Pregnancy and childbirth is different for each one of us but I am pretty certain women all have one thing in common. We want to get back to our pre-pregnancy weights and fitness levels as soon as possible postpartum. The thing is, this can be really tricky for a new mom, especially a first-time new mom, like I was.
Before you pick up the weights or lace up your running shoes to get started, there are a few things to factor in. First, how active were you before pregnancy? Second, how active were you during your pregnancy? Third, did you have any pregnancy complications and how was childbirth? Did you deliver vaginally or did you have a caesarian? Fourth, I strongly suggest getting your doctor’s clearance before starting any exercise program, even if you are already waited the standard 6 weeks. It is so much better to be safe than to be sorry later.
Personally, I was quite active before my pregnancy but once I found out I was pregnant I got very safe, perhaps overly safe, due to fears from a past miscarriage and my doctor strongly advising me not to run. So I didn’t. On top of that, my darling daughter was delivered via an emergency caesarian and I developed complications later due to allergic reactions to the tape used in the hospital.
Therefore, I returned to my exercise routine slowly and really didn’t begin to incorporate true exercise beyond short walks until after 6 weeks.
My tips for success
6 weeks to 6 months:
- Get an exercise ball and use it. I even purchased a second and used it as a chair when I returned to work to keep my core muscles engaged.
- Do leg lifts. Lie on your back and slowly lift your feet off the floor. Do not let your back arch too much and focus on engaging lower abdominal muscles. I did this almost every day and it was really hard initially.
- Go on walks with your new baby. I often carried my daughter for a better workout.
- Use a stroller every now and then. It is good to get your new bundle of joy used to it.
- Find or create your own support group. I couldn’t find any new mom exercise classes in my area conducive to my work schedule and waited too long to reach out to the virtual support available.
6 months to 2 years:
- Purchase a good jogging stroller that fits your needs. My first had all the bells and whistles but couldn’t fit in the trunk of my car, and barely in the front seat. I sold it and purchased a different style and actually started using it more often for running. I still use it today.
- Locate a safe running route for you and your baby. If you are lucky you have a good neighborhood route just outside your door. Other moms may need to travel by car.
- Always use a leash with your jogging stroller. If it doesn’t have one, make it.
- Always properly buckle your baby into the jogging stroller. Most that I have seen have wonderful five point harnesses.
- Bring water, toys, and snacks for your little one….and don’t forget sun protection!
- Secure your child’s toys. I would tie my daughter’s stuffed bunny to the stroller so it wouldn’t completely fall to the wayside. I learned this trick after I had to run my route again looking for our lost friend.
- Slowly increase distance and duration of your runs. It is better for your body and allows your baby to adjust to the new routine.
- If you do not want to run with your baby, or your pediatrician suggests you wait, do cross training or core training at home while baby is sleeping. Or run when someone else is watching baby.
3 years and beyond:
- Begin implementing negotiations when needed. “Yes, we can go to the playground after mommy runs.” Better yet, run to the playground if you can.
- Reward your child’s patience during longer runs. My daughter loves it when she can push her dolls in the stroller afterwards.
- Put your child in charge of your water. My daughter loves handing me my water when I ask and always sneaks sips.
- Incorporate childfree workouts when possible. I run before work at the gym, at home on the treadmill, at the gym while taking advantage of the gym’s child care program, or have Daddy watch my darling daughter. Now that my daughter is four I am doing this more often as I don’t want to create a “stroller potato.”
- Incorporate new exercises. Dance with your child. Jump rope with your child. Hula-hoop with your child. It is amazing how many extra calories you can burn playing with your kids and it encourages them to adopt an active lifestyle. And it is fun!
- Invite your family to your races and share your accomplishments with them.
Most importantly, eat right, sleep, take care of yourself, and never feel guilty for taking “me” time each and every day.
You deserve it and it makes you a better mom!
Please note: I am not a certified trainer or a medical expert. This post represents my own personal opinion. Check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program and I strongly suggest annual physicals, in which I inform my physician that I am an active runner and how many miles I am currently averaging per week.
Erica received a bachelor’s in Marine Biology and a masters in Business Administration; however, her real passion resides in fitness. She started her blog Life as Running Mom for personal motivation and continues to be amazed by the support of the online running community. Her personal mission is inspiring women to believe in themselves, to be active, and to run strong in life!