After nine months of declining fitness and a lot of physical changes, many women want to take charge of their bodies again but don't know how. It can be hard to focus on anything, let alone fitness, after giving birth. Babies are constantly demanding something from you and as days turn into weeks, which turn into months, it can be easy to find yourself no further down the fitness road if you don't make an effort.
The first thing to focus on, after being cleared to resume exercise by your care provider, is recovering your cardio fitness. The third trimester of pregnancy is where women lose much of their previous stamina. Everything is harder when you're carrying around extra weight and your center of gravity has shifted. Many women also experience pain when walking, which can lead to losing fitness levels. Gently building that back up is the first step in reclaiming your fitness. Since babies love going for walks, either in a carrier or in a stroller, walking a great activity for you to do at your own pace while still spending time with your newborn.
Yoga and Stretching
Work on your flexibility with gentle stretches or yoga poses. Roll out your yoga mat, get baby comfortable on the floor near you and turn to TV or tablet to your favorite postpartum program. Postpartum fitness programs specialize in helping you avoid overstretching your abdominal muscles and gently tone your body. Being self-paced, you can pause them to tend to baby and then resume when you're able. They are a great way to incorporate fitness without leaving your home.
Much of fitness is built on nutrition. If you don't give your body the right nutrients to be fit, it will be a greater struggle for you and take longer. The demands of caring for a baby can make it difficult to cook or eat well. Ask your partner to be in charge of meals, ask for help from friends and family, or use a meal service to provide regular, healthy meals. There are also a lot of healthy snacks and quick recipes to be found online that are perfect for new mothers. Your recovery and stamina will be drastically slowed by eating junk food, so consider nutrition a vital part of your fitness journey.
Don't be too hard on yourself. It took you nine months to get to where you are, so don't expect to be back to your old self immediately. In addition to everything your body has gone through, you now have a demanding baby to look after as well. Fitness with a new baby is all about taking your time and being gentle with yourself, physically and mentally. There have been a lot of sudden changes to your life and it's hard to remember that rest is sometimes as important to fitness as activity.
Pregnancy and giving birth is an incredibly physical time in a woman's life. It can wreak havoc on your muscles and fitness levels. Recovering from such an experience is never a quick thing and you shouldn't expect it to be. But that doesn't mean you have to give up any hope of recovering your previous fitness levels just because you have a newborn. Working out with a baby is possible; just remember to make it a priority and not to be too hard on yourself if it takes a while to get any stamina back.
Gail Fero, Freelance Writer
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