports bras in my closet
Sports bras often come in sizes S, M, L, and XL and I’ve got them all. After each baby there is a trial and error process I had to go through to find a bra that fit. What worked the first time around didn’t work the second time around, or the third. When I was nursing, the size that fit best would vary from day to day or even the time of day. The end result is that I have way too many sports bras in my closet that I may or may not ever wear again.
I think a lot of women are slow to start working out again post-partum because it is not comfortable. Getting a sports bra that fits is essential! Even though it was a hassle, I fully believe it was worth it to stock up as needed.
3) Sit ups don’t work
I love core work! I used to be able to do so many sit ups. 8 minute abs at the end of practice was one of my favorite things. Of course I expected that my abdomen muscles would need some work after pregnancy. But I had NO idea how much. I had never heard of diastasis recti which is when there is a separation of the abdominal muscles. When there is a gap between the two abdominal muscles, Sit ups and crunches and most “ab work” cause the muscle to push out making your stomach look even more poochy.
Not all mothers experience diastasis recti, but I sure did. I got it after baby #2. I wasted a lot of time doing my usual abs and wondering why I didn’t seem to be improving. I Once I read about this condition I immediately changed my approach to core work. It was a little too late because somewhere along the way I developed a hernia. It took me about two months of working out the right way to heal my ab muscles.
Since that time I still don’t do crunches or sit ups – it still feels like they push my stomach out, not in. Instead, I have found great success with isometric exercises. For example, I have learned to love planks in all their static variations. Also, I try to do exercises which require stabilization from the core such as push ups or heavy squats.
4) Recovery time is hard to come by
People who are serious about fitness know that you work the body and then you build it back up. Muscles don’t get stronger while you lift weights, but rather in the day after lifting weights. I used to enjoy a recovery drink or snack, ice packs, followed by a hot shower after an extremely strenuous workout. Before we had kids my husband and I would spend a lot of time rubbing each other’s feet and calves. I could push myself to go as hard as possible because I knew I would have time to repair and recover.
Recovery, like everything else in your life, changes when you have a baby. The baby doesn’t know that you just ran 8 miles or put up a new 1 rep max on the deadlift. He or she needs something now. So after you come in from a workout instead of grabbing a protein shake and lounging on the couch you run up the stairs to change a diaper. There is rarely time for ice or foam rolling. There is no guarantee you will even get to take a shower. Showering becomes this magical luxury after a workout.
Sleep, which is also essential for recovery, becomes a variable that is largely out of your control. truly every baby is different. I had one baby who was a great sleeper, one who was an awful sleeper, and one in between. Whatever your circumstance with sleep, just do the best you can. If after three rough nights in a row you feel too tired to workout, take an extra rest day. You will actually improve your fitness more quickly when you plan for adequate recovery as opposed to running yourself into the ground.
5) I prefer to work out alone
Having always been on a team of one kind or another, fitness was always a very social activity for me. I enjoy all sports and I loved talking, playing, and working hard with friends around. Now that I have children with me all the time, alone time has become a most precious commodity. In some ways I started running last year just so I could have a quiet moment to myself without interruption. My workout is the only time of the day when I focus on just me and my needs.
I still workout occasionally with friends, but most of the time I like to get in, go hard, and get out. The way I see it, if I have to get a babysitter so I can go to the gym for 30 minutes, then I’m going to make the absolute most of those 30 minutes. I’m going to squeeze every sweaty drop out of the time I have. That leaves little time for chit chat.
Better then ever
Even with the changes listed above, I still think I’m in better shape now then I was before I had kids. I’m not 18 any more and my stomach sure shows that, but I can run farther and lift more. It is totally possible to get fit after having kids. It does take some effort, planning, and flexibility – but it can be done.
What changes to your workout did you notice after having a baby?
Shannon is a wife and mommy lifestyle blogger who is passionate about helping people improve with fitness. She loves volleyball and candy and I promise you will feel inspired after you check out her blog!