Postpartum Exercises for Mothers
I have gotten a few requests for an article such as this one and am happy to bring you the knowledge I have learned both from research and personal experience. My first daughter was a ‘natural birth’ (this phrase is annoying) and my last daughter born a little over a year ago was a C-Section birth. Both labors were long, hard, scary, and I swore I would never do it again each time.
It is recommended that you wait at least 6 weeks (and until you are cleared by your OBGYN) to start exercising. And by exercise, they mean ‘light’ movements like walking and body weight exercises. To be honest with you, I was itching to get back to my ‘normal’ self and lose the fluff that I saw on myself when I looked in the mirror a month after having my youngest daughter. AND, if we are being honest here, I also drove myself home from the hospital 4 days after having my daughter by C-Section and had two girls on my own but that is a story for another time.
I began walking (baby in stroller) to and around the park by my house every day or, at least, every other day. It eventually became the only way my daughter would nap in the morning without me holding her. Two birds one stone. I would walk a little father/longer each day if I had it in me (and my daughter looked so peaceful in the stroller).
If you are dying to get back to yourself, or find your ‘after baby body’, you can get your nutrition in line well before that 6-week mark. I used to tell my clients (with kids or not) that if they get their food in order, they could get to their goal quicker, easier, and without even putting in the workouts they thought they needed to terrorize their body with. Simply put, drink water (they say 8 glasses because that is easy to remember but not one uses a glass anymore, so I tell people half your body weight in ounces) and EAT the calories that your body needs. Some do not eat enough, and some eat too much.
It’s science – a calorie is used for energy and the amount you need can easily be figured (high-level speaking) by taking your current body weight x 10. That is how many calories you need to be eating a day (add 400-500 for those that are breast feeding). To keep it simple (without bringing personalized macros into the game) break your protein, carbohydrates, and fat up like this: 40% of everything you eat should be protein 30% should be carbs and 30% fats. Let me make it easier: eat protein at each meal and snack, fill it in with carbs (fruits and vegetables), and remember to eat some fat on the side (cheese, avocado, nuts, oils). If you want to more accurately figure out your calories (and macros) and program them into MyFitnessPal go here and do it.
There, it is not that hard. Do not eat crap like sugary food, breads, pastas, cream sauces, foods built to stay on the shelves for years, etc. You have a common sense; I am sure of it. You are a mother – I hold you to a higher standard now. Not to mention, you need to take care of yourself (the machine) taking care of that little person you created. The better you fuel that machine – the better you can take care of the mini machine.
While some of you struggle to find time to eat, some of you may constantly snack or find yourself hungry (especially if breastfeeding). I have one answer for both of you – plan your meals ahead of time. Prep a bunch of grilled chicken with veggies and put them in Tupperware for the lunches or dinners (I do this now). Put your vegetables, nuts, and fruits (snacks) in baggies or Tupperware for easy grab and portion control for the day. Throw out the crap around the house that is causing you to sabotage your goals. Do not blame the food – do something about it. You birthed the baby, those others in the house can adapt.
While several think that exercising is the necessity for getting your body back, they are wrong. It is nutrition. However, body weight exercises (once cleared) can help strengthen your muscles again and make your body more efficient at burning fat. Here are a few I did and would recommend (and I did them while my daughter was napping):
*Always remember if you are laying on your back to do these exercises that you need to pull your bellybutton toward your spine and contract your abdominal muscles. Much like the reaction you would have if someone were about to punch you.
Also, remember, your core wraps around your entire middle half (including your back). Core exercises progress and I did not include progressive planks (kneeling). You carried a baby for 40-41 weeks so your back is a hot mess. Go stand with your heels against a wall and remove ANY space between your lower back and the wall. You're welcome.
Belly Breathing: laying on your back doing the above * and contracting your abdominal muscles for 3 seconds at a time and then releasing. This is a great starting point and can be done on the ground at any time. Not in bed – that’s a soft surface that does not allow you to get a flat connection with the ground you are laying on. That's what got us into this in the first place. ;)
Seated Kegels: this will strengthen your pelvic floor and help after a C-Section because of the catheter you had removed. If you do not know how to do them, go here.
Bridge: lay on the floor doing the above * and press your hips to the ceiling and squeeze your butt at the top. After 1-2 seconds slowly lower your butt back down to the floor to tap it and repeat. Try not to let go of your stomach at the ground. Otherwise, you are just flailing around like a seal.
Wall Sits: back FLAT against the wall (no gap between the wall and your back – think of the * above) and knees at 90 degrees. Sit there. Count to 10 and then stand up. The next time count to 20. Add seconds each set if you can. Hold your baby for a little extra weight if you want eventually.
Leg Slides: laying on your back doing the above * and with both legs in the air and knees at 90 degrees (bend your knees). Slowly straighten one leg out while keeping the other leg bent and not moving, touch your heel to the ground and slowly slide it into your butt and return to the bent starting position. Complete 10 total times before switching legs and remembering * above and go slowly. You are no longer a seal.
Push-ups: I am fan of these no matter who you are, but you must do them correctly. Never is the time for showboating because you are most certainly doing them wrong and doing more harm than good to your body. Get down to your hands and knees and do 10 push-ups while remember the * above for your core. Hands directly under chest, lower your chest to the ground, elbows in, and press with your cheat back up - slowly.
I recommend doing each of these 10 times each for 3 sets. You can do 10, rest, 10, rest, and 10 before moving onto the next. Or you can run through all of them once and repeat it twice. Clear as mud? If you let go of your core contraction I am going to find you and have words with you!
If you want a program specifically laid out and designed for you, contact me. I will have them available for purchase and download in the future but can probably make some arrangements for you now. Exercises progress and change with your body’s response and time. 😊
FYI: below is a couple weeks postpartum, a couple months, a year, and today. If I can do it, you can too. You will have to find patience (and discipline) - I am still looking for it. I have never had patience.
I am happy to have you here! Feel free to contact me with questions or to say hello. Go kick some butt.