I’ve had a few friends recently ask me what they can do to get their bodies back after they’ve had their babies. I know this can be really frustrating for some women. First, I want to say that I highly recommend working out throughout your pregnancy. Please refer to my prenatal exercise post for more on this. (Click here) After your baby is born, I also highly recommend you take the recovery time needed to heal and you don’t jump right into exercise. My doctor recommended that I wait 4 weeks and that’s exactly what I did. Having a baby is a traumatic experience on your body. Let it heal. If you’ve had birth by cesarean you will most likely need to give yourself a few extra weeks of recovery. Also, you’ll need to talk to your doctor about any limitations or precautions you need to take concerning your workout routine.
Okay, with all that being said…every body is different and I don’t want to give a generic workout regime but I do have some advice. First of all, I would say that when it comes to losing weight it’s about 80% what you eat, and 20 % working out. Notice I didn’t use the word “diet”. I don’t believe in traditional diets. If you are nursing your baby you will want to be sure to eat nutritious foods and get enough calories. Even if you are not nursing, having a newborn is hard work and it’s exhausting. Filling up on sugars and/or greasy foods will only cause more fatigue and mood fluctuations. Clearly this is not what you want. Try to eat a clean balanced diet. I know it’s hard when you have zero time. If help is available, ask for it! If not, try to have healthy snacks on hand: pre-cut veggies and fruit, nuts, seeds, yogurt, hummus. It may take a bit of thought but it’s worth it.
Some of you are probably reading this and thinking that if it’s 80% diet, then you’ll just skip the 20% exercise. Please don’t. Exercise is so important for so many reasons. Building muscle means that you’ll burn more calories all day long. There are endless health benefits. Plus, I know that even a 30 minute jog can turn me into a calmer, nicer person. Exercise is therapy with out the shrink. If you are new to exercise, start small. Walk. When that gets easy, then jog. When that gets easy, do sprints. If you hate to run, find something else that you like doing. When it’s nice outside there are endless options: swim, bike, roller blade, go to the park and do body-weight exercises. Literally just do something.
If you have been exercising for some time now and you are not seeing the results you want then it is time to mix things up. Our bodies become very efficient at whatever they are doing. Every wonder how a marathon runner can still be overweight? If we keep doing the same activity our body will figure out how to do it burning less energy. In one sense it’s a good thing because the activity gets easier. The down side is obvious. As a general rule, you need to mix up your fitness regime every 6 weeks. So if you have been doing the elliptical trainer now for the last 3 months and nothing is changing, it’s time to get off the elliptical. Instead try a spinning class once per week. Maybe take swimming lessons, start lifting weights or try yoga. If you live in cold climates and don’t have access to the gym, try Exercise TV or a fitness DVD (like Insanity). If you want to really mix things up do some high intensity training (HIT). Basically this means that you do intense exercise for 30 seconds and then scale back for a short break (15-90 seconds depending on your fitness level). You don’t necessarily need a gym to do this.
An example of a HIT workout would be:
30 seconds fast jumping jacks, rest 30 seconds
30 seconds fast squats, rest 30 seconds
30 seconds burpies, rest 30 seconds
30 seconds push-ups, rest 30 seconds
30 seconds mountain climbers, rest 30 seconds
Repeat 4 x’s
HIT training is so effective because it shocks your body. This is what you need in order to stimulate your metabolism. The above HIT workout will only take you 20 minutes to complete and I promise you it will be way more effective then doing a 20 minute walk.
Other important things to keep in mind are to try to get as much sleep as you can. Sleep deprivation throws off hormones in your body that tell your brain when you are full. So if you are constantly sleep deprived you are bound to overeat. Also, make sure to drink plenty of water.
I know time is always an issue when you have a baby and for all of you working mothers it is even more challenging. Believe me when I tell you that I have to fight off guilt to fit in my exercise. As mothers we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. The thing is I know that after my hour of exercise, my hour that is completely mine, I know I come back being a better mother to Brooks. Everyone deserves an hour to themselves each day. If you are working full time, try to get your exercise in on the weekends and then 1-2 days during the week. This may mean going for a jog after the baby is sleeping or before he or she gets up in the morning. I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy. I’m just saying that it will be worth it.
So, there it is. I hope this helps! If you feel like you need more help and you have the resources, I would suggest you find a personal trainer. (Click here to find an ACE-certified personal trainer near you.) You could do a few sessions and then do those exercises on your own for a few weeks. Remember though, you don’t need a personal trainer or a gym to succeed. Motivation and determination go a long way. Best of luck and please let me know if you have any questions!