by Rachel Avery Guest Blogger Spotlight
Congratulations on your new parenthood! If you’re reading this post, congrats too for wanting to set a healthy example for your child and continue – or start – your healthy lifestyle with your new family. Before you dive in head-first to a new fitness regimen post-partum, I have some advice for you that I wish someone had told me after the birth of my two children.
- Your body will be different in some way.Even if you are able to get back to your pre-baby weight, even if you were super-fit and exercised the whole time, even if you’re young, something about your body will be different. (Hey, you’ve got that cute bundle of joy as a result, right? Worth it.) Everyone’s body responds to a pregnancy differently as is needed for the health of the baby and the mom. Hormones, nutritional diet, age, previous fitness level, kind of birth, even breastfeeding can all impact just how you body will look after a baby. The sooner you can make peace with the fact that not everything can, will, or should “bounce back” in exactly the same way, the better you will be to emotionally begin to build exercise back into your life. It might be something small that only you notice – like stretch marks – or something bigger like wider feet. In either case, keep an open mind about accepting your new, amazing body, remind yourself of the incredible work it just did, and be kind to yourself.
- Listen to your body.In less than a year your body created, essentially from scratch, another human being. It wasn’t easy work, and it wasn’t easy getting that baby out, was it? Be gentle with yourself when you’re starting to get back into more serious exercising, beyond taking a walk with the stroller. Any amount of exercise will be helpful for you, but it won’t be any good for you or for your family to push yourself too hard. Stop when your body says stop, and be realistic with your expectations for how much you can do. If you need to modify workouts with lighter weights, so what? You showed up, and there will be plenty of time for you to work up to where you once were.
- But also listen to your doctor.You’re likely to have some restrictions immediately after birth, especially if you had a C-section or complications. In your follow-up appointments make sure you clear your exercise plans with your doctor before doing anything else. If you’re breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about appropriate caloric intakes and hydration as they can impact your breastmilk output. If you were previously a “fit” person you likely had conversations with your doctor throughout the pregnancy about maintaining fitness; if you are using this life event to motivate you to get fit you’ll definitely want to seek assistance from a fitness coach or trainer for help finding exercises that best suit your current abilities.
- Identify and use your support network.If you’re lucky enough to have extended family helping you with your newborn, use them to help you find time to treat yourself with exercise. If your child is with a child care provider while you’re at work, think about how you might be able to use a break for exercise. Some gyms or YMCAs offer child care to members, and that might be a way for you and your partner to make exercise a family activity. Find a friend with kids and take turns watching each other’s kids, or walk/jog/hike together.
- No matter what you do, exercise will always feel like a selfish activity.Even if you’re waking up before anyone else in the house does to exercise, you’ll still feel like you’re taking away time that should be spent doing something else. That is part of the compromise you agree to when you become a parent – your time, your life is no longer your own. But don’t let that feeling stop you – you’ll thank yourself for putting in a little extra effort for just you. As your children get older they will begin to understand that exercise is just something that you do, and one happy day they’ll even be able to join you for a run, a bike ride, a hike, or a swim, and it won’t feel so selfish anymore.