New Moms, You Need These 8 Tricks to Sneak in Postpartum Exercise
It may be the last thing a tired new mom wants to do, but the payoffs are endless. And with these easy exercises you can do anywhere, you'll get moving and stay fit without even realizing it.
Do it for yourself
It's hard enough to tackle being a new mom without even thinking about working out but since a regular sweat session can help new parents manage stress, increase energy and soothe body aches, it's worth trying to fit in some time to move and get some postpartum exercise. "Motherhood is physically hard!" says Kathleen Donahoe, co-owner and COO of Oh Baby! Fitness in Seattle, Washington. "Babies require so much bending over and leaning over and contortions and I think that only increases as they grow older!" She adds that dads can benefit from staying active too. "My husband, an Ironman triathlete, actually threw out his back while changing my son's diaper on the day he was born! Parenting is more physical than people realize!" In addition, Donahoe says the mental benefits are just as important since she feels like a more patient mom after a good workout. Rebekah Spouse, who is also a mother, fitness instructor and the owner of FIT4MOM in Renton, Washington echos Donahoe's motivations. "My number-one reason to exercise is always my girls. I want to set a healthy example for them and I also want to have the energy and strength to chase after them all day," says Spouse. "I also know that on days when I miss my workout I tend to be grumpy or impatient, so I'm a better mom when I get my mood-boosting exercise in."
Keep a tally
As a new parent, it is entirely possible to stay active but that activity might not all happen in a 30 or 60 minute chunk of time you've set aside. "It's total activity over the day that matters, not that it all happens at one time," says Donahoe. "One of my favorite tricks is to set a number goal for a specific exercises, like 100 squats or 100 walking lunges in a day. I keep a little Post-It note to keep my tally for the day." If you lose track, don't sweat it. The important thing is you try.
Make new mom friends
Mom friends are priceless for bouncing ideas off of and for constantly questioning if what your baby's doing is 'normal' but, beyond that, other new moms also make great workout buddies and help guarantee you'll get some postpartum exercise. Although everyone's pregnancy is different and everyone's body heals differently, they just went through a very similar experience so they'll be understanding and supportive when you might need both more than ever. "Working out with other new moms is great as it means the exercise will be targeted," says Donahoe. "You'll also be building a community during a time that is often isolating." (Here are the types of friends every woman should have.)
Exercise with your baby
Some babies want to be held. All. The. Time. If you can't even take a shower or cook dinner, workouts might easily slip to the back burner but luckily you can do quite a bit while holding baby. Spouse says her 15-month-old loves sitting on her lap during wall sits and giggles every time. Also, try squats and lunges with baby in your arms or lull a cranky baby to sleep with side-to-side lunges. Baby will grow as you get stronger so it's almost like having an extensive rack of hand weights in various sizes! Just be sure not to swing baby around after her mealtime, fully support baby, and use gentle motions.
Make things inconvenient
Place your baby's changing table as far as possible from the living space where you'll be spending most of your time. If you have multiple floors, bonus points! Place the changing table on a separate floor and the additional stair climbing will really add up! When shopping, look on the outskirts of the parking lot for a space. Not only will you squeeze in a few more steps but you're more likely to score an empty spot next to you for easy car seat loading and unloading. Here are more parenting hacks you'll wish you knew sooner.
Walk, walk, walk
One of the easiest postpartum workouts is to simply walk. Depending on your pregnancy, labor, and delivery (especially with a C-section), this might also be one of your only exercise options for a while and you might be shocked to find out a short walk is plenty to start. It's great for the body and the mind to move and to get some fresh air so make it happen, rain or shine, warm or cold. If it's winter, as long as it isn't icy or snowing, bundle up and head out with your little one in a stroller or baby carrier. "If baby is a snuggler, baby wearing for walks or hikes is another great way to get out and get moving," Spouse says. If you're skeptical of heading outside in the winter, check out these tips for exercising outside all year long.
Try parallel play
This is the term for babies and toddlers who play side-by-side and have no idea the other is even there. Your baby will spend a lot of time in this phase but, for now, they can practice with you (and they'll probably enjoy it way more than another baby stealing their toys!)! When he or she is on the play mat, do a few crunches and while baby does tummy time, do a plank alongside him or her. Not only will you squeeze in a little strength training, you'll appreciate how hard your baby is working and your mini will love having you "play" so close! (Of course newborns can and should only try tummy time for very short periods of time, sometimes only seconds. Keep an eye on your baby to make sure he or she isn't overly straining.)
Seek out childcare
Many gyms offer childcare so switch your membership if your current spot doesn't. In addition, many boutique barre, yoga and cycling studios now offer childcare during specific classes for reasonable rates. Check the schedule before you show up since it's usually only during select classes and may require a reservation. If none of the above are available in your area, consider hiring a babysitter a few times each week. As Spouse points out, she can't really take great care of her family if she doesn't take care of herself, so think of it as an investment in a healthier, happier family.
Mommy and Me classes might be the obvious postpartum fitness choice but moms tend to love 'em or hate 'em. The most obvious pro is that you don't need to line up childcare. Beyond that, many of these classes offer songs and games for the babies, social events outside of class so you can really get to know the other moms, and an opportunity to build a positive example for your kids from the start. "Creating a community of new mom friends is equally as important as the exercise," says Donahoe. On the flip side, if you like to work out solo, you might not appreciate the ultra-social environment and if your baby has a fussy day, your workout will sacrifice. But even if it's not your ideal, keep Mommy and Me classes in mind as a last resort when childcare falls through to make sure you keep moving!