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Let's Get Physical. FAQs Around Postpartum Exercise
One of Dr. Lindsay's very first memories is dressing up in a leotard and leg-warmers and watching as her fitness instructor Mama lead 30+ women through a cardio routine to Pat Benetar. A firm believer in "monkey see, monkey do", Dr. Lindsay is a fervent advocate for family fitness. Dr. Lindsay holds a PhD in Exercise Physiology and takes pride in providing training that not only helps get Mama's in shape (without getting injured), but also provides a place for Mama's to get much-needed social and emotional support. Her educational and life experience provide a solid foundation for her company, Hot Mama Health & Fitness.
We had a lot of questions for Dr. Lindsay, so this is the first of a two part series of interviews. Part two is now here:
I know, I know, it's 6 weeks before I can do any exercise after I have my baby, but despite my fatigue and my leaky boobs, I really feel I want to move. What's your advice?
Well, first and foremost, you need to get the "green light" from your doctor or midwife to begin physical activity. Any form. Our second recommendation is to start slowly. Walking is a great way to be physically active, get fresh air for you and your babe and get the blood moving in your body. Depending on how your delivery went, you can start "going for a walk" anywhere from days after to weeks after your baby is born. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY (and your doctor or midwife). Many women who were active before babe was born just itch to get out there, but your body may hold you back. Be kind to it...it just delivered you a baby, so nourish and rest it. Your body deserves a break and may need a little extra time to recover, so respect what it is telling you.
If walking is still out for you, concentrate on some upper body strength training. Grab some tubing, some free weights or some cans of soup! Try 2 sets of 10 repetitions of the following exercises: Biceps curls (for biceps), triceps press (for triceps, the back of the upper arm), overhead press (shoulders). Increase to 3 sets of 15 repetitions as these exercises get easier.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be active after you have your babe. In fact, I love this. However, you need to listen to your body, and I mean reeeeally listen. Don't push it too hard...you have the rest of your life to get where you want to be...allow your body time to heal. If something hurts or doesn't feel right, stop! Physical activity should feel good at this point, not painful.
Once I hit my six week postpartum date, what sort of exercise should I do?
Okay, you’ve made it to six weeks!! Good for you!!! Time to get back into a fitness regimen...or is it? You’re going to need to check with your doctor or mid-wife for that answer. However, after you’ve been cleared by your doctor or midwife for physical activity, you’re good to go. So, where do you start? To be honest, it really depends on where you were at before and during your pregnancy. Were you active before? Were you active while you were pregnant? How’s your recovery going? HOW DO YOU FEEL? It is also going to depend on what your labour and delivery was like. Did you have a vaginal (yup, I just said vaginal) birth, or did you have a c-section? If you had a vaginal (there it is again) birth, did you tear, how badly, etc, etc, etc?? Listen to your body, it’s going to be your best indicator of when you’re ready to get back into fitness.
After you’ve been “approved” by profession and by self for a return to exercise, my initial suggestion is this: go for a walk. Bundle up your little one and head out for a 20 minute walk. Go at a pace that you’re comfortable with and when you’re finished your 20 minute walk, assess your body. How are you feeling? Could you have done more? Are you exhausted? Are you muscles fatigued? Are you feeling overwhelmed or do you feel incredible? Take stock of your body: are some areas sore, how does your back and abdominals feel, are there any areas of your body that were aggravated?
Based on your answers to these questions, increase or decrease the time and/or intensity at which you’re walking. I will always recommend walking to Mamas to help get you back into your fitness regimen. It is weight-bearing (you’re standing and moving your own body) and your baby is easily incorporated.
In addition to walking, you can start incorporating some core strengthening exercises to help strengthen areas that may have weakened with pregnancy. Core strength refers to the ability of your abdominal and back muscles to support your spine and keep your body balanced and stable. Such exercises include simple abdominal crunches on a stability ball, planks and push-ups. If you are unsure of proper technique, make sure you consult a professional to ensure that you’re doing these exercises correctly. If you are doing an exercise to work your abdominals and/or back, you’re helping to improve core strength. Please note, if you suffered from diastasis during your pregnancy, although you’re probably eager to get back into some abdominal work, it is important that you are fully recovered before you attempt any abdominal exercise.
Please consult a trained professional for a program if you are unsure of what to do. It is extremely easy to get injured when working out, never mind when working out after having a baby. Don’t “take a guess” at what you need to do…find out. But, get out there! Move your body. Your body, mind, soul (and babe!) will thank you for it!
Where do I find the time to exercise!? What workouts can I do at home? Can I work out with babe? How?
What do you mean, where do I find time? You mean between the hour-long feedings, followed by the diaper changing, laundry, grocery shopping, dishes, pumping, bum-cream applying, baby-soothing, baby snuggling, dinner prepping and “sleeping when they sleep” you can’t find time to workout? Weird.
But, in all honestly, working out with little ones is challenging. It requires you to actually schedule your workouts. And then, you’ll probably just throw that schedule out because naptime changed from last week. But, here are a few tips to help organize your life and help you find time to exercise
1) Rely on your partner. Let him/her know that you’re trying to get some much needed physical activity and that they will be responsible for taking care of your little one while you get some cardio in. Partners are often very understanding, we just need to voice our needs and more times than not, they’ll help us out. So, be forthright, communicate your goals and ask them to help.
2) There are a lot of home videos you can purchase to do at home while your little one takes a nap. And yes, we know that as soon as you tie your shoes and hit play, you’ll probably hear some squawking through the baby monitor, but one day…you’ll actually get through the video.
3) There’s nothing wrong with accumulating physical activity throughout the day. In fact, as a new mom, it’s one of the best ways for you to get back into fitness. So, instead of setting a goal of an hour-long cardio session, set a goal of 60 minutes of physical activity. Do 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there…it all adds up at the end of the day. And these quick little 10-minute workouts can be quite effective. So, while your little one is entertained in her exersaucer, do some push-ups, some dips and a plank. While she’s lying on the ground playing on her baby mat, do squats and tickle her tummy, or give her a kiss at the bottom of your push-up, incorporate your babe into your exercises...it's way more fun that way!
4) Find a community of support. There are a lot of groups out there that you can join where you will meet like-minded individuals. You’ll be amazed at how many Mamas are just dying to meet someone who’s going through what they’re going through. What better way to relieve stress than to meet up with some Mamas, go for a hike and talk about everything you’re worried about. And…realize you’re not alone in how you're feeling as a Mama. Find a support network, you’ll be very glad you did.
5) Finally, look into programs and/or classes in your area that allow you to bring your little one(s) with you to workout. There are numerous businesses in Victoria and area that have Baby Bootcamps, Strollerfit and yoga classes that incorporate your babe. Our only request is that you fully research each company. Make sure all instructors are pre/post-natal certified, have a strong education and experience background. Do your research. Not all classes are equal. Find a reputable company (Hot Mama Health & Fitness is a GREAT one!) where you enjoy the workouts, the instructors and the other Mamas in the group.
So…no more excuses. Get out there! You need to fit yourself and your needs into your day. Pretty sure you’re more than worth it!