In the first week after birth, chances are you’re not thinking “how soon can I work out?” you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “wow, I ache all over”. By week two, you may be coming out of that “OMG I have a newborn” fog (or not, that’s OK too) and you may be ready for some steady walks around the neighborhoods. Eventually — you will hit that restless stage where you’re ready to get back into your usual fitness routine and rebuild the strength and stamina that just makes you feel good.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers and jumping back into it. Postpartum recovery is exactly that: a recovery process. It takes time to get back into the groove of things! Don’t worry, we’ve got 6 simple steps to help you get there, when you’re ready.
6 Steps to Re-Establishing A Fitness Routine After Birth
1.The 6-“ish”-week waiting window:
Most women’s bodies aren’t ready for full and regular exercise for a few weeks after birth — but this can vary based on things like your prior fitness level, pre-existing conditions, and whether or not you had a cesarean delivery. Generally it’s a 6-week waiting window as it matches up with your 6-week check up, but sometimes it’s shorter, and sometimes longer. You can think of childbirth like going in for a serious procedure. We know it sounds funny, but you’ve just had a (likely 6-8 pound) baby taken out of your body, and you need that recovery time. Ultimately, the best thing to do is wait to get confirmation from your doctor that it is OK for you to resume with normal exercise.
However, you can take advantage of this waiting period with light activity, as long as it doesn’t cause you pain or exacerbate lochia (post-delivery discharge). Regular walking is the best place to start, and as soon as you don’t have any ‘down-there’ pain we highly recommend getting those pelvic floor exercises going again! We’ve also got more gentle exercises in the Baby2Body app you can check out!
2. Remember, there is natural weight loss:
In your first few weeks you will lose a fair amount of water weight from excess fluid retention, and your uterus will shrink back to its normal size on it’s own (usually this takes 6-8 weeks). Breastfeeding also helps shed the baby-weight as you can burn about 600 to 800 calories from a day of feeding – but you will need to make sure you’re getting enough food to help you keep your energy and stamina up, so in many cases this is kind of a wash. If you can’t or choose not to breastfeed, don’t worry, you can still lose the excess baby weight.
These natural processes will help you get one step closer to losing the baby weight (which is really important in the first year after birth), but it won’t get you all the way. Think of them as positive reinforcement and use it as motivation to kick your workouts into high gear once you can start exercising again.
3. Sleep, sleep, sleep:
You’re probably thinking: Ha! Not possible… We get it. But sleep (when you can get it) will help in getting your body back as it maintains your body’s circadian rhythms and keeps natural body processes in a healthy balance – primarily your metabolism. Also, you’ll be less likely to reach for high-sugar and high-caloric foods for an energy boost, which ultimately make you feel even more tired in the long run.
We know sustained sleep is the holy grail of new motherhood, but hopefully this gives you extra encouragement to ask for extra help from your partner, friends, or family when it comes to allowing you a few extra hours of sleep when needed.
4. Ditch the stress of a ‘diet’:
We’re talking about ditching the notion of fad diets that require you to cut way back on caloric intake or severely restrict certain food groups. For one, it’s not sustainable, and any healthy diet is about building long-term healthy habits. Secondly, now is not the time for restricting caloric (and nutritional) intake, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
You need the full range of essential nutrients to keep your energy up, help your skin and body heal, and restore a healthy hormone balance. If you’re serious about getting your body back and feeling your absolute best, you’ll want to establish a healthy eating lifestyle (not a fad diet) starting now. That means getting your hands on raw, natural, fresh, clean foods at every meal – and avoiding processed foods and refined sugars and grains where possible.
The best foods to focus on? Veggies, veggies, veggies – and a variety at that! Fresh fruits, plain yogurt, and lean protein sources are also great staples. Lastly, eating high-fiber snacks like figs and raisins, avocados, legumes, and whole-wheat pastas will help fill you up faster, provide lasting energy and regulate your digestion.
5. Get comfortable with cardio:
You’ll want to start by building back your cardiovascular strength and stamina, so that you’ll be ready for more intense exercise down the road. Unless otherwise advised by your healthcare professional, after those first 6 weeks are up you can introduce 20-30 minutes of cardio into your exercise routine 3 to 5 times per week.
Even pushing a pram 1 to 2 miles in 30 minutes burns 150 calories, as does walking up and down stairs for 15 minutes! You don’t have to go too far or too long; all you have to do is go!
6. Bring on the weights, as soon as you’re ready:
Introducing resistance training is your final step, as adding weights to your workouts will help massively in getting your body back. This is all about building good muscle tone – because the more muscle you have the more calories you’ll burn, even when you’re at rest! Sounds pretty good, right?
Weight training doesn’t necessarily have to include dumbbells, weighted bars or a trip to the gym if you’re not into that stuff, because using your own body-weight counts too! It’s a great way to get started with resistance exercises and it’s perfect for your new mom lifestyle as you can do them from the comfort of your own home. We’ll be sharing our top 10 body-weight exercises soon – so be sure to check back in!
Want more expert food and fitness tips advice for a healthy pregnancy and fourth trimester? Check out our free ios app!