Certainly your life has changed - and changed forever. But that doesn’t mean you have to forget about fitness even though there are many challenges to getting fit after giving birth including:
- Finding the time to exercise
- Coping with less sleep
- General fatigue
- Generating the motivation to begin to exercise - and keeping it going
- Keeping a home/family/baby time/work/balance
A return to full fitness after a baby is possible
To prove that getting back into your pre-pregnancy dress size is achievable, there are many role models in athletics who have shown that not only is it possible to return to fitness post pregnancy, they have gone on to produce world-class performances at the very pinnacle of their sports. Ingrid Kristensen, Sonia O’Sullivan and Paula Radcliffe have produced winning performances after giving birth and credited their improved stamina to the physiological benefits that occur as a result of being pregnant.
Getting started with fitness after a baby
If you’ve recently given birth, obviously you’re going to be very busy with the extra demands on your time. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) recommends no physical stress for two weeks after delivery and not to resume to full daily activities for a further four weeks.
Additionally, if you have had a Caesarean delivery, you should avoid exercise for 8-10 weeks to allow for full healing. Your midwife will also be able to advise you on when you can begin working out. However, it is likely that you will know yourself when you feel ready to commence exercise, not only physically but also when your new baby is settled into a manageable routine.
After giving birth, your joints will be loose because of the hormone relaxin which has allowed everything to stretch to accommodate your baby. Avoid excessive flexibility training for 16-20 weeks, high impact activities and lifting heavy weights. Build your fitness gradually for both your body’s safety and for sensible physiological progression.
Your primary targets for getting fit are likely to be:
- Returning to your pre-pregnancy weight
- Rebuilding your abdominal strength
- Feeling good
- Getting fitter provides numerous health benefits but specifically post pregnancy your fitness programme will give you:
- Improved posture
- Increased strength
- Increased stamina
- Elevated metabolic rate
- More energy
- Increased self-confidence
Finding time for fitness with a baby
There’s no way around it, you’re incredibly busy and sometimes, finding any free time in the day is a challenge, let alone several times a week. That is where planning and organisation come in. The most important step that you take on your road back to fitness is telling everyone of your plans. By involving them and getting them to understand how important it is to you, when you need support for some quality ‘you time’, they won’t be surprised. If you explain to them why you are getting fit, the benefits and how exercise is a key part of your life, they can buy in to your plans and help, support and enjoy your path to improved health and fitness.
Exercise time strategies
Certainly you have to be organised to fit in a training session around sleep times, nappy changing and feeds but with some thought and planning, there are many different opportunities for some quality training time, including:
- Community playgroups - A chance for a couple of hours away whilst your toddler plays
- Babysitting - Make use of friends or get involved in a babysitting circle with local parents
- Nursery care - As well as letting you have some quality time, your baby or toddler will benefit from some social interaction with other children
- Parents - A cornerstone of your support network and providing you don’t overdo it, usually very happy to be the doting grandparents
- Older siblings - Assuming they’re old and responsible enough, another opportunity for some exercise time
- Partner - Sharing the parenting duties is important for you both, so let your partner spend some bonding time with your baby whilst you work out.
- Train with your baby - A brisk walk in the fresh air is a great way to fit in some exercise with junior and if you feel more energetic, there are some excellent Baby jogger pushchairs available, specifically designed for your activity and your baby’s comfort.
- Gym crèches - Many of the big Health Club chains offer crèche facilities, so you can train without any concerns that your baby is far away.
Having a baby is a life changing experience that is not to be missed, but your new baby is part of your life just like looking after your own health and fitness. By starting out on a fitness programme, you will have more energy and vitality and will enjoy motherhood even more!