I’d like to start off this blog with a disclaimer that EVERY body is different. In terms of physical healing it can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months depending on your delivery. In terms of mental healing, this widely varies on parenthood circumstances as well as what your interests were/are and if any Post-Partum Depression (PPD) is lingering. If you are still having Post-Partum Depression symptoms please seek professional help.
In my own personal experience, I was fortunate enough to physically heal relatively quickly. I had pain but nothing I couldn’t bare with movement and healing, I was able to go back to a physical job at the 5 week mark and I only had the baby blues for about 10 days after delivery.
That being said, life was definitely flipped upside down, the responsibilities of being a parent and trying to figure out routines, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding and pumping - all the not so fun stuff put quite a hamper on my ability to return to exercise.
I also realized there was a part of who I was that didn’t actually enjoy exercising, I just always did it for the sports I played that I was no longer playing. I love sports, not exercise but you bet they go hand-in-hand.
So whether you’ve always been athletic or not, here are 6 tips I've gathered on how to get into shape post-baby:
Take what you can, when you can.
Calf raises as you do the dishes, core workout before you sleep, squats as you hold baby, do what you can whenever you get the chance. Sometimes it’s about getting what you can in for the entire day rather than what you can in an hour; It’ll also feel nicer on the recovering body.
Take advantage of post breastfeeding/pump.
Now I know what you’re thinking.. “Is she nuts? I could barely stand up after!” But hear me out… there are options here. Go for a walk while you replenish hydration and munch on healthy snacks, do a quick set of core exercises just after pumping as your food is heating up or hold a plank while you wait for your food to cool down. Similar to the first point of taking what you can when you can, post feeding/pumping you should always be replenishing yourself (food and hydration) so why not throw one set of exercises in there that’ll take you 1-2minutes to do?
Your ‘me-time’ must exist for your sanity.
You most likely spend about 20hrs per day with your baby if not more… it’s okay to take the time out for things that make you feel more like yourself (doesn’t have to be exercise). What’s important to note for this is that your health should be a priority and therefore if your me-time isn’t working out, consider even just doing 2-3 exercises you enjoy before/after whatever me-time event you end up doing as your way of contributing to your physical health.
Take it as baby bonding time.
The amount of guilt I felt for not working out was the same as if I was working out and not spending time with my baby even though I was with him all day. Your protective mother instincts are always on so when you don’t choose spending time with your child, the guilt is sometimes unbearable. It’s important to remind ourselves that time away from baby is good! However, so is your mental health so if you feel the need to stay with your baby or the help isn’t available for you, you can use your baby as a workout weight. Airplanes, planks, overhead presses, the possibilities are limitless! Give your baby some snuggles or kisses to motivate yourself. Working out with your baby in hand also ensures that you can support their growing weight as they get older and bigger.
Reflect on how you would like to grow with your child/children and partner.
This is what gets me into the gym now. I want to be able to go running, biking, hiking and play sports with my kid(s). I want and need to be able to crawl around, hide under tables, play lift them up even if they’re 25+ pounds and not feel like my shoulders, back or knees are giving out so I can be a parent who’s not in pain and therefore be more patient with them. Lastly, I want my child to see that I value and take care of my health so they learn to value and take care of their health since children learn from what parents do at a very young age and not necessarily just what we preach.
At your own pace and take care of those baby aches.
You cannot avoid baby aches. What you can do is avoid making them worse especially over time as your baby gets bigger and heavier. Your body just went through one of the toughest things it’ll ever have to go through and guilt will appear at every corner but remember to be kind to your body and mind - you are stronger than what you give yourself credit for. Being healthy is hard, not being healthy is also hard; choose which hard you would rather be.
To avoid injuries, it’s important you progress and not overload yourself. If you rarely ever squatted, start with body weight squats not weighted squats. Do 1-2 sets of 8-10 rather than 3-8 sets. It’s important to understand where your body currently is and what it was to know where it can be and how to get there. Unless you have a truly good understanding of physical health, anatomy and biomechanics, I would recommend seeing a professional. Fitness fads? Also a no-no, they’re the quickest way to injuring yourself not to mention the unhealthy and unrealistic expectations.
For the month of March, I will be hosting a MECH Fitness Class directed for new parents (and seasoned parents) that will focus on form and mechanics to prevent injuries from lifting and playing with babies/toddlers. They will be held at MVMT Integrative Medicine Clinic on Saturdays March 4, 11, 18, 25 at 12:30pm. You can call (647)498-MVMT(6868) to book your spot or book online at mvmtintegrativemed.janeapp.com.
Certified Athletic Therapist, Registered Massage Therapist
Please direct any questions about the article or any sports/injury/motherhood questions to email@example.com