This week Holistic Health and Fitness Coach, Elly McGuinness, shares her tips for successfully getting back into exercising after baby, it’s so important to have time for you and exercise is vital for our wellbeing and happiness. Elly has been in the health and wellness industry for over fifteen years, you can check out her other blogs and website here.
A successful postpartum exercise plan…and beyond!
Many of the challenges that new moms have around executing a postpartum exercise plan in are related to time management and being able to fit everything in. You cannot manage time; you can only manage yourself. Therefore, the first four tips are about helping you to manage yourself. This will make it easier to allocate the time needed for your postpartum exercise plan.
1 Get your priorities straight, My partner and daughter are right at the top of my priority list. Also up high are nutrition and sleep. I know that without looking after these things first, I will have no energy or motivation for things further down the list. Then nothing will get done. So planning meals, preparing healthy food, having healthy snacks at hand and taking a power nap if I need it, are all things that rate high on my priority list. Fortunately, nutrition and sleep are also related. By having an optimal nutrition intake and drinking plenty of water, you will be better equipped to deal with the lack of sleep that usually comes with being a mom.
Exercise fills the next tier on my priority list. I’ve put good stuff into my body and have had (just) enough sleep, so now I can get out and exercise! Further down my priority list are business and other friends and family. It might seem rude putting other friends and family below exercise. However, when I am well fed, have slept well enough, and have an amazing sense of wellbeing after having exercised, I have more energy for quality, meaningful relationships with friends and family. Anyway, I’ll talk about combining them with one of your other priorities in the next point.
Embrace a messy house!
At the bottom of my list are administrative jobs, household chores and ‘other stuff’. Yes, the vacuuming and dishes need to be done at times. However they can wait until your exercise and nutrition is sorted, and you have sufficient energy to complete them efficiently. In point three, I will explain how you can make these jobs even easier.
And just one last point to note on priorities. Many of you will agree that household chores can wait till further down the list than exercise, but are you actually taking action? Put this principle into practice today and make a successful postpartum exercise plan your reality.
2 Combine Friends, family and exercise. So what if you have too many people to catch up with, but still want to get your postpartum exercise plan done? Then fit in both! Instead of meeting for a coffee, meet for a swim, bike, walk or exercise class. When my daughter was a baby, I found that the walk option was most suitable. We would take the buggy, or the front pack if we wanted to go off road. The coffee could always be tagged on the end if desired! Another idea could be to get together for a playground workout. You’ll no doubt spend a lot of time there over the coming years!
Other moms can be a crucial part of your support system too. They know exactly what it’s like to feel exhausted, teary eyed and overwhelmed. Find yourself a like-minded tribe and get the support you need.
3 Sort out some systems. Systems help to make life easier and more straightforward, especially if you are experiencing ‘baby brain’. Great systems turn tasks into habits. Things end up taking less time, so you have more time for your postpartum exercise plan, as well as spending time with friends and family.
One of the main systems I use is an exercise planning system. I will plan all my fitness sessions the month prior. This means booking them into my calendar. It also means booking babysitting time into my partners calendar for when I want to attend classes. It also means emailing friends and family about joining me for a walk. And of course it means blocking out time in my calendar to actually get the planning done. The time I do the planning is flexible, but I plan what day I will do my planning on!
4 Shop online. To me this is a ‘no-brainer’. You can buy everything online, and most online retailers are great about letting you send back things that aren’t quite right. Online grocery shopping saves time driving there, shopping, and driving back, thus providing more time for your postpartum exercise plan! It can also drastically lower stress levels (um, who has taken their three year old shopping recently?!), and in turn provide you with more energy to exercise. Some people express concern at the delivery fee that is added to the grocery bill. I look at this as comparable to the amount of petrol I would use getting there and back. Additionally, it is a massive saving when I look at the value of my time.
As well as making time to exercise, finding the energy to do so is also an important consideration for a postpartum exercise plan. The next two tips focus on this area.
5 Exercise when you are most energetic. Ok, so you’re a mum and you might tell me you are never energetic. Chances are however that you will have times during the day when you have more energy. Choose these times to exercise if at all possible. For me, these times are mid-morning after my breakfast has settled, which is why I schedule walks with friends for around 10am or 11am. The rush of morning activities has also calmed down by then.
The other time I would aim for is early afternoon, after my lunch has settled. This gives me a burst of energy for the next few hours. If I wait until evening time to exercise, my energy supplies will be lower and I won’t feel like doing it. If your energy is lower at a certain point in the day, and this is however your only opportunity to get it done, then get out and do it!
Think back to your priorities and if exercise is high on the list, then there is no time for procrastination. If your energy is low then opt for some basic stretches or a walk in the fresh air and you will likely find your energy and sense of wellbeing will be elevated after you finish. You’ll also want to check out these great self care tips for moms.
6 You get out what you put in. It doesn’t take a nutritionist to work out that you’ll have much higher energy levels from eating and drinking the right stuff. This is extremely important alongside a postpartum exercise plan and especially so if you are breastfeeding and giving a lot of nutrition away to bubs.
Healthy eating doesn’t need to be time consuming. A lot of fresh fruits and vegetables can be snacked on in their whole, raw form. This is great because it reduces preparation time, and the foods retain their original nutritional content if they’re eaten raw. As well as all the great nutrients you’ll get from fruits and vegetables, you will need to be eating protein and good fats. Raw nuts and seeds are a great source of these, plus vitamins and minerals. Again they are fantastic because they’re easy to snack on in their raw form.
As a whole, ensure you are getting as many foods as you need, in as close to their natural form as possible. If you’re the mum of a baby, now is not the time to plan to reduce your calorie intake! You can find more information about nutrition in my healthy eating blog category.
Water is so important…
Finally, plenty of water is essential to keep your system fresh and help you feel energized. Next time you are feeling tired, have a glass or two of water. Dehydration will make you feel (more) tired. Caffeine is not often the answer, as this can make you more dehydrated by flushing water out of the body. Anyway, this was a quick look at a huge topic. Overall, if you want your body to give you a good output, you’ve got to give it a good input!
The next two tips are about looking after your body so that you can effectively start a postpartum exercise plan.
7 Listen to your body. If you are feeling a little tired it may be hard to push yourself to get up and do something. Most of the time you’ll more than likely feel much better after you actually do it. However, if you’ve really had hardly any sleep and you feel like you’re on the brink of running yourself down and getting a cold, then rest and optimal nutrition will be the best option.
It’s your body and only you can decide what’s best for it
Similarly, if you get a bit of muscle tenderness a day or two after you exercise, this is just the body responding, repairing and adapting to an activity it’s not used to doing – it’s a good thing. However, if you’re getting joint pain or backache for example, then something is not quite right. Go and see a physiotherapist, chiropractor, pelvic floor specialist, acupuncturist, or osteopath, and find out where the problem coming from, so you can work on fixing it.
Finally, gradually build on your own efforts, rather than comparing yourself to anyone else. Everyone is on their own journey. We have different exercise histories, and have had different experiences during pregnancy and childbirth. As long as you are making progress yourself, that’s all that matters. By the way, your progress road will often look a bit bumpy – two steps forward and then one step back. This is the reality of most endeavors towards success.
8 Incorporate cardiovascular, mind body, and strength exercise into your week. Cardiovascular exercise is the ‘huffy puffy’ stuff that gets your heart rate up, and trains our heart and lungs to get stronger. Aim to start off by training to a level where you can have a conversation, but feel yourself getting a bit out of breath while doing so. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and some group exercise classes fit into the cardiovascular category.
Mind body exercise often involves stretching, working on deep core and postural muscles, as well as relaxation. This type of exercise is great for overall well-being, reducing stress, and ‘getting away from it all’. You could try something that requires a bit of physical work, such as yoga or Pilates. Or you could try something even gentler like tai chi, Qi Gong or meditation. Learning diaphragmatic breathing can also bring about profound relaxation benefits. All of these sessions can be found on You Tube, which can be a good option if leaving the house is not going to be easy.
Moms are strong!
Finally, strength exercise involves the use of an external load, or body weight to produce resistance. It’s essential for muscle strengthening and bone loading and an important consideration for a postpartum exercise plan. It will help with many of the activities new moms need to do, most notably those that require lifting and carrying baby. Start with body weight exercise before using an external load. You could start with something simple, such as learning how to do a bodyweight squat. Make sure you have been cleared to exercise beforehand, and ask a qualified trainer if you’re not sure whether a particular exercise is right for you.
Incorporate a combination of these three forms of exercise into your postpartum exercise plan. This will help you develop a balanced, strong, flexible and healthy body. Even beginning with as little as five or ten minutes of something will be a perfectly awesome start.
The final two tips are practical ones to help get you out there and doing it!
9 Get the equipment you need to be active. When you are looking at purchases in the pre-natal or early post-natal period, consider what is going to be conducive to a successful postpartum exercise plan. If navigating the shops with ease is important to you, then get a buggy that allows you to do so easily. However, if you are reading this article, it’s probable that fitness is important to you. Perhaps you also have taken on board my tip about online shopping!
If fitness is going to be your focus, get a buggy that will help you with that. There are plenty of places you can get a good second hand one if needed, so you don’t need to pay a fortune for it. We opted for the mountain buggy terrain model, which enabled me to take my daughter off road. She could lie down flat in it when she was really small, and can still fit in it at three years old.
Or would you prefer to exercise with bubs in a wrap or front pack? This will enable you to go places that the best off road buggy won’t be able to go. We opted for the Manduca front pack that could convert to a backpack when our daughter became bigger.
(We used it well into her fourth year when she was around 15-16 kilos during some of our longer walks). It appealed to me because it’s lightweight and therefore easy to travel with. It was one that would be able to see her right through until she could walk long distances on her own. Additionally, it’s made from organic cotton and hemp so the environmentally and health friendly materials appealed to me.
How are your feet feeling?
If walking is going to form part of your postpartum exercise plan you’ll also need to ensure you have comfortable walking shoes, unless you plan on walking barefoot along the beach. The body goes through a lot with pregnancy and birth, so there’s no need to put additional strain on it by wearing inappropriate footwear.
So as a whole, prepare for your fitness regime in advance so that you aren’t lowering the limits of what you can do.
10 No excuses! Never mind the conditions. Sometimes you need to go with the good old nice slogan: “Just do it”. Yep, it will rain, it’ll snow, it’ll get really hot, and there will be windy days and freezing cold days. But if you wait for perfect conditions, nothing much will ever happen. So dress yourself and the kids appropriately, and get on with it. If this just doesn’t work for you then make sure you have a rainy day plan to do at home.
There’s something to be said for fresh air and how getting outdoors has a positive effect on our overall health and wellbeing though. Therefore, if it’s one of those weeks where it’s raining constantly, then giving in eventually and taking a brisk of 20 minute walk will likely do you ‘the world of good’. If you are really worried about bubs not being warm or dry enough then ask a friend, family member, or partner to babysit for that short while.
To summarize, there will be real obstacles in the way of your postpartum exercise plan from time to time (e.g. illness or family emergency). Don’t create more barriers to your success than there needs to be.
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