So today, I went for my fourth "run" since I gave birth to my second daughter, who is almost eight weeks old. Since my Mother-in-law offered to take my toddler for the day, I got to get outside and bring my littlest along in the jogging stroller... and it was awesome. I put "run" in quotations only because well, there was a fair amount of walking. But it was a beautiful day, my baby was sleeping for most of it, and even though I have a ways to go to get back to my pre-baby fitness level, I felt great. While I was out there, I got to thinking about the process of getting back to exercise after baby, and I wanted to share a couple of tips I think may help other moms in the same boat.
Make the Time
I'm sure many of you can relate to having two small kids to take care of, or a new baby, or at least you have heard or can imagine- being a mom is pretttty darn time consuming. When I do have a break, in today's case a break from my demanding toddler ;-)- there are a million and one things I could be doing. I could be cleaning my disaster of a house, I could be taking a well deserved nap, I could be running errands, etc. Today I chose to put getting a run in at the top of my list. I did this yesterday as well, relying on the gym daycare to keep my kids safe and entertained while I ran laps around the track. Tonight I'm leaving the kiddos with their dad so I can catch a yoga class. At times I have felt guilty carving out the time to work out, but as moms I feel we really need to give the mom guilt the boot and try our best to remember that you can't pour from an empty cup, and that taking care of your health will benefit your kids as well in several ways. Not only will you be in better shape to play, and live longer to enjoy time with your kids, but you will be setting a great example for them. I also know I'm just a better mom and a more pleasant wife when I've carved out some me time, especially if it is to work out and get those endorphins flowing. So just do your whole family a favor and make the time.
Even if you're eager to get back out there now that you've been given the green light from your doctor to resume strenuous activity, it's important to remember that your amazing body has recently been through a lot of changes and healing post-birth, and you've likely taken a significant break from your previous exercise routine. You are also probably functioning on less sleep and expending a significant amount of energy by just momming. You don't want to overdo it or injure yourself. Start slow.
Listen to Your Body
If you feel fantastic doing what you are doing, by all means, rock it girlfriend. However, if you are like me and pushing the stroller up those hills outside at full speed feels like a bit much, slow your roll. There's a big difference between pushing yourself a little to work on endurance, and pushing yourself too far.
Be Kind to Yourself
It can feel a little defeating when you get back out there, and realize fully how much your fitness level may have declined during pregnancy and postpartum, or how much more difficult it is to exercise with lingering baby (and/or added boob) weight. It is very important to keep positive and treat yourself kindly. Your body just did an AMAZING thing by creating and birthing your little one, and is still working super hard to care for and nourish it... give it a break, and give it some time. Talk to yourself, and encourage yourself as you would a good friend.
Have a Goal
If you're like me, it can help to have a long term goal. For me, I'm training to run a 5k in October (American Cancer Society Sole Burner in my Mom's memory), and my fourth half marathon in November. While I may feel slow right now, I know that if I stick with it and get my miles in when I can that I will improve over time and feel prepared for my upcoming events. I don't have to be fast today, or ever really, it's really more about getting out there. Improved fitness will come.
Written by Angie Traska of Align Doula Services, providing intuitive, attentive doula support that aligns with you. Looking for doula support, birth planning guidance or lactation counseling in the Madison area? Contact me here.