Last week, my family and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving with our son Mazen Duke. We reflected on the good fortune we have had with family health and the discipline we have had with healthy habits. I personally took some time to think about how I stayed healthy during my pregnancy and to renew my commitment to exercise.
I was very fortunate to be able to exercise throughout my entire pregnancy. My goal was an hour of activity a day. My post-pregnancy workout routine, since I had Mazen 10 weeks ago, has been a work in progress and, hopefully, will help you keep exercise in your life while caring for any newborn you have in your family..
Walking before running
Within five days of giving birth, I felt well enough to walk around the block. In addition to the healing, the lack of sleep wiped me of all energy. That walk felt so good for the soul though– the sunshine and cooler temperatures were so refreshing after the hot summer and days being cooped up in my house. We went on a few more short walks with the stroller after that, and I gradually increased my endurance.
After two weeks, I felt healed enough to really walk for exercise instead of just stroll. I still didn’t have tons of energy and 30 minutes was enough to satisfy my cravings to move. We live within walking distance of our downtown, so I walked there and back several times for social occasions and the farmer’s market, counting that fun as exercise in hiding.
Recently, I have started doing more power walks – I’m trying to get one in every day. On a particularly nice Sunday, I walked a total of fve miles to a park to meet my mother’s exercise group. I wasn’t that tired at the end (I think because my body is somewhat used to long walks from pregnancy) but the next day I was pretty sore from all of the hills. My shins and glutes were feeling it. Also, walking with a baby in a carrier and pushing the stroller that he rejected is twice as hard as walking while 40 weeks pregnant.
Taking note of your state of mind
I’ve made a few observations about postpartum exercise. First, my body and mind have gone through a back and forth with each other. On the one hand, my body is literally craving high intensity exercise in a manner unlike any other in months. I haven’t gotten my heart rate up high in so long, and I miss the feeling. On the other hand, my mind has been telling me “the first couple of months are your time to relax and get to know your son. Just chill. Exercise can wait.” The mind won and I haven’t put all that much effort into getting back in the exercise groove yet.
There have been times recently when I have thought “I should get down and do 10 pushups” but I have yet to do that even though it would only take me 10 seconds. I have weights at home, a few DVDs and a jump rope. I could be doing a mini workout every day. I am well aware that every minute of exercise counts toward wellness. But to be honest, in my windows between nursing sessions I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish each day that have taken priority: shower, three meals, blogging and writing, answering emails, tidying up the house, and running errands. I am not trying to suggest that exercise should be low on the totem pole of priorities, but rather that you will have to make modifications to your exercise routine based on where you prioritize it.
Expecting to gradually increase the exercise tempo
My gym has great childcare that I plan to use and the yoga studio downtown has "mommy and me classes." I’m excited to utilize both and will update all the mothers (and fathers) reading this about my progress in December. I doubt I will ever be the exercise fanatic I once was, but I do hope to stay as active as possible – for a healthy mind and body.
For the next few months ahead, here are my exericse goals:
- Keep up regular walks with the baby
- Add 1-2 home workouts or fitness DVDs each week
- Add a yoga podcast and/or mommy and me yoga class once a week
- Go for my first run
- Ride my bike again
- Get back to Body Pump - This will require leaving Mazen at childcare, so I’m saving this for last.
What suggestions do you have for postpartum exercise?
Editor's Note: Kath Younger is a new mother and dietitian. She posts at Real Health every Monday on motherhood and nutrition.
Photo Credit: Kath Younger took this picture at her local gym a month before giving birth
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