Recently received the all clear for exercise post-baby but don’t know where to start? Even if you’re medically clear, you might not feel ready to exercise quite yet (and that’s ok). But when you’re up to it, we’ve got some workout tips to get you started.
After having my daughter, I felt like a stranger in my own body. My previously strong core was replaced with a jiggly abdomen unable to complete exercises I used to consider too easy to include in my workout. Gone were the days that I could complete a more rigorous core routine than my husband. I was determined to feel strong and capable again, even though it seemed like I would need to take baby steps towards my goal. I learned to be patient with my body. I took it slow and focused on being present in the moment with my daughter. I ate nutritious meals to help fuel me in my fitness journey and I worked through the following three phases of postnatal exercises.
How long should you spend in each phase? Listen to your body.
When it feels like you’re able to handle more you’ll know. Personally, I spent around five months in phase one and almost a year in phase two before moving to phase three. Your progress will depend on many factors like energy and stress levels. As a new mom, I was getting very poor sleep and that definitely hindered my progress.
What I discovered was even on the days that I felt like a zombie, getting a workout in gave me the energy boost I needed to tackle the rest of my busy day.
Phase 1: Walking, Babywearing, Water Aerobics and Core
- Time to get some Vitamin D and power walk either on your own, while pushing your little one in a stroller, or my personal favorite while babywearing. Aim for at least 45 minutes and work up to a pace where it’s difficult to keep up a conversation.
- Sign up for a Water Aerobics class or look up some moves on YouTube like I did. You can also do lunges across the shallow end of the pool, frog jumps, and run through the water. Aim for at least 30 minutes of Water Aerobics.
- Three great restorative core exercises for this phase are Pelvic Bridge, Clamshells, and Yoga Boat.
Phase 2: Hiking, Weight-training, Swimming, Biking and Core
- Try hiking trails for 2-4 hours (taking breaks as needed) and work up to being able to wear your baby while doing your favorite route.
- Returning to weight-training is a great way to build lean muscle, increase your strength and tone up. If you’ve never tried weight-training before, consider investing in personal training sessions to help you safely learn the proper form for compound movements like squats and deadlifts.
- Swimming and biking are great options for strengthening your cardiovascular endurance. Swim laps for 20-30 minutes and bike for 30-45 minutes for a solid workout.
- Core exercises to try at this stage are Plank, Side-Plank and Bird Dogs.
Phase 3: HIIT
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a short but very challenging workout that will help you see results fast. Not only will you burn tons of calories during your workout, your body will continue to burn more calories than usual in the 24 hours after you complete your HIIT training! Best of all you’ll burn fat while maintaining the muscle you’ve been building through weight-training. Try the following circuit:
- 10 Burpees
- 50m Flat Ground Sprints
25m Hill Sprints
Repeat the circuit 5 times and work up to doing it 10 times for an amazing workout. We do HIIT as a family. My husband and I take turns doing the circuit while the other plays with our daughter. When I feel like giving up, I look over at my daughter and remember that getting strong and healthy is as much for her as it is for me. Now that she’s an active toddler, I’m thankful to be able to keep up with her when we’re out and about on family adventures.
The reason I don’t recommend group fitness classes that encourage you to bring your baby along and wear them during the working out is that I believe working out while babywearing adds unnecessary risk to weight-training. I know it sounds fun in theory, but carrying your baby makes it more challenging to stabilize while weight-training. You’re one wrong move away from tweaking a muscle and having to miss workouts because of a very preventable injury. Consider joining a mom walking club instead or a mom and baby yoga class (where typically the baby isn’t worn during the workout) if you find group fitness motivating.
Remember a fitness journey isn’t linear. Some weeks will be harder to stick to your fitness routine than others. Luckily, one week off won’t undue months of hard work. Be patient with yourself and find a routine that works best for you and your family.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.