Pregnancy can be a wonderful or wretched time for different women.
Likewise, postpartum fitness can be easier for some than it is for others.
Before you begin your postpartum workout regimen, there are some important things you should know. We will cover these, as well as the differences between exercising before and after baby, and bust some myths about postpartum fitness.
What you Should Know About Postpartum Fitness
You will typically visit your doctor six-weeks postpartum. He or she will examine how well you are healing and can give you the go-ahead to begin working out. It is important to wait until after this visit to avoid complications that can develop like postpartum hemorrhage.
Every woman recovers from pregnancy at a different rate. The way you delivered your baby whether it was natural, with an epidural, or by C-section can have a large influence on this.
Waiting six weeks will also give you time to adjust to the new demands of parenting such as lack of sleep. If you're anything like me, you're still adjusting to not sleeping seven years postpartum.
One of the most important things you should know is that relaxin stays in your body for up to one year postpartum, or for as long as you are breastfeeding.
Relaxin is the hormone made by your body to help loosen ligaments and joints making childbirth easier on the body. This means that you may feel less stable, and you can feel achy in areas you never did before.
You may also be more prone to injuries like sprains. It is very important to listen to your body. If something hurts or simply doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
Kegel exercises are the contracting and releasing of the pelvic muscles. These can be done almost immediately following childbirth if you're so inclined.
Kegel's can help to strengthen the now stretched out pelvic muscles, along with helping to prevent incontinence that sometimes follows childbirth. You can find more in-depth information on Kegel exercises and their benefits here.
Exercising and setting goals for yourself after delivery can help prevent or alleviate symptoms of postpartum depression. About one in seven women will experience postpartum depression as their hormone levels begin to return to normal.
The catch is that if you are already suffering from postpartum depression, it can be hard to motivate yourself to workout. To learn more about postpartum depression and how to get help click here.
The Differences in Exercising Before and After Pregnancy
There are some major differences between working out before and after having a baby. Most notable is the fact that you now have an extra person to consider.
If you are planning on using a gym, finding one that has childcare is a bonus.
There are many activities such as jogging with a jogging stroller, mommy-and-me groups, and hiking or walking with a hiking backpack. However, your baby usually needs to be at least six months old before you can utilize these devices with them.
Not only will you need to consider packing your own hydration and snacks, but its essential to bring sustenance along for baby, too.
In order to workout, you need energy, and these days it seems to be in short supply. There are so many reasons for this and the biggest one is that you just spent the past nine months making and then delivering a tiny human.
The simple adjustment to having a new baby and tending to its needs is another reason for lack of energy. Your baby wakes up two or three times in the middle of the night to feed, so you do, too.
Long gone are the days of luxuriating in bed for hours on end. The thing about beginning your postpartum exercise regimen is that not only do you need the energy that sleep provides, you also require more sleep to recover from your workouts. It certainly can feel like working out is working against you.
Ways to maintain your energy postpartum is to eat properly, continue taking your prenatal vitamins, maintain fluid intake, and sleep when you can. Eating a proper diet with a balance of macronutrients can help keep you going.
You can find some great recipes for balanced meals here. Keeping yourself hydrated with water and electrolyte infused drinks low in calories is also a good idea. Sleeping when the baby sleeps can sometimes be difficult, especially if you have work or other chores to do, but it will help to enhance your overall energy in the long run.
Seriously, vacuuming can wait.
Another major difference between working out before and after baby has to do with the changes your body has undergone.
As previously mentioned, having your six week postpartum check-up with your doctor is a must. For example, if you've had a C-section, you may have to restrict certain workouts.
Excess weight gain during pregnancy is another bodily change that can affect working out postpartum. There is also a slight chance of postpartum hemorrhage simply because of all your body went through down there.
Postpartum Fitness Workout Regimen Myths
Getting Your Body Back
Wait, where did it go? That's right, no where.
While it's totally okay to feel however you do about your postpartum fitness body, it never really left you. You have undergone significant changes that brought you a miracle. Let's face it, most of us do not have the resources (i.e. in-home nanny, personal trainers, money) that most celebrities do. They seem to just "bounce back" immediately after baby, and we are left to think that we should be able to as well.
Getting your body back will take time and dedication to a fitness regime that works for you. It can be done, but maybe not as quickly as we are lead to believe.
Breastfeeding Drops the Pounds
Unless you are like the millions of other women who did not reap the benefit of weight loss by breastfeeding, this myth is just silly, but it seems to persist.
Every single one of us is completely different and though some may lose weight from breastfeeding, it isn't a guarantee for all
Crunches Alone will get rid of the Baby Belly
It sort of makes sense why women believe this, but it is not true.
Crunches are more of a "surface" exercise that target abdominal muscles. However, they do very little to enhance the deep core muscles that are most affected by pregnancy.
Consider doing planks alongside crunches or checking out a pilates class designed to specifically target core muscle groups.
For the Quickest Results, Cardio is Key
Cardio is important for a workout regimen but should not be considered the only way to workout.
Cardio alone will burn calories, but you can actually burn more calories for longer periods of time by incorporating resistance training into your routine.
Utilizing cardio along with resistance training will raise your resting metabolic rate, allowing you to burn more calories while at rest.
You Must Work Out for Hours for the Best Results
While it is true in theory that the longer you workout the more calories you will burn, marathon postpartum fitness sessions are simply unnecessary.
Additionally, with a baby, they can be downright impossible.
Try instead to break up your workouts into short segments. You could take the baby on a walk in its stroller for 15 minutes, and later, squeeze in a quick HIIT workout while baby is napping.
HIIT workouts are great because they are quick and can be tailored to fit into any schedule. These small burst of elevated heart rates all count toward your daily exercise goal.
You Can Do It
If you are ready to begin your postpartum exercise regimen, there is no better time to start than now.
You can find some excellent guidelines and workouts here. Always listen to your doctor and your body and aim for overall good health over weight loss.
You will want to stick to a nutritious healthy diet to keep your energy levels up, and these 31 clean eating recipes will help you with that.
You've got this!