Motherhood presents many challenges- each baby rocks your world (in a good way!) and changes your life forever. Bringing a new life into the world is a beautiful miracle. Less beautiful though- is the stretch marks, weight gain, and loss of shape that goes with the territory! I am going to share some of my tips in getting your body back in shape after having a baby. Men- you’ll probably want to stop reading now!
After my first baby I lost the weight really quickly. Problem was, I had my first confrontation with the effects of gravity. When everything gets stretched out with the normal weight gain and then you lose the weight with just dieting, things will saaggggg. When you drop weight with dieting alone, you also lose valuable muscle mass. Women tend to lose muscle mass as the get older anyways. That is what we don’t want. I was ‘skinny fat’. You can be thin but out of shape and not looking all that great. You need muscle to give your body a nice shape and fight gravity.
I really recommend waiting 4-6 weeks (more after a C-section) before you start an intense exercise program. After going through the trauma of birth, sleepless nights, stress, etc. you need to be gentle on your body or you risk doing more harm than good. I recommend making sure your iron levels aren’t depleted. Also, breastfeed because it is SO good for you and the baby.
You’ll want to ease into exercise. If you overdo it you’ll feel like you got hit by a truck the next day! Look for ‘beginner’ or ‘intermediate’ exercise videos you can do at home while your baby naps. A great tip I’ve learned to prevent killer D.O.M.S. (muscle soreness) is to drink a high quality protein shake and take a tart cherry supplement right after your workout. It helps a ton.
Make sure the bulk of your diet is protein and healthy fat. I limit carbs to under 120 grams a day. You want to eat healthy, especially if you are breastfeeding. If you try to ‘starve’ the weight off you will be miserable (hangry!) and setting yourself up to binge on junk food. There are no quick fixes. If you make good choices consistently, you will achieve lasting results. And you’ll feel so much better too. A sample ‘go-to’ meal for me would be a turkey burger cooked in coconut oil with steamed cauliflower with butter and sea salt.
I don’t know about you but I’ve gone from my normal ‘A’ cup to well…. we’ll just say ‘milk jug’ proportions multiple times. When you are done and the milk dries up, you can end up with what I refer to as ‘deflated party balloons’. You don’t have to resort to surgery to get them looking *ahem* perky again. You do have to sweat. One word- pushups. You can also do chest press but pushups are the ultimate exercise to lift and shape. You can start on your knees and work your way up to doing them on your toes. Pushups are one of the very best exercises you can do. They target your chest but really work your entire body.
Everyone wants a nice ‘backside’. Your glutes are a large muscle group. So that means you need to hit them with heavy weights to really challenge them. Also, because they are a large muscle group- working them means getting your heart rate way up (to torch calories and work your heart). I love deadlifts; they really target your backside but also work your hamstrings and low back as well. Squats and lunges are always effective. Remember the lower you go in the movement, the more you will activate your glutes. Start with light weights. Make sure you have good form before hitting the barbell or heavy dumbells. You will want to keep increasing your weights as you get stronger. Don’t worry about ‘bulking’ up. Women don’t have enough testosterone to get big like a guy. If you are eating right you will slim down and tighten up. I squat 90 pounds (including the barbell) and deadlift 50 pounds.
Carrying around your small child all day can mess up your back. So you definitely want to work on core and back strength. Planks are awesome for your core region. If you can work your way up to pull-ups, they are the ultimate back exercise. Back rows or even doing planks rows are also great. Keeping your abs ‘engaged’ (pulled in tight) while you exercise will protect your low back and help you get a flat stomach.
For cardio I recommend keeping it short and intense. Long runs, counterintuitively, aren’t as effective. When you work out for more than an hour or so your body will start pumping out stress hormones and breaking down your hard-earned muscle. Not conducive to our goals! I usually stick with doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) a couple times a week.
Kegels are your best friend. Unless you want to leak every time you jump or sneeze! Moms out there; you know exactly what I mean. Carrying and then delivering a baby puts a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles. Set a time every day to do you kegels and do them. I do them when I get ready in the morning. They really do help, so you don’t have to worry about ‘leaking’ every time you work out.
I work out at a gym because I like all the extra equipment and childcare. But I really recommend starting with some good DVDs. I learned basically everything I know from the excellent instruction of Cathe Friedrich, Jari Love, and Michelle Dozois. You can pick up a couple Jillian Michaels DVDs and a set of dumbells for under $50. If you are short on cash, most libraries do have workout DVDs you can check out.
The point is, just do something. Do what you can so you can be strong mentally and physically and be your very best for your loved ones. Feeling good about yourself impacts every area of your life. We all start as beginners. Time passes anyways, we might as well put in the time and sweat to be a better version of ourselves a month from now, right? 🙂