Post Pregnancy Fitness


                                        Jessica Kiernan

  Congratulations!  Your little bundle of joy has finally arrived and you couldn’t be happier.  It was so worth all that heartburn and backaches, not to mention the challenges of labor.  But looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing the post-partum after-effects of pregnancy (yikes!) can be quite startling.  Not a good time for a selfie!! 

So what’s the best way to tackle all that weight-gain and flabby, untoned abs and other muscles that need serious attention?

Well, before plunging into a fitness regimen too quickly after you’ve given birth, how much time should you wait until you can safely resume hard-core workouts?  Check with your own physician, but a good rule of thumb is about six weeks from your baby’s birth date.  A C-section could tack on another week or two.   It takes time for your body to fully recover and get your stamina back.  Your pregnancy caused extra water retention and increased blood volume.  Those fluids need to work their way out immediately in the postpartum period. 

If you expect your shrinking uterus to tighten your abs immediately, think again.  That cute baby bump stretched your ab muscles to the max during your pregnancy.  Your baby bump also took its toll on your hip and lower back muscles.  Postpartum exercises to the rescue. . .

 It’s important to have realistic goals when attempting to lose postpartum weight.  It took three trimesters to gain all those pounds, and they won’t drop miraculously in a week or two.  A good, positive outlook and a lot of patience helps new moms to adjust to the process.  You will still be tired even six weeks down the road -- thanks to those nighttime feedings.  But consistent exercise will help you in many ways to be more energized.

 After excess fluids level off, focus on shedding no more than two pounds per week.  Typically a loss of more than two pounds per week is muscle loss, which is not good for your body.  Maintaining muscle mass is important since strong muscles have high metabolic activity, which burns more calories, even at rest. 

Breast-feeding will help in your overall weight loss.  Breastfeeding is no time to curtail too many calories, of course, since your baby depends on you for all his or her nutrients. 

 While you’re initially camping out at home with the baby, you can burn extra calories by walking through your house, taking the stairs frequently and by standing, instead of sitting, while talking on the phone.  Take the baby for a stroll outdoors or head to the mall to do some serious walking with the baby.  Don’t stop too often to window shop – keep up your pace and envision yourself all toned, wearing those great outfits that those slender mannequins are rocking!

 No time to head to the gym?  Use household items such as water bottles for an easy arm workout or to hold during lunges. And a plain old bath towel can be almost as effective as resistance bands for your muscles and stretching tools. 

 High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to burn fat and build endurance.  A jogging stroller is perfect to use as you rev up the speed here and there.  Run on flat wide surfaces with a jogging stroller for the safety of your baby.  Be careful, though, with too much high-intensity exercise while breastfeeding since it can increase the amount of lactic acid in breast milk.  Check with your physician.

 And don’t forget those Kegels.  Your pelvic muscles crucially need to be addressed in the postpartum period!  You can sneak them in inconspicuously throughout the day.

 Enjoy your newborn – what fun and joy!  But take time for yourself to breathe and reboot.  You will have plenty of opportunities to lose those baby pounds and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, with plenty of exercise.  A stronger, fit mom is a happier, healthier mom!