I am excited to have a guest post for you from one of my favorite personal trainers, Jessica Sennet! Not only is she certified in pre-natal and postpartum fitness, but she’s a mom too, so she knows exactly what it takes to get back into shape after baby is born. I met Jess when I was living in Long Island City, New York. I had just given birth to my little guy and felt like I was doing a pretty good job with getting back to normal workouts. The problem was that I started pushing myself harder and faster than I should have, resulting in some annoying injuries. After trying to “fix” things on my own, I realized I needed someone with specialized training to help me exercise in a way that was healthy for my “new” body. That’s where Jessica jumped in and helped me get back to the basics so I could build a stronger foundation for the rest of my activities. So, if your doc has cleared you for exercise, check out these first steps for getting back into your exercise groove.
I’m ready to exercise….Now what?!?
Congratulations on your new little bundle of joy! This is such an exciting time in your life and no doubt the last month or so has been filled with many new experiences. Your days are packed with feedings, diaper changes, visits from family and friends, endless amounts of laundry, baby spit up and let’s not forget the sleep deprivation. There is a lot going on (especially if this is your 2nd, 3rd or 4th child…). You are starting to think about returning to some sort of physical activity now that your recovery is in a good place. Even if you weren’t very active before giving birth, your little one has you feeling like a prisoner in your own house and you just need to GET OUT AND MOVE!! It’s ok to feel this way. I understand. Here is the question. What should you do? How should you do it? What are the best exercises to do to get your body back into the swing of things. It can be scary to start some physical activity after giving birth. Here is my ‘FITMOM’ guide to postpartum exercise.
First, TAKE IT EASY! – I know you are like…wha? I just took 6-8weeks off and I feel like a big, fat blob….I get it. Been there. I encourage you to take a step back and celebrate what your body just accomplished. You grew a tiny little human in your uterus. A women’s body goes through more changes during pregnancy than a man’s body goes through in his entire life. Your new postpartum body is not the same as the one you had before giving birth. Welcome to your 4th trimester! Your pelvis is still weak, relaxin (a hormone) is still acting on your joints causing instability, your abdominals are still healing and big breasts may be causing lower back pain. Your uterus will take up to 4-6 weeks to return to its normal size.
HINT: You have to treat your postnatal body as a BEGINNER when it comes to starting to exercise again. Even if you were attending high intensity bootcamps or an avid Crossfitter before baby, it’s a whole different situation now. RELAX!! TAKE IT EASY!! YOU WILL GET THERE! When I started to exercise again, I couldn’t even hold a plank for 20 seconds. As a trainer, I was holding them for 3-4 minutes before having my son. So frustrating! With consistency and dedication, you will build your strength and endurance back up and take that baby weight off. Remember, it took over 9 months to put it on and it should take about that to take it off. I assure you, if you do it in a healthy way, you will keep it off. Here are some moves you can start doing immediately:
WALKING – Walking is a great way to get your body moving again and you can even bring your little one with you. A good brisk walk for 30 minutes will burn between 100-150 calories. Take a walk every day and you are well on your way to improving your mood, mental state and helping your muscles remember what it’s like to move in a low impact and safe way. Grab a friend and your stroller and go for it. Too cold to go outside? Walk around the mall or hop on a treadmill. Keep up your pace to keep your heart rate up and burn calories.
SQUATS – I always tell my clients (female or male), squats are a full body exercise. To perform a squat correctly, you have to engage your core (the muscles between your ribs and your hips) and keep your chest up. Squats are safe for all new moms including those who have suffered a diastasis recti (separation of abdominal wall). Here is a quick guide to a great squat:
Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips and your toes in line with your heels. Keep your shoulders down and your shoulder blades down towards your hips. Pull your belly button inward toward your spine to engage your core. Inhale, bend your knees and lower your hips back so that they will eventually end up parallel to your knees. Make sure you can see your toes! (If this puts pressure on your knees, just widen the angle and distance between your feet). In this position, keep your chest up and abdominals engaged. Exhale, straighten your legs and press your hips forward when you get to the top and squeeze your glutes (your butt). Try 3 sets of 15 reps and eventually work up to 3-4 sets of 20 reps.
PLANKS – Planks are one of the best exercises you can do to teach those abdominal muscles to fire again and work towards a flat belly. Yay! Start slow and build up your strength. CAUTION: If you have a DIASTISIS RECTI (separation of the abdominal wall), planks are not for you…at least not right away. It puts too much pressure on that sensitive area so I would suggest reaching out for specialized help. A physical therapist or a trainer can give you specific exercises to help you with your recovery. Here is guide for a great plank!
Lie on your stomach with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders. Curl your toes under and lift up into push-up position so your body is in one strong, straight line from the top of your head to your heels. WITHOUT RAISING YOUR HIPS UP, pull your belly up and in towards your spine to intensify the contraction. Engage everything to make this plank as effective as possible. Press your heels towards the back wall and lengthen your neck so that there is no tension in the shoulders. If starting on your toes is too difficult right now, you can tap your knees down until you build your strength. You can also perform a plank on a bench, or a sturdy chair as an effective modification. Once you’ve mastered a regular plank, try this progression…
A) 2-3 sets of 30-45 seconds – tapping knees up and down
B) 2-3 sets of 30-45 seconds
C) 2-3 sets of 30-45 seconds – tapping toes out to the side – alternating right and left
BICEP CURLS – You will need to build up your upper body strength to carry your little one around as he or she gets bigger….and trust me, you will be doing it a lot. You will learn how to do most things one handed as you impressively carry your baby in the other arm. Upper body resistance training will help you build upper body strength. Here is a quick guide to great bicep curls:
Grab some light weights or large water bottles (full, not empty) and stand with your feet hip distance apart and your toes in line with heels. Engage your core by pulling your belly button into towards your spine. Inhale, and on your exhale, bend your elbows and curl the weights up to the shoulders, inhale and bring the weights back down to the sides on the body. That’s one rep. Try to do 3 sets of 20 reps. Remember these are light weights so 20 reps should be manageable.
These few basic moves are a great start to a postpartum exercise routine. Here is small circuit you start with:
Jessica Sennet is an independent personal trainer that has worked all over New York City and Toronto helping women achieve their fitness goals. She is certified in Prenatal and Postpartum fitness and is an OHBABY fitness instructor. As a new mom herself, she understands the challenges that new moms face when attempting to get their PRE-BABY bodies back and wants to help others approach fitness in a fun and positive way. Visit her website, WWW.WORKOUTWITHJESS.COM, for great fitness tips, testimonials and more info about private or buddy sessions.