How To Safely Return To Working Out After Giving Birth
So you've recently given birth- congratulations are in order! There aren't many things that bring joy the way children do, but the hard work starts now.
Get ready for the multiple wakings throughout the night, the messy diaper changes, and the incessant crying.
But hey, it's all worth it in the end. But honestly though, giving birth was the easy part. Now it's time to hit the gym and give your blood, sweat, and tears to reclaim your health and body.
Ready to hit the ground running? That's great, but before we do, it's necessary to discuss some of the challenges new moms often experience when trying to return to working out after pregnancy.
Yes, there is actually a thing such as gym rust. If you've ever heard about ring rust, it's basically the same thing. However, the difference is that significant physical changes might have been brought about this period of inactivity, such as increased body weight, reduced stamina, and diminished cardiopulmonary endurance to name a few.
The good news is that all of these can be regained, but it'll require some effort on your part.
Pregnancy and giving birth take a toll on your body, so it's not surprising that you might experience some physical discomforts when trying to restart working out. Things like pain in the pelvic area, lower back pain, difficulty breathing, and excessive sweating are all common complaints.
Physical discomfort can also include an actual cesarean scar, which may make working out more difficult in the beginning, plus there's the fact that you require mandatory restriction from certain types of activity following the surgery, which could delay your return to form.
It's not uncommon for new moms to experience a wide range of emotions, such as happiness, anxiety, sadness, stress, and loneliness. These can all be intensified when you're trying to restart working out.
For example, feeling guilty because you're not at home with your child or feeling anxious about leaving your child with a caregiver. It's important to be patient with yourself and understand that it's perfectly normal to feel this way.
But also understand that you need to do this not only for your physical health but mental well-being as well.
It's no secret that new moms are busy. Between taking care of the baby, doing housework, and attempting to get a few hours of sleep each night, time is precious. So how do you fit in time for working out?
The best way to approach this is by setting realistic goals. Start off by committing to just 3 workouts per week and gradually increase the number as you get more comfortable. And if you can't make it to the gym, don't worry- there are plenty of at-home workouts that you can do.
If you play sports, the same can be applied, regardless of your discipline.
Have you ever heard that it takes a village to raise a child? The same can be said for returning to working out after giving birth. It's important to have a support network of friends, family, and/or other moms who can provide encouragement and advice when needed.
And not just that- but you will really need someone to take care of your little bundle of joy when you need to work out, be that a partner, your parents or anyone else who can ease your load a little bit.
It is essential that you address the considerations mentioned above, as some of them can make your return to form truly difficult. Once you have managed to get them handled, that's great, but there still remains actually getting back into the gym.
Here are some great tips to help you do so in a jiffy.
Talking To Your Doctor
Getting the ok from your physician before starting back the gym is something people usually take for granted, but is actually a very important step that should not be skipped.
This is especially true if you've had a c-section, as there are certain exercises you will need to avoid for the first few weeks or months postpartum.
Even if you don't experience any of the aforementioned challenges, it's still recommended to get your doctor's clearance before starting back up again.
Don't worry- feeling lethargic, easily fatigued, and more can be addressed by your doctor, who will be able to provide a workout routine that is tailored specifically for you and your current condition.
Even better is a doctor who consults with specialists such as kinesiologists, physiotherapists and trainers to construct a well-balanced return plan.
After getting the all-clear from your doctor, you may be feeling excited to get back in the gym, but it's still important to take things slow.
Start off by doing a shorter workout- for example, 30 minutes instead of an hour. And make sure you're drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after your workout.
If you're breastfeeding, wait until your baby is at least 2 months old to start working out again. We understand that you might be eager to resume your pre-pregnancy shape, but it's important to take things slow so you don't injure yourself and set back your progress.
Also, be sure to gauge your personal comfort level. If you feel uneasy lifting weights, for example, lower intensity exercise such as cardio may be more suited for you at this stage.
It's also important to keep in mind that everyone recovers differently- so don't compare yourself to other mothers out there.
Find An Accountability Partner
An accountability partner can be anyone- a friend, family member, or another mom. But the key is that this person helps keep you on track and motivated when it comes to working out.
If you're having a hard time getting to the gym, for example, your partner can give you a ride or even go with you.
Having someone to lean on and help keep you accountable is a great way to ensure that you stay on track with your fitness goals.
Working out with a partner or a like-minded person such as another mom can help you stay focused throughout your workout as well, as many challenges will be shared between you two.
Create A Solid Nutrition Plan
Breastfeeding is best, but unfortunately, it takes a toll on mom. You need to eat a balanced diet with enough protein, veggies, and fruits, as well as healthy fats. Breast milk requires good nutrition from whole food sources for the highest quality nourishment to be produced.
If you're having trouble eating right, consider working with a nutritionist to create a solid meal plan that will fuel your body and help you recover post-birth.
A great way to make sure you're getting the proper nutrients is to cook most of your meals at home. This gives you more control over the ingredients going into your food and also helps you save money in the long run. Meal prepping on weekends when there might be a little extra help around the house can do wonders for ensuring you meet your caloric and nutritional requirements.
It can be hard to find time to cook during the week, but if you batch cook on weekends it can help reduce some of the stress.
In addition to this, be sure to think of your micronutrients. For instance, you might be anemic following the delivery if the loss of blood was an issue, so being sure to check these things can also do a lot for getting your back in tip-top shape.
Take Care Of Yourself First
This one might seem like common sense, but it's often one of the first things to go when a woman becomes a mother.
Self-care is so important, and yet it's often one of the first things to be pushed to the side.
But if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of your little one.
Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating well, and taking some time for yourself every day- even if that just means reading a book for an hour or going on a walk.
These small moments are what will help you recharge and be able to take on whatever comes your way.
When it comes to postpartum fitness, it's important to listen to your body and take things slow. Returning to your pre-pregnancy shape may take some time, but if you're patient and stick to a solid plan you'll get there in the end. Having an accountability partner can help keep you on track while creating a solid nutrition plan will ensure that you're getting the proper fuel to recover post-birth.
Remember, getting back in the gym is just as much mental as it is physical. This leads us to the next tip.
Evaluate Your Mental Health
Postpartum depression is very real, although it doesn't always get the attention it deserves.
If you're feeling down, don't be afraid to reach out for help. There are many resources available to mothers, and friends and family members can often be a great support system.
It's important to remember that you're not alone in this, and there is absolutely no shame in seeking out help.
Exercising and staying active can be a great way to combat postpartum depression, but it's important to take things slow and only do what you feel comfortable with.
There is no "right" way to recover post-birth, so find what works best for you and go from there. If you were very active prior to your pregnancy and delivery, and suddenly found yourself unable to do so, changes occur- sometimes so subliminally, that you can never fully pinpoint what it is, but just the "feeling" that you're not quite yourself.
This ugly truth can be depression at play.
You won't feel 100% ready to do all the exercises you used to before you had your baby- and that's ok.
It is important that you ease back into things and start with light exercises that won't put too much stress on your body.
Swimming, walking, and Pilates are all great options to start with, and you can gradually add in other activities as you feel more comfortable.
Incorporating exercise for the abdominal muscles is also important to strengthen the muscles of this area which would have been pushed to their capacity over the past few months. Pelvic floor muscles training might also be a good consideration at this time.
It's also important to keep in mind that not every woman feels the need to return to a workout routine post-birth. If you're not feeling up for it, that's completely ok- take some time for yourself and don't pressure yourself.
There is no right or wrong way to approach postpartum fitness, just find what works best for you and go from there. Sometimes it just takes getting started back to build some motivation.
While it might seem like a long road getting back to where you were, the truth of the matter is that it can be rapidly achieved with consistency. Apart from getting back to the gym, you really need to re-cultivate good nutrition habits that might have fallen to the wayside.
This includes getting enough fruits and veggies in your diet, a major faux pas too many people- new moms as well, are guilty of not doing. If this isn't very possible, a superfoods powder formula such as Field Of Greens can help out a lot.
In a few months, you will see your effort rewarded with a healthier body- physically and mentally.