First, congratulations on your new addition! You’ve made it through 10 months — because it is that long, regardless of what popular culture would have you believe — of pregnancy and the wonder and marvel that is childbirth, you’ve got a challenge ahead of you. Now, it’s time to start working on getting back to some semblance of normalcy. Here are some post pregnancy exercises to help you love your mom bod.
Start With Pelvic Floor Exercises and Abdominal Bracing
Mostdoctors will want you to wait 12 weeks after you give birth before you startdoing any intense exercises, but that doesn’t mean you need to lie in bed for12 weeks. You can still do some basic post-pregnancy exercises to helpstrengthen your pelvic floor andabdominal muscles — the two areas of your body that take the brunt of the damage asyou’re giving birth.
Abdominalbracing is simple. While you’re sitting, standing, lying down or kneeling,tense your abdominal muscles by pulling them inward toward your spine. Holdthis tension for five to 10 seconds, then release. This movement helps startthe process of restoring your abdominal muscles, which may have separatedduring pregnancy. If you’ve had a C-section, make sure you talk to your doctorbefore you attempt this exercise.
Pelvicfloor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, help restore strength to thevaginal muscles that took a beating during childbirth. Contract the muscles inyour pelvic floor — it’s the same motion you would make if you were trying tohold in a full bladder — and hold it for as long as you can. Release, andrepeat as often as you like.
Low Impact for 12 Weeks
Don’tjump right back into running, weightlifting or other high-impact sports rightafter you have a baby. While giving birth is a beautiful experience, physicallyit is also a traumatic one, and your body needs time to heal. If you can’tstand the thought of being sedentary for 12 weeks, stick to low-impactexercises.
- Walking: Put the baby in a strollerand head out for a walk! This activity can be a great way to bond with yourlittle one while working on restoring your stamina.
- Yoga: Yoga is a low-impact exercisethat can also help you restore your strength and flexibility.
- Swimming: This exercise will have towait until your postpartum bleeding has stopped, but once it has, swimming canbe an excellent low-impact exercise to keep you active while you’re recovering.
Theseare just a few examples. Stick to low-impact exercises until you feel healthyand strong enough to get back into your normal routine.
Skip the Crunches
It’stempting to start doing as many crunches as possible to restore your belly toits pre-baby strength. Don’t waste your time.
Almostall women experience a condition knownas diastasis recti — or the separation of the abdominal muscles — to some degree duringpregnancy. In 39 percent of women, there is still significant separation sixmonths after giving birth.
Crunchesand sit-ups don’t do anything to bring those separated muscles back together.Instead, these exercises strengthen them individually, doing nothing to reducethe seemingly permanent postpartum pooch you’re experiencing.
Don’tget discouraged. Just shift your focus. Instead of trying to tone that six-pack— known in scientific communities as the rectus abdominis — you need exercisesthat will help strengthen your transverse abdominis. This muscle group acts asa natural corset, drawing the rest of your abdominal muscles back in where theyneed to be.
Thoseabdominal bracing exercises we mentioned earlier are the first step. Practicedrawing your abdominal muscles inward, like you’re trying to suck in yourstomach to fit into your favorite pre-baby jeans. Wall sits, side planks, leglifts and otherexercisescan all focus on the transverse abdominis. Just make sure you’re alwaysengaging those core muscles.
Weighttraining is a great way to improve your postpartum stamina and strength. Startlighter than you would generally lift until you can safely judge where your newlimits are. Jumping right back in at your previous weight settings could leadto injuries.
Onetechnique is to raise and lower a bar without weights in a controlled manner.For a bicep exercise, for example, you could take five seconds to lower the barfrom shoulder height to hip height, and five seconds to slowly raise it again.These low-weight, high-rep exercises are an effective, low-impact way to getyour body ready to resume your pre-pregnancy workout routine.
Cardioactivities help you burn calories and stay active both before and after youhave the baby. Is there any better way to keep busy than to dance? At home, puton some upbeat music and start dancing — carefully — with your baby. If youneed to get out of the house, sign up for Zumba or another dance class to getyou moving.
Keepin mind you likely won’t have the stamina you did before you had your baby, soyou will probably need frequent breaks. Don’t feel bad about taking a moment.Just step out of the class for a few minutes and catch your breath. Recognizingyour limits doesn’t make you weak — it means you know how far you can gowithout hurting yourself.
Note: Don’t Get Discouraged
We’renot celebrities with personal trainers on retainer and plastic surgeons onspeed dial. It will likely take you a while to get back to a place you’re happywith when it comes to your fitness. Love that mom-bod. It’s incredible, becauseit spent the last 10 months building an entirely new human being. Be proud ofthose stretch marks and that belly pooch, because you’ve damn well earned it.
Italso might take some time before you realize how much pregnancy has changedyour body. Even if you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight, you may never fitinto your pre-baby clothes because your hips and bustline are larger than theyused to be. That isn’t a bad thing. Use it as an excuse to dump your wardrobeand treat yourself to a shopping spree.
Make sure you take your time when you get back to post-pregnancy exercises. It will take an adjustment period for you to get back to normal — if “normal”is being sleep-deprived and continuously covered in spit-up or baby poop. We wouldn’t have it any other way, though.