As women, we do not realize how our bodies will change and be different after our bundle(s) of joy arrive. We eat healthy and follow the rules of pregnancy (most of us!).
The baby arrives and we are exhausted. We spent hours and hours (or days!) in labor and our bodies slowly creep back to form. Weeks later you realize you have reached the limit. What is going to go back to what it was before you had that little precious baby is gone – the rest is here to stay. You look at yourself in the mirror and wonder what you might have done differently? Perhaps that extra turkey, stuffing, and candy over the holidays are still what is in that left-over baby bump? Yup – pretty sure I see it there.
What can we do?
The first thing is cut yourself some slack. (Easier said than done). You are tired. Your body has been through a traumatic experience. It’s going to take time to heal, and also for you to get back to feeling like a human and not a zombie.
Where to start?
Start with SLEEP! What? Isn’t this about activity? It sure is. But I can assure you that you will not be able to even think about additional physical activity for yourself without SLEEP! It’s the awfully difficult thing to find with an infant. You may get lucky and your new little one sleeps like a log for a good part of the day, or through the night. I know plenty of moms who this happens to. If you are not one of those moms (I was NOT) then it might take you longer to sleep and get back some of your energy.
Getting enough sleep helps your mental capability, your physical status and more! You need patience for baby and energy for yourself. The risks for not getting enough sleep are chronic diseases and impaired judgments. None of those are things we want as new moms. Once you get a solid chunk of sleep at night, taking care of baby, while taking care of yourself, doesn’t seem so bad.
Where to start with physical activity?
First of all, let’s just start with some basics. You don’t have to go to a gym or plan a set work out to become physically active or fit again. (You may want to though.) You will become just as healthy as someone who goes to the gym by participating in moderate physical activity at least 85-150 minutes per week around your neighborhood or house. That means vigorous cleaning, shoveling the driveway, walking briskly around the block while pushing the baby in a jogger. These are all types of physical activity you can do without going to the gym. Just choosing to walk further in the parking lot is a simple way to increase activity. Sure it seems daunting with the baby, BUT it adds to the amount of physical activity you have in your day.
When it’s nap time, and if you are feeling like you got enough sleep, it might be time to tuck baby into the crib and get moving. Instead of sitting on the couch for the whole two hours your baby sleeps split your time. Choose to do something in your house, or even a workout if you choose, for 30 minutes of that time. Make it (at least) moderate activity.
Tip: Don’t forget you need to follow doctor’s orders. If you are still in the first 6 weeks after birth you need to follow your instructions and no physical exertion for natural birthers. If you had a c-section you need to wait at least 8 weeks or until cleared by your physician. If you are well beyond those timeframes choose your activities based on what fits your schedule and needs.
Gyms for Everyone?
I am not big on using gym equipment and traveling somewhere to work out. BUT I am very active and I participate in physical fitness and activity every single day. I do use weights in my fitness routine at home for building strength.
Tip: If you are over 35 years old you need to work in strength training along with cardio to keep your movement strong with your heart.
However, if you just can’t work out at home and you are finding it difficult to work in physical activity (vigorous cleaning, a walk around the block, parking farther away, using more stairs than elevators) then you might like to try a gym. There are tons of equipment options and most gyms offer you childcare so you get a break from your little one. The local YMCA is a great place for families. They offer children’s’ programs, daycare for kids and babies all while you work out.
Other gyms offer things like swim lessons (same as the YMCA), and other children’s fitness programs (with different levels of membership.) Gyms can be a great place for the whole family to fit in their physical activity if they aren’t getting enough at home.
What are you working for?
Remember, if you are working toward being physically active and fit, doing moderate activity most of the week will help you tremendously. Think about your day and how to move more. If you are looking to be fit and lose weight you will need to have structured high-intensity activities for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week on top of your active lifestyle. Although moderate activities in the home 85-150 minutes a week help your physical health and emotional feelings, it will not help you lose much weight. You may shed some inches and a few pounds if you have been previously inactive. But if you are looking to lose more than five pounds you will need to make other adjustments.
On top of physical activity, what else can you do?
Adjusting your diet is key to weight loss, but also health and wellbeing in general. Portion size was the biggest obstacle I faced after being pregnant. I ate a lot. A real, real lot of food before I was pregnant and during pregnancy. I had no idea that my metabolism would be so slow after giving birth. I had cut back a bit because I had an extra 30 pounds I needed to lose, but I didn’t realize how small the portion sizes needed to be. Don’t forget you do need to have a small snack mid-morning and afternoon to keep your metabolism running.
I used an app called Myfitnesspal to track my caloric intake, help me understand where my calories were going and how much was being burned by my activities. The app includes things like shoveling snow and walking and jogging and much more. You can also add in custom work out settings. You can look up calorie burn for activities and workouts and add those, or use something like a FitBit to help you track your calorie burn. I enjoy the app because it also lets you track nutrients. It shows you how your body is using food and where you might be overdoing it or deficient.
It’s exhausting work being active and being a mom. But you will feel more alive and more present with your children if you take the time to make these few adjustments. Share with us what you do to stay active!