When is postpartum fitness safe?
Having a baby is supposed to be the happiest time of your life. So why are you experiencing feelings of depression? You can’t fit into your jeans, or anything other than your maternity clothes. Your belly feels (and looks) like pizza dough. You’re sleep deprived and hungry all the time. There is no end in sight. But at least you have your little bundle of joy, right? Your body has gone through an amazing transformation over the last 9 months and it can be easy to forget that you aren’t going to bounce back to your “old self” the week after your baby is born. You may have heard the saying, “9 months up; 9 months down”. That can seem like a very long time when your wardrobe is limited and you are carrying around extra pounds and bags under your eyes. My daughter is almost twelve years old and I still don’t feel like my “old self”; I feel better! But, that didn’t happen right away. It took time for me to appreciate the changes I had gone through and realize that I was stronger after having my baby than I was before. Getting out with my daughter and doing some postpartum fitness was a way for us to spend time together; transforming my mental and physical outlook and quickly becoming a necessary part of my day.
A sensible postpartum fitness program begins with looking at your prenatal exercise program. I was very active during my entire pregnancy; teaching spinning 3 days a week, lifting weights and working with a Pilates instructor twice a week, plus another 1 to 2 days of power walking. Due to my activity level during my pregnancy, I decided that I was ready to take my daughter out for a morning walk in her stroller when I was about ten days postpartum. My bleeding increased later that day, so I knew that I did too much too soon. So, I rested for a couple of days, then went out for another walk. This time, I walked slower, and a shorter distance than before. I recovered quickly and slowly increased my postpartum fitness duration over the coming weeks, increasing my intensity after a couple of months. I never felt like running when I was pregnant. It wasn’t until my second child was 2 years old that I started running again; completing my first half marathon 6 months later.
Safe postpartum fitness tips
1. Listen to your body. Look for signs like increased bleeding, dehydration or excessive fatigue. You may be mentally ready for a tough workout, but your body has been through more stress and change than you can see. Respect your body and be kind to it.
2. Nourish your body. Stay well hydrated before, during and after activity. If you are breastfeeding, drink a glass of water while you are nursing or pumping. Think about food as fuel for your recovering body. Limit processed foods and increase fruits and vegetables.
3. Wait 6 weeks. Your physician or midwife will typically clear you to start postpartum fitness at your 6 week check up, unless you have complications. Although you may be able to begin a slow walking routine in your first 4 weeks, don’t jump into any classes prior to 6 weeks postpartum or 8 weeks postpartum if you had a cesarean.
Keep it safe and start slow with your postpartum fitness level after your baby is born. Enjoy your time with her at home because you’ll be out an about with a busy schedule before you know it!
Kristen Horler is CEO and founder of Baby Boot Camp & Karna Fitness, offering fitness and nutrition programs for women nationwide. She is a continuing education provider for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). Kristen is the author of Baby Boot Camp: The New Mom’s 9-Minute Fitness Solution (Sterling 2010) and 2012 IDEA Program Director of the Year Finalist. Learn more at www.babybootcamp.com and www.karnafitness.com.