Check Out These Easy Steps For Easing Back Into Postpartum Workouts

Finally your baby is here! You need ample rest to recover, but soon you're going to get an itch to be more active. Here are tips on when you can start exercising again and how to safely ease into a postpartum fitness routine.
by Tracy B. McGinnis

cell phone during pregnancyTake it in stride

"Finding the time to exercise is so very challenging when you are a new mom, a pre-baby workout routine may not work out anymore," says Farel Hruska, the National Fitness Director for Stroller Strides, which specializes in pre and post natal fitness for moms that allows them to exercise with baby in tow!

"Her body has changed through pregnancy, delivery, and now caring for another human being," says Hruska. Stroller Strides, taught by nationally certified pre and postnatal instructors, offers interval based classes and can include power walking and body toning with the use of strollers.

"These classes address the specifics needs of the new moms, from both fitness and a social perspective," explains Hruska. " New moms can be with her baby, instead of a gym daycare, and be entertained throughout the class while mom gets the fitness she needs."

Hruska says new moms also have the added bonus of meeting other new moms, in addition to working out with their baby when they participate in Stroller Strides.

Find the time... any time

Best selling author of The No Time to Lose Diet, and nutritional advisor to Elements™, Dr. Melina Jampolis says moms are some of the busiest people around and need to squeeze in mini bouts of cardio whenever they can.

"Even five minutes can add up over time; run up and down stairs, skip rope, do jumping jacks while watching TV," suggests Jamplolis. "New moms probably won't have time to set aside an hour for cardio so just get in as much as you can."

Jampolis also suggests doubling up on body parts to save time. "Try to work two body parts at the same time. Do lunges and bicep curls, mini squats and shoulders press, or perform moves like the plank that engage multiple body parts at the same time."

Prenatal and postnatal workouts

In her book, Pea in a Pod, Linda Goldberg, RN, talks about the importance of women exercising before the baby is even born, making it easier to shed pounds after delivery. The book lists the many benefits of prenatal exercise some of which include: strengthening muscles, promoting energy and improving your mood, improving posture, and reducing backaches, to name a few.

But if you're just getting back into things after baby arrives Goldberg offers these exercise guidelines.

Cesarean section birth:

  • Goldberg suggests foot flexing and stretching and ankle rotations as exercises you can do even in you're in bed to help improve circulation.

  • Deep breathing. "This exercise helps expand your lungs," says Goldberg. "Take ten slow deep chest breaths, repeat once an hour to loosen any phlegm and mucus that may have collected in your lungs during the surgery. Deep breathing is important to prevent pneumonia."

  • Goldberg says to relieve gas and to help your incision heal practice abdominal tightening. "While sitting, lying down or standing, slowly tighten your abdominal muscles as you exhale and hold them tight for one or two seconds. Gradually increase the holding time for five seconds or more."

  • "Proper body mechanics can help ease the strain on your abdomen as you roll over and sit up in bed," says Goldberg. "Turn to your left, bend your right knee and bring it over your straight left knee. As you turn your body, reach for the left side of the bed with your right arm."

  • As you begin to recover from your c-section Goldberg suggests gradually adding short walks to your routine.

  • "Deep breathing along with pelvic tilt and kegel exercises will help stimulate intestinal activity and reduce gas discomfort," explains Goldberg. "Pelvic tilt: Lie on your back side with your knees bent, and gently rock your pelvis backwards and forwards using your abdominal and buttocks muscles. Also begin Super Kegels, contacting the muscles of your pelvic floor for twenty seconds. Do one Super Kegel ten times a day."

Postpartum exercises that Goldberg recommends include super kegels, abdominal tightening, ankle rotations, head lifting, foot flexing and stretching, among others. As you start to feel stronger Goldberg lists the following as exercises worth incorporating into your routine: modified sit-ups, side kicks, single leg raises, single leg slides, and hip rolls, among others.

Enjoy it

In her soon to be released book, Becoming a Calm Mom: How to Manage Stress and Enjoy the First Year of Motherhood, Deborah Roth Ledley, PhD and Licensed Psychologist offers these tips for getting into shape while caring for a newborn:

Have reasonable expectations

"Many new moms leave the hospital disappointed that they can't fit into their size 6 jeans," says Ledley. "Similarly, new mom might be amazed by how out of shape they feel when they begin working out again after baby arrives. These ‘surprises' can discourage new moms and make them give up on exercise and on achieving their weight loss goals."

"It took nine months to gain all that weight and it might take nine months to take it all off. If moms have this expectation, they will be pleasantly surprised if the get back into shape faster."

Profit from peer pressure

"The best way to get in shape after baby arrives is to join an exercise class or group for new moms and their babies (like Baby Boot Camp or Stroller Strides). The appeal of having some adult companionship will keep lonely new moms motivated to attend class." Ledley adds, "Being able to bring baby along alleviates the stress of finding childcare while mom exercises, as well as avoiding the temptation to use baby as an excuse to not exercise!"

Do what you love

Ledly encourages new moms to do what they enjoy instead of an extreme exercise to get back into shape quickly. "If an activity is fun and makes moms feel good, you will be likely to do it again."

"Think about what you used to love doing before having kids and make this a part of your post-baby life."

60 seconds

Women's fitness expert, and author of the upcoming book 60 Second Circuits: 1000 easy exercise combos to get your body back!, a fitness flip book for busy moms to exercise anywhere with little or no equipment, Susie Shina says once a new mom gets the okay from her OBGyn, "She is good to go with really any exercise routine that fits her schedule."

Shina developed her circuit training workouts to lose the 50 pounds she personally gained with both of her pregnancies.

"Something that is very important and usually overlooked with new moms and weight loss is SLEEP. Sleeping when the baby sleeps instead of catching up on work or housework or even your workout can be the missing key in weight loss," says Shina. "Hormones that control appetite and help the body reduce stress (thus reducing cortisol, weight gaining hormones) are only activated when we sleep."

Shina says the key components for new moms are short bursts of exercise, portion control and sleep. She also offers these additional tips:

  • Get a sleep mask. "I love afternoon naps and this is a must-have whether you're napping for 15minutes or an hour. Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room - waking in the night, with the baby or not, and looking at the clock stress you out.

  • Portion control. "Eat what you like but cut your portion in half. Pack half of your dinner for lunch the next day. Make breakfast your biggest meal and dinner your smallest meal."

  • "Short bursts of exercise can offer some of the same great benefits of exercising for 30minutes or more in the same session," explains Shina. "Benefits include burning calories, heart-rate increase, large muscle groups are engaged, and endorphins are released in the brain giving you that 'feel good' feeling.

  • Circuit Training. "A great circuit-training workout that you can do anywhere, would be to set the clock for 10 minutes and do 10 push-ups, 10 squats, 10 jumping jacks and 10 crunches in that sequence. Repeating that sequence at your own pace for the 10 minutes will give you a full-body workout.

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