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.
Everything You Need to Know to Get Rolling
What Is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling is a self-myofascial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myofascial_release) release technique used to alleviate muscle pain and increase blood flow. It uses body weight to generate direct pressure to the “knots” or trigger points in the body. Often thought of as an “athlete’s only” piece of equipment, the foam roller is a great tool for anyone needing to release muscle tension (and we ALL have a bit of muscle tension from sitting too long, exercise, or general tension). Imagine using a rolling pin to roll out lumps in bread dough and you’ll get the picture.
What Are The Benefits?
Rolling is beneficial before and after your workout. Foam rolling prior to a workout can help decrease muscle density and allow for a better warm-up. Rolling after a workout can aid in recovery from a strenuous exercise. Other benefits of self-myofascial release include:
- Improvement in joint range of motion
- Ease of muscle soreness and joint stress
- Help in maintaining functional muscular length
The roller is a foam cylinder and it comes in a variety of sizes. Most commonly in the gym setting, you’ll see a longer roller, measuring 36 inches with a 6-inch diameter. The density of the foam can vary as well. If you’re new to foam rolling or have particularly tight muscles or trigger points, opt for a softer foam roll. Typically, white rollers are softer, while blue or black rollers tend to be firmer.
Key Points for Foam Rolling
Rolling can be effective for many muscles, including calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, hip flexors, latissimus dorsi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latissimusdorsimuscle), and the thoracic spine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoracic_spine). Place the foam roller under each muscle group and roll, long strokes, for 60 seconds until a tender area is found. Once a knot is found, maintain pressure on the knot or trigger point for 30 to 60 seconds by moving back and forth over that surface area. Follow up by performing a stretch for each muscle group you just have rolled for maximal benefit.
Tips for Foam Rolling
- Sometimes, it hurts so good! Foam rolling may be a little uncomfortable and that’s ok. Stick with it!
- Spend at least one minute per area when you foam roll to make sure you’re making an impact.
- Find a friend to hold you accountable to foam rolling after a workout. Think of it as your new cool down!
Easy Foam Roller Routine
Try these simple foam roller exercises and stretches to target areas where most everyone could use a little love: the upper back, glutes, and thighs.
Foam Roller: Thoracic Spine (Upper Back)
- Begin with the foam roller underneath your shoulder blades.
- Place the hands behind the head for support, or cross the arms over the chest.
- Lift the hips up slightly off the ground, maintain a slight curve in the low back (almost like you are performing a small crunch).
- Use your feet to push forwards and backwards to roll out the upper back, rolling from the shoulder blades to the mid-back.
Stretch: Quadruped Cat/Cow
- Begin on hands and knees with back in a neutral position.
- Inhale and lift the chin and tailbone towards the sky, creating an arch in the back.
- Exhale and tuck the chin and tailbone towards the ground, rounding out the spine.
Foam Roller: Glutes
- Begin by sitting on the foam roller, knees bent and feet on the ground.
Shift slightly to the right and begin to roll up and down the length of the glute. Switch sides.
Stretch: Supine Knees To Chest
- Lie on your back and draw both knees into the chest.
- Keep head and shoulders grounded to the floor
Foam Roller: Quadriceps
- Begin with the foam roller underneath the quadriceps (fronts of the thighs).
- Lift the legs slightly off the ground and place the weight of the upper body on the forearms.
- Push with your arms to roll out the quadriceps by moving forward and backwards from pelvic bone to the knee.
Stretch: Standing Quadriceps Stretch
- Stand on the left leg and bring the right foot towards the glutes.
- With the right hand, grab onto the right foot, keeping the knee pointed towards the ground and legs close together.
- Switch sides.
the Key to a Fun and Challenging Workout
Grab a partner and a medicine ball! That’s all you need for this simple, effective core workout.
Medicine balls come in a variety of weights and are lifted, thrown, and caught in a variety of ways for exercise. For this workout, it’s best if you pair up with someone of similar strength. You’ll want to grab a weight that allows to you both to complete 3 sets of 15 reps per exercise and keep proper form. If the weight is too easy, increase it slightly. If it’s too hard, slightly decrease it.
Note: Some of these exercises include movements and twisting that can be dangerous for those with lower back issues. Consult with a physician or personal trainer before doing this workout, if at all concerned.
Medicine Ball Partner Workout
Sets: 3 Per Exercise
Load: Challenging Weight
Rest: 60 Seconds Between Sets
Estimated Total Time: 55 min
Standing Torso Twists
Tips For Using Medicine Balls
- Pick a weight just heavy enough to provide resistance, if you use a ball that is too heavy—you may risk injuring yourself!
- Add variety to any strength movement by using a medicine ball instead of a kettlebell or dumbbell.
- Partner workouts and team relays are also perfect for medicine ball use as they are easy to pass and fun to use!
6 Ways to Fight the Battle Ropes
Battle ropes are more popular than ever—and for good reason. They are one of the few pieces of equipment that allow you to strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular endurance, and burn a ton of fat at the same time. Not to mention you look like a total badass when they’re flying! Here are six great exercises to get you started and prepared for battle.
When using battle ropes, it’s important to maintain an athletic stance with your knees slightly bent and chest upright. To perform the double wave, move both arms simultaneously to shoulder height and back down to create waves. We are after speed here, so keep the ropes moving as fast as you can for the duration. Perform 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for 5 rounds.
Time to make a little noise! Use your posterior chain (backside), shoulders, and arms to get the ropes above your head before slamming them to the ground as hard as possible. Slams are great for improving strength and power while burning some serious calories. Instead of going for time, treat slams like a strength training exercise and perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets.
Using the same general technique as double waves, this time alternate the movement of your arms as fast as you can to create staggered waves. Don’t be afraid to play around with wave size. Smaller waves will get your heart rate up faster, while larger waves may work your arms/shoulders a bit more. 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off, is a great work-to-rest ratio, but you can always lower the working time to get started.
The name says it all here. We want the ropes to look like two snakes on the floor by moving our arms in and out horizontally (parallel to the floor). If it helps, think about clapping your hands with straight arms. Perform 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for 5 rounds. And I’ve never seen a slow-moving snake, so keep ‘em slithering fast!
Push Up Plank
Single Arm Waves
While holding a push up plank, balance yourself on one arm and use the other to create small waves. A key point to remember in this exercise is to keep your shoulders squared and pelvis facing the floor (no twisting). Perform 15 seconds per arm for a total of 30 seconds, with 10 seconds rest between 3 rounds.
Side Plank Waves
Position your side plank at the end of the ropes and grab an end with your free hand. Keep the movement of your working arm between the shoulder and waist to create small waves parallel to the floor. These should look similar to the snake waves. Increase the challenge a bit here by performing 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off, for 3 rounds, with no rest between rounds.
Battle ropes should be a fun workout tool and there are tons of exercises out there. So find your favorites and get after it!
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