What are your favorite tips for how new moms can stay active?
It’s important to listen to your body and to your healthcare team. It’s also important to remember that your body just spent nine months changing; you did an amazing thing - you grew a person! So be patient with yourself. Show yourself the same love you would show a friend who just had a baby. Encourage yourself, give yourself compliments, and try to eliminate negative self-talk.
I believe in starting small, taking baby steps. You know your goal, so begin with one small change that will get you closer to it. A great way to begin is by taking your baby on an outdoor stroll as soon as your doctor gives you the okay to exercise (usually about six weeks postpartum).
Start with 20 minutes of walking each day. Rest before you feel like you need it. Take a day off. When you’re ready, extend your walk to 30 minutes.
Another benefit of outdoor stroller walks is that they are great for stimulating your baby’s brain. You’re also practicing getting out of the house together, and you can meet other moms! Why not start a “Stroller Brigade” Facebook group for your neighborhood? (Yes, these really exist!)
If walks aren’t quite up your alley, or you know your body can handle more of a challenge, there are tons of other ways to stay active:
Yoga has amazing health benefits. It increases flexibility, which helps prevent injury, and it can help you find some calm in the chaos of new motherhood. There are different types of yoga depending on what your goals are.
Photo by Fashion Boudoir Project
Running can be rough on our bodies, so it’s not always my first recommendation. But if you were a runner before you were pregnant, once your baby is old enough, buy a jogging stroller and hit the pavement, Mama!
You can find a lot of fun at-home postpartum workouts online, from yoga to weight lifting to dance-based cardio.
How did you maintain a fitness regimen with a new baby?
Now that my son is a toddler, we go to the YMCA, and he goes to daycare. When he was a newborn, I used at-home workouts to lift weights and do yoga. My baby was usually asleep when I did my workouts, but eventually, he began to sleep less and watch more. Then he started joining in, and the rest is history. My son does an excellent Downward Facing Dog!
How do you manage to juggle your job, school, baby, and fitness?
I heard a good quote awhile back: “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” When I was adjusting to mom life and struggling to find balance, I sacrificed some things so that I could make more time for the things that truly mattered.
I schedule everything, but I’m always ready to adapt. I write everything down, because… mom brain. I even write down my priorities so that I don’t fall off track. The things I write down are the things I make time for.
I include my son in everything that I can. He works out with me or goes to the gym with me. I’m lucky enough to work for Kindred Bravely, so I get to attend work meetings with my son in my lap. We eat most of the same meals, and we even nap together sometimes. He’s used to spending his days with me and going with the flow.
I’m blessed with parents who love to babysit when I have class or need a break, and I’m not too proud to ask for help when I need it.
It’s still a balancing act. Some weeks I am a better mom, and other weeks I am a better student. Some days I am very focused on my health, and other days I stay up until 1 am to keep working.
I give myself grace and remind myself that I’m doing a good job, especially on days when I don’t hear it from anyone else. I keep in mind that there is a lot expected of the modern mom, and many of us do it without a village. I make myself a priority by scheduling “me time” so that I can be a better mom.
How can new moms squeeze exercise in?
Use your workouts as a time to bond with your baby. Take your baby out in the stroller with you, or exercise your heart out in front of him or her during tummy time. Exercising in front of your baby is a great way for him or her to watch and learn that fitness is a part of a healthy, happy lifestyle. You can even include your baby in your workouts by holding or wearing him or her, as long as you are extremely safe. Remember: don’t practice balancing moves when holding or wearing your baby.
What if new moms feel they just don't have time to work out?
Sometimes making the time for exercise seems like the biggest obstacle to getting more active, but I truly believe every mom owes it to herself to adjust her schedule enough to fit in 20 minutes of exercise a few days a week (and if you truly can’t, you might have too much on your plate).
If you’re not ready to commit to the idea of a workout schedule, focus on healthy eating. Since what you eat affects your energy levels, nutritious eating should always be a priority. You can find healthy options even if you don’t have the time to cook. Some of my favorite on-the-go options are peanut butter banana smoothies, sushi, or salad. Try prepping this taco salad in a jar for a quick lunch!
What's your advice for moms who are just too exhausted to work out?
Exercising when you’re tired is tough, but it’s a vicious cycle. In order to break the cycle, you need to exercise. Eating whole foods also helps with energy levels.
If you are fatigued to the point that you feel unable to exercise at all, there might be a deeper health issue at play. Your health is always worth a visit to the doctor, especially now that you have a little one in your life.
Can new moms stay active without working out?
Yes, you can, but if you have major fitness goals, then you won’t see results as quickly. You can make minor life changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking farther away from the grocery store.
Again, nutrition is crucial, especially if you aren’t working out. It doesn’t matter whether you want to lose or gain weight; maintaining a healthy diet will help you have more energy, feel better, get sick less often, live longer, and even feel happier.
What should moms do to avoid injury if newly postpartum?
Photo by Megan Kathleen
Listen to your body. This can be a learning process. Don’t start too soon. Be patient with yourself. Rest before you feel like you need it, and never push yourself beyond what your body can handle. Exercise should never be painful. If you experience any sharp pain during exercise, you should stop what you are doing immediately; visit an urgent care if the pain persists.
Improving flexibility is the best way to avoid injury, so try starting with light yoga. Always warm up before you stretch - never cold stretch! Stretching immediately after you exercise works too.
Can you give some specific advice for strengthening the pelvic floor?
The advice you’ll always hear for strengthening your pelvic floor is to do Kegels. To do a Kegel, identify your pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles you use and feel when you contract your bladder to stop the flow of urine. You can stop urinating midstream to do this, but I wouldn’t recommend continuing to do that once you learn to recognize the muscles. Hold for 5 seconds, then release and rest for 5 seconds. Do this 8-10 times, about 3 times a day or as often as you remember.
Strengthening your pelvic floor will help with bladder leaks and the urge to pass gas. It can also improve your sex life (particularly if you have been experiencing painful sex, in which case you should see your doctor). Specialists can help with strengthening your pelvic floor if necessary.
Can you give some specific advice for correcting diastasis recti?
When I was pregnant, my abs came close to separating, but I was luckily able to correct it in time. If you have diastasis recti (abdominal separation), it can’t be fully corrected, but it can be treated. To start, don’t overexert or overstretch your abdomen. This means using your arms and legs instead of your abs when you get out of your bed or car. Remember to never sit up from a supine position (lying flat on your back). First, roll onto your side. Then, push yourself up with your arms, not your abs.
Focus on holding your abs together as you are moving throughout the day. You can and should exercise, but avoid crunches and other ab exercises until you have healed and are able to hold your abs together.
What are simple ways new moms can be active if they’ve never been active before?
If you are self-disciplined, it’s always good to start simple with something like taking a daily walk. A lot of us, however, struggle with self-discipline and motivation, so I suggest finding whatever workout sounds fun. Dancing? Running? Lifting? The best workout is the one that you will do.
What are your favorite Kindred Bravely products to work out in?
The Louisa Leggings are amazingly comfortable and stretch as your belly grows or shrinks, so those would be my first pick! We also have our awesome nursing sports bra - it’s adorable and perfect for light exercise, like walking or yoga. All of our tanks are workout friendly, but I like the Sublime Tank the best.
Whether you are a first-time mom or just welcomed your tenth kid, staying active as a new mom is tough. While it can be challenging to fit exercise into your schedule, there are many reasons to make it a priority. Not only are you improving your physical health when you exercise, but you’re also improving your mental health. You have more energy, get better sleep, and set a great example for your baby!
We hope Stacey’s insights into exercising as a new mom will help you come up with a fitness plan that works for you and your family. For many new moms, it can be hard to take time for yourself, to invest in improving your physical and mental health. But remember, to care for your baby you need to care for yourself. We’d love to hear your favorite tips for staying active as a new mom. Please comment below!