Congratulations on bringing life into the world! You have just gone through nearly a year’s worth of incredible physical, mental, and emotional change, and now that your baby is here, life will never be the same again. It can be a lot to take in, and you might (understandably!) feel really overwhelmed.
For many women, “finding their stride” postpartum means figuring out a way to balance the demands of motherhood alongside those related to their career, their marriage/partnership, and their own personal health. Mothers everywhere can tell you that it often feels like the days don’t have enough hours in them and that if only they had a 25th hour in their day, they’d be able to develop and maintain a regular fitness and exercise program. Unfortunately, none of us have yet figured out a way to make a 25th hour, so we must make do with 24.
As you begin your postpartum fitness journey, consider the tips I’ve outlined below, based on my own pregnancy and postpartum experiences. More than anything, please remember to be patient with yourself and with your body; you’ve just accomplished the incredible and admirable feat of growing life!
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Check with your doctor before starting
While pregnancy is generally safe, and most women are cleared to resume physical activity at around six weeks postpartum, your practitioner might advise you differently based on how your pregnancy and birth fared.
Follow your own timeline for recovery
Don’t assume that just because your neighbor could go for a run at three weeks postpartum that you should, too, or that just because you started exercising at six weeks postpartum the last time you were pregnant, you’ll be ready to do so this time around as well.
Each pregnancy is different. Listen to what your practitioner tells you, and remember -- above all else -- that you just spent the better part of a year growing and birthing a baby. Your body probably feels a little different, and it might be a little awkward to move around without a big belly, so ease into things gradually.
Healthy eating is essential for postpartum fitness
Particularly if you are breastfeeding, it’s critical that you pay attention to the quality of what you’re consuming in your postpartum period. Not only do you need to adequately nourish yourself, but if you are nursing, your baby essentially gets first dibs on your calories and nutrients.
When you’re looking to get into a fitness routine postpartum, be mindful of giving yourself a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein sources that’ll fuel not only your workouts but also your daily caloric needs.
Talk to a licensed lactation consultant if you have specific questions about your nutrition while nursing, too.
Start with short, brisk walks
There’s no need to be a heroine and try to go run a marathon at six weeks postpartum; again, remember what your body just went through! Similarly, you don’t need to exercise for hours on end each day to reap the benefits from a daily sweat session.
Even a 20-minute walk (perhaps pushing your baby in the stroller or wearing her in your babysling) can leave you buzzing with endorphins and can help mitigate some of the “baby blues” that some women feel postpartum. Perhaps if you’re not napping when your baby naps, you can do an at-home exercise video for 20 minutes, or you can hop on your treadmill, walk laps throughout your home, or ascend/descend your stairs. Anything (and everything) counts.
Give yourself some grace, and afford yourself some patience, and remember (again!) that you were just pregnant for nearly a year. Your body has just endured a tremendous amount of change, so be sure to respect the recovery process. You deserve it.
Just like with anything else in the postpartum period, figuring out how to develop your personal fitness routine is largely a matter of trial and error, so with some time and practice -- as well as enlisting the support of your tribe, and seeking out their wisdom, when applicable -- you’ll soon find a way that works best for you and your family.
Author Bio: Jane Grates
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Jane is an entrepreneur, wife and ultramarathon distance runner. She spends most of her time on runnerclick.com, monicashealthmag.com & nicershoes.com and she has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.