I have been getting so many questions from readers and friends who are new moms. It’s hard to find time to workout and most women feel a new struggle with trying to balance a baby and getting back in shape after giving birth.
So today, I asked Catherine, author of Foodiecology, to share her story and some simple (and super realistic) tips. I remember feeling these things, but it’s been a few years for me. A lot has changed in that time, so my simple tip is to just start small and let habits/progress become a snowball effect month after month.
Thank you so much, Catherine for helping these moms out today!
When I became pregnant with my son, I was in terrific shape. I had a regular Bikram practice, I’d completed several 5Ks, and I felt truly healthy.
At my doctor’s blessing, I continued exercising throughout my pregnancy; I modified when needed, but I felt my best when I was active. Once my son arrived, however, I realized that the freedom to exercise when and how I wished had vanished.
At first, I was discouraged by my lack of fitness. Nevertheless, I quickly realized that my body had done an incredible feat and was deserving of my respect.
Although it is possible to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle as a new mom, there are some challenges. Here’s how I balanced my postpartum fitness expectations with reality.
Your first goal should simply be to move.
After my initial recovery, I found it easy to get outside and walk. Daily stroller walks saved my sanity and kept me from being entirely sedentary. Walking, no matter how far or how fast, is a great way to begin your postpartum fitness routine. Don’t knock it until you try it.
You won’t have hours to devote to the gym.
Say goodbye to the gym—temporarily. With a newborn, you’re lucky to have 20 minutes uninterrupted, so creativity is key. While your baby is napping, attempt a quick body weight circuit. Once your little one is older, exercise together. A growing baby makes an excellent weight; squats or overhead lifts while holding your baby are great ways to rebuild strength. Interruptions will happen, but pick up where you left off and don’t stress it.
It’s ok to take it easy.
Walking was literally my only exercise for about 6 months. When I finally re-joined the gym, I jumped into workouts full force, which was a huge mistake! My muscles were tight from so much sitting, and I inevitably pushed them too hard. Moral of the story? Take baby steps—nobody will judge you!
Set reasonable goals.
Pre-pregnancy, I probably could’ve run a 10K without stopping, but because I hadn’t run in almost a year, my goal for my first post-baby race was simple: to finish. Instead of pushing myself to run the whole way, I paced myself with run/walk intervals. My time was much slower than before, but I finished strong and actually enjoyed myself.
Getting your body back may take longer than you’d envisioned.
At almost a year postpartum, I’m still not where I was pre-baby. The weight is gone, but my muscle tone and strength are lacking. I’m ok with this! We’re all different. 3 months may be realistic for one woman, whereas 6, 9, or 18 months may be for you. Postpartum recovery is highly individual, and comparison will just lead to disappointment.
Once you accept that your body has done something tremendous, you will see that there are many definitions of healthy and fit. The most important thing you can do for yourself and for your child is to show yourself grace and realize that expectations aren’t always reality. Instead of being hard on yourself, look at postpartum fitness as a way to have fun and improve the lives of your entire family!
Me: “I couldn’t agree more, Catherine. It’s a whole new challenge for a new mom and just finding some balance should be the first step. As time goes, new habits will be made and progress will happen, but to expect it all at once is pretty unreasonable. I tried to squeeze in small workouts while Quinn napped and even did some with her at home rather than hauling her to the gym because that worked best for my schedule at the time. Thank you so much for sharing this and helping other moms feel comfortable with doing what they can versus trying to be super mom.”