Many new moms are searching for answers and ways to reclaim their pre-baby body. Do they really have to wait six weeks to exercise? Why? What are the best ways to get re-started? We know you’re eager. And we’re excited to help! But before you ease (emphasis on ease) back into a fitness routine, please be sure to consider the following things and all that they encompass.
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
Your body has undergone 9 months of incredible changes, including weight gain and hormonal shifts that may have you feeling as if you’re a house guest in your own skin. Becoming a mom is a long journey and you should not expect (nor should anyone else) to be back to your pre-pregnancy weight right away. In fact, some doctors would say if you are back to pre-pregnancy weight in less than six months following birth, your exercise and nutrition should be reevaluated.
The first six weeks following birth should be primarily focused on feeling good and finding a little alone time. Approach your exercise program with curiosity and without judgment. Forget charting your progress or setting weight loss or physical goals; simply find time to move and regain a bit of control over your schedule and your body.
Then, barring unforeseen complications, after six weeks you can begin making a plan. You should have a bit more structure in your life at this point, sleep is (hopefully!) more frequent, and your body should be close to fully healed. Now you can begin looking toward getting back to pre-pregnancy weight, restoring core function, and improving body image. But still, approach your program with a dose of humility and grace. It will take time; time to feel like your old self and time to look like your old self. Slow and steady will win the race.
Your Doctor Knows Best
Regardless of how you feel and how desperate you are to return to your non-maternity wear, listening to your doctor regarding post-partum exercise prescription is crucial. The most progressive advice suggests anything that doesn’t hurt, you can do. (This is based largely on your pre-pregnancy and pre-natal routines.) However, it’s important to consider giving yourself time and space to heal. Be honest at your follow-up appointments and respectful of the internal trauma that birth causes (whether vaginal or c-section delivery) when determining your plan.
In the immediate weeks following birth, contraindications to exercise include heavy bleeding, pain, or breast infection or abscess. If you had a c-section or a traumatic vaginal birth (deep tears requiring repair), pain is your ultimate guide. Breast discomfort is for real; if you’re experiencing engorgement, you should wait until this passes before starting or resuming exercise. Finally, if you are experiencing heavy urine leakage or pelvic pressure during exercise for more than a couple of weeks, you should consult a physician before continuing your workouts.
There’s More to Monitor
Whenever you do begin to exercise again, there are important things to monitor (in addition to that new beautiful life!):
- Hydration Levels – Fluid intake should be high. Monitor the color of your urine to be sure you’re on target with your water intake; or it might be easier to remember you should drink enough that you feel like you need to use the restroom each time you feed the baby.
- Baby Weight – Monitor your baby’s weight gain as you begin to resume your physical fitness. The calories expended and/or eliminated on the nutrition side should not interfere with the expected weight gain for your child.
- Fatigue – Fatigue is a reality for every new mom and not something you should try to “power through” to get a workout in. If you have to set an alarm to exercise, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. The same goes for skipping an afternoon nap. You might want to consider reducing duration and increasing frequency at this new stage. Sleep is more beneficial at this point!
- Rest & Activity Cycles – Be sure to maintain a balance between these two items. Activity is important, but rest is too. Rest, such as spending time with your baby or relaxing alone, is as beneficial for your physical body as it is for your peace of mind.
Re-Prioritizing is Your New Normal
One of the best gifts you can give yourself now is embracing the fact life has changed. Being a mom is a wonderfully tough job, and while making time for yourself is critical, you will undoubtedly have competing interests forever more. Time management takes on a whole new meaning with a baby in the house. The number of chores and needs in the household change, finding time for your spouse and friends will shift, work schedules evolve, and though in the past you may have always found time for your exercise, there may be times when it simply doesn’t happen. While I’m not suggesting that as moms we stop putting our oxygen mask on first, I am suggesting that you give yourself a break! If a workout doesn’t happen, all is not lost. Avoid going down the self-defeating path of one missed workout leads to many. Your workouts may look and feel different, happen less frequently, be sporadic, or shorter. Analyze your new normal and make sure everything is working for you and your family. The quickest way to getting your body back is to set your mind right, first!
Read about more ways to reclaim your pre-baby body.
The Full Body Sculpt Workout You Need to Try
Alright folks! Let’s do this!
We are giving you some great full body workouts, that are guaranteed to spice up your gym life and refresh your routine.
There will also be workouts for ALL LEVELS OF FITNESS. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or an advanced gym-goer, these are going to push you and increase your productivity in the gym. For each exercise, we’ll offer alternatives to how you can increase difficulty or make it easier so you can customize these to your fitness level.
Here are a few ways to make it harder:
- Increase the weight that you load on the movement
- Slow down the movement of the rest time
- Decrease your time between going into another set
Alright, here it goes!
Full Body Sculpt for Spring
- Foam Roll Spine (30 seconds)
- Foam Roll Quads (30 seconds)
- 20 Squats
- 10 Lunges on each leg
- 15 Front Shoulder Raises
- 15 Lateral Shoulder Raises
- 20 TRX Pec Flys (Increase depth for more difficulty, decrease depth for less difficulty)
- 20 Mary Catherines (Beginners: Reverse Lunge)
- 20 Plank with Leg Raise
- 20 Tricep Push-ups
- 20 Squat Jumps (Beginners: Bodyweight Squats)
- 10 Inchworms
50-minute sprint on the treadmill
- Okay don’t do this last one.. it’s our lame attempt at April Fools!
Remember: This is NOT a race. Don’t try to finish your rounds as quickly as possible. Take breaks as needed. Be sure to keep your movement steady throughout the workout and focus on form.
How to Be Smart About Your Cardio Time
Your heart is a pretty important muscle, and cardio training is a big part of making it stronger. But fitness conversations typically turn to touting the benefits of strength training over—or in conjunction with—cardio because its popularity as an equal player in weight loss is often misunderstood. And if you listen to the cardio chatter lately, all you hear is HIIT is hot and it’s the only cardio you need. Well… that’s not entirely true, either. Fact is, we’re missing out on a much bigger discussion about the best way to train the heart, and that needs to change.
Cardiovascular exercise includes anything that increases your heart and respiration rate. Whether you’re walking, running, riding a bike, on the elliptical, participating in a dance class, jumping rope, or taking the stairs, each will tick the box in the cardio column. The benefits of cardio are plentiful, including increasing stamina, warding off viral illnesses, reducing health risks, managing chronic conditions, boosting your mood, and strengthening your heart. Many options exist and cardio is not one size fits all; it’s best to know what’s available and find what works for you!
Do keep in mind that while cardio works the heart, lungs, and circulatory system—all of which are vital to health and longevity—on its own it cannot provide injury prevention, increased muscle, additional strength, coordination, or flexibility. A well-rounded workout plan still includes strength, core conditioning, and flexibility.
Understanding Your Cardio Options
Once you’ve found the cardio you like to do, next comes deciding workout lengths and intensities. Just like strength training, it’s helpful to know the types of cardio training that exist and how they will affect your progress when you work them into your overall plan. So let’s get into steady state, interval training, and HIIT.
Steady state cardio training involves elevating the heart rate and sustaining a desired intensity level for an extended period. The intensity and duration you choose will be based on your fitness level and goals.
For example, when beginning a steady state protocol, you might choose to walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes at a comfortable but challenging pace (moderate intensity) by using speed and/or incline. To progress, you would either keep the intensity the same and extend the time, or increase the intensity and keep the same length of time.
Steady state is an established and proven method for improving cardiorespiratory fitness. It increases your cardiac efficiency and your ability to use fat as a fuel source, all while putting less stress on your system and creating less metabolic waste (compared to HIIT workouts). Longer cardio sessions (e.g. a nice, long walk in nature) also are a great way to boost your mood and stimulate creativity! Of course, you should keep in mind that if your goal is weight loss, using steady state as your primary source of cardio might take longer.
Interval training involves alternating between high(er) intensities and low(er) intensities for designated periods of time. Much like steady state, the intensities you choose and the length of time spent in the higher effort levels compared to the lower/recovery effort levels will be based on your fitness level and goals.
For example, you may turn 20 minutes on the treadmill into an interval workout by alternating 1 minute of hard work (breathing heavy, but able to speak 3-5 words before taking a breath) with 3 minutes of moderate work (back to an effort that allows you speak in sentences, 7-10 words, before taking a breath). Then, as you progress, the ratio might become a bit more even (2 min/2 min), and eventually flip to longer bouts of high(er) intensity with shorter bouts of recovery (3 min of hard work and 1 minute of recovery).
Intervals are a great way to keep your workout fresh; by breaking downtime into smaller chunks, you may find longer sessions more enjoyable. While intervals should burn more calories, you’ll need to pay close attention to the amount of time and the effort level of your recovery compared to your “working” time. Many times, the total calorie burn ends up less than that of a similar length steady state workout due to total time spent recovering or the lesser intensity of the overall workout when you average the work and rest.
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training and is a form of interval training. It’s important to separate out HIIT from other interval training because of the attention it gets as being the “king” of cardio these days. A HIIT workout includes short(er) work bouts and high(er) intensities with adequate recovery before repeating.
For example, let’s use the 20-minute treadmill routine again. Instead of 1 minute of hard work followed by 3 minutes of recovery, you might go all out (breathless) for 1 minute, and then recover until you can breathe easily again, and repeat. The work should take you to a place where you can only say 1 word; it’s your max effort for that day at that time.
HIIT is an amazing way to break through plateaus, increase your fitness levels cardiovascularly, and burn a tremendous number of calories in a short period of time. But beware: too much of anything is not good and HIIT is no exception. If performed correctly, you require 24-48 hours of recovery before participating in another HIIT workout. And let’s face it, it’s hard—hard on your body and hard on your mind. Just because every magazine states it’s the only way to go doesn’t mean you must do it!
The Cold, Cardio Truth
One type of cardiovascular training is not necessarily better, or worse, than the other. Each can, and should, have a place in your plan. (If you’re unsure what’s right for you, ask an Anytime Fitness trainer!) Your decision should be based on the amount of time you have available, your ultimate fitness and weight loss goals, your tolerance, as well as your enjoyment. As with everything else in life, variety is definitely the spice of life and too much of any one thing is never the best approach. More importantly, do not forget about simply moving each and every day in any way that you can. This counts as cardio, too! Short bouts of activity add up and can help strengthen your heart, burn calories, and counterbalance the negative effects of sitting. Happy sweating!
Our Guide to Exercising Outside
Heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, occur when your body can’t cool itself properly. In extreme cases, overheating can hurt the brain and other vital organs. Sweat normally keeps us cool, but in some cases, sweat just can’t keep up with your body.
Plan for the Heat
Schedule your outdoor exercise around the coolest part of the day: early in the morning or after nightfall. Take advantage of shaded paths. Wear light-colored, breathable clothing. Choose cotton or moisture-wicking fabrics that allow air to circulate without chafing. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sports-suitable sunscreen.
We can’t say this enough: drink more water! In high heat and humid conditions, it’s easy to underestimate how much water you need to drink. The CDC directs you to drink 16-32 oz. of water each hour during heavy exercise in a hot environment. If you have a hard time keeping up with that amount, try using flavored water—add a wedge of lime to your water bottle or try a sports drink. If you aren’t on a salt-restricted diet, you can allow yourself a few more salty snacks (like pretzels and chips and salsa) to replenish the sodium lost through sweat.
Exercising outside means you are waving goodbye to the comforts of your indoor gym. For many, that’s the allure—but dressing properly is important. If you plan to break a sweat in a wooded area, put a light jacket over your favorite tank top to make sure you are fully clothed. If you’re working out in a park or on a pathway with little to no shade, make sure to wear a hat and load up on the SPF.
Be Cautious of Overheating
Exercising raises your body temperature, and when the air is hotter than your body, heat can’t dissipate into the air. To make the situation worse, heat gets trapped in dark-colored asphalt and the sun reflects off water, sand and glass, bombarding you with heat from every direction. This environment is ripe for heat-related illness, but with some good sense, you can still enjoy your time outside, without having to pay for it later.
Focus on the experience when exercising outdoors and don’t expect to set personal records. To avoid over-working yourself, wear your heart rate monitor and know your target heart rate for your age and fitness level. The American Council on Exercise even provides a heart rate calculator!
Find an Exercise Buddy or Group
Working out is always way more fun when you do it with friends. It’s also safer—and when you’re exercising outside, safety is top of mind. There are lots of local exercise groups on Facebook and some Anytime Fitness clubs offer free outdoor workouts in the month of May to kick off a summer of fitness fun. Check with your local Anytime Fitness to see where you can find a class!
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