Having a baby does really strange things to your body, but it also gives you bragging rights for life. I am a very active person, so the changes that happened were shocking. I’m not talking just about my weight either or even the shape of my body, but the loss in strength. I had my son about six months ago and am just now feeling like myself. I know it is a giant pill to swallow when you are not the same shape, you may be weaker and you are still wearing maternity clothes months later. I am finally putting maternity leggings in the donation pile. We are all struggling as new moms to adjust. I have some tips for you on how to get exercise, but I will first say BE PATIENT! Again you just gave birth to a baby…don’t let anyone forget that! Here are ten tips that I have helped me:
One: Always Be Ready for Exercise.
Before I had a baby, my mornings were like three hours long. I woke up at 5:00am, had coffee, journal, read, listened to the news, then did like an hour to an hour and a half of yoga just about everyday. I then slowly got ready for work or school. I thought I was SO busy then…HA! Anyway, now my mornings are the mercy of a baby, so they look a bit different. I have to admit, there have been a few times that I have gone to my evening job without brushing my teeth…I think. If you want to exercise during the day, you are likely not going to know when that will happen, especially at first. One thing that helps me is that I put on workout clothes as soon as I wake up. This serves two purposes. First, I am not in pajamas or half naked for most of the day so it is psychologically super healthy to “get dressed”. Secondly, you won’t waste precious minutes trying to find an outfit that fits or have to dig through unfolded baskets of laundry (I used to put my clothes away immediately…I swear). Have that outfit ready to go and you can exercise as soon as the baby allows you to. Another trick I had to learn and this is pretty gross is to wear black workout clothes, so in case my relief…my partner got home from work late, I could throw a dress on over my workout clothes and run out the door to get to work.
Two: Start off with as little as 5 minutes.
My goal for exercise used to be an hour at first. Another big HA! Now I start off with Sun Salutations and do a little flow if time allows. Then I practice some other yoga skills. Once in a while the baby will nap long enough for me to do other exercise too, but at least if I do 5 minutes of yoga I get something. If I happen to put on a longer exercise video to try and I don’t get to it, I really don’t care anymore. Even five minutes transforms me from being a tired, cranky person, to a tired and not so cranky person. Don’t get caught up in the perfect workout because often times, more often than not, you won’t get it all into your day. Do sun salutations, do burpees, do a dance…just get moving even for just 5 minutes.
Three: Start with Walking
Before I had my son I was on bed rest for 10 days because my water broke at 27 weeks. Bed rest made my muscles so weak. As an example of how week, a few weeks after I gave birth to my son, I was trying to run across the street and my legs would not let me. They were like lead. Also since he was born at 28 weeks and we were in the hospital for 40 days, I wasn’t really in exercise mode. To keep my sanity though, I walked. I needed to rehabilitate my muscles somehow and bring peace to my mind since yoga wasn’t available to me. I don’t know what your story is, but be gentle with yourself. Know where you are and listen to your body!
Four: Workout with your baby.
If I really feel like I need to workout and the little baby isn’t napping, I put him in his carrier and exercise with him. He actually giggles now with it, but he used to fall right asleep. Of course, you can’t do aggressive jumping, but it can be a good strength workout. I find doing lunges, squats and a weird version of a deadlift are great baby wearing exercises. My baby weighs 14 pounds now, so when I wear him and do just those three exercises, I am sore!
Five: Use YouTube or Apps.
This may seem super obvious, but at first most of us can’t go to a gym or yoga studio so youtube and apps like Popsugar’s Active app are super helpful. Fitness Blender has so many free videos on YouTube. I did a kickboxing one today and I got to do 30 full minutes of a fun and challenging workout! It is surprising how many free workouts we all have access to.
Six: Get a sitter.
Though my baby is 6 months old, I was just ready last month to leave the house for other reasons besides my part time job. I asked a grandma to watch baby for 2 hours on Saturday mornings, so that I could go to yoga. She, of course, was happy to so. A lot of gyms have child care, which would be a great option for many of you. For us, since our son is a preemie he cannot go to daycares yet. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner to step up and help you. I was secretly resenting my partner for having all this freetime, when all I had to do was ask! He will now be taking over so I can go to yoga for on hour twice a week. Many times it is just default that the mother be the primary caretaker and this is a deeply ingrained in even the kindest soul like my partner, so take a stand moms and get out of the house once in a while!
Seven: Sleep is ALWAYS more important.
This is something I have struggled with my whole life, but it is truly a goal of mine to nap at least once a day with my baby. I am not a napper and have always prided myself on how little sleep I can live off of. Can and should are two different things though. One really shouldn’t live off of 4 hours of sleep! What does this have to do with exercise? If you want your exercise to count for something and if you want to truly feel better and stronger, you must sleep. Did you know that not sleeping can cause weight gain?!
Eight: Don’t weigh yourself obsessively, maybe not at all.
I started weighing myself early on after I had my baby. Why amidst all we were going through did I think that was important? I think it goes back to some control issues because like nothing was in my control. This is not a story about my disordered eating though. I stopped weighing myself everyday and the last time I weighed myself was probably two weeks ago. I noticed a significant drop in weight. I also stopped counting calories…hopefully forever and began the practice of intuitive eating. I really believe when you put your body in a place of scarcity and worry, it wants to hold onto weight. I don’t know about you, but when I weigh myself it is never a great feeling. Even when I was at my leanest, it still wasn’t the best feeling. You are not a number on the scale, plus that is a really silly way to see how you are doing health wise.
Nine: Eat enough and eat intuitively.
Like I said, I stopped counting calories hopefully for good and instead eat intuitively. It is a mindfulness practice for sure. I try to eat only when I am hungry and for sure eat when I’m hungry, not waiting to eat ever 4 hours or whatever. At first, I was hungry in the middle of night because I was feeding him in the middle of the night. Breastfeeding is hard work and if you are exercising on top of that, you need plenty of food. Again, I will mention since I quit counting calories and just started eating as many healthy foods as I need, I have started to lean out. My body is trying to find it’s true self and feels safe that it won’t starve.
Ten: LOVE YOURSELF.
This is by far the most important tip. Loving yourself is EVERYTHING. I know that sounds cheesy and like you should be happy and in denial all the time, but no it’s not about that. Working toward a goal and not being exactly happy about where you are strength wise or shape wise is fine, but it is what you say to yourself. Your words can poison you or heal you. Take this for example: ” I am so weak” vs. “I am working on getting stronger” Saying you are something leaves little room for improvement. You just are. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have been working on this my whole life. Some tools I use sound silly, but they really work. I wrote down all the negative thoughts I had and replaced them with active, positive ones. I put them on mirrors where judgment usually takes place and memorized them to say when I had poisonous thoughts. I have noticed it transforming me. Every morning I do a compress with essential oils on my face. I then use them on my heart chakra and my solar plexus. Other things to try are saying your name while looking in the mirror. Say out loud that you love yourself. Write down things in your journal that you did that day that were awesome…your wins. Write down things about you that are great. “I have a great butt” ” I am a great mother” or my favorite “I am a powerful being.”
I hope this tip helps you mommies! Remember…I think this is the third time I am typing this…YOU GAVE BIRTH TO A HUMAN BEING! If you need anything to be your mantra…make it that, but I am sure on top of being a mother, you are so many other things. Exercise heals, it helps our brains work better, it gives us energy we as new moms especially need and it makes us stronger. Use exercise to heal and not to punish and I bet you will see results inside and out. Sending everyone who reads this so much love! Thank you for reading!