Getting fit after giving birth is very personal thing and often depends on the mum and delivery. It also of course depends on the baby (it can be more challenging if you have a baby that likes to be held the bulk of the time) and of course the amount of time you have available to exercise. For more information and details of the Kiddicare Campaign on this click here.
It’s important to consult your doctor before exercising as strenuous activity too soon can lead to infection – the time varies but you should wait roughly 6 weeks, or 12 weeks after a C-section. After this time period, gentle exercise is vital as it can help knit your core back together as it will have stretched out like a balloon during birth! Check out the article I wrote on the importance of the pelvic floor for more information.
It might feel like hard work when you are sleep deprived but achieving a healthy level of fitness is worth the effort as it can help with: the release of endorphins, focusing on yourself, getting fresh air, increasing energy levels, and preventing later injuries.
Exercise should be enjoyable, whether it’s a country walk with your baby or going for a gentle jog around your local park.
I have always loved the gym but I can’t work that in around the children as I can’t take them there with me and sit them down to watch whilst I hit the treadmill and the weights.
I have to work my exercise into the day somehow and that isn’t always entirely straightforward. Sometimes I can grab 20 minutes to do one of my exercise DVDs but some days there isn’t even time for that. Check out my busy mummies guide to running a marathon for some tips about how to turn simple daily tasks into a workout.
At the start of your postnatal stage, walk for maybe 15 minutes and then slowly increase this. Remember that getting back to fitness is brilliant for your health but it has to be done gently; your body has gone through a massive change physically and hormonally and breastfeeding needs energy to create milk. Therefore, listen to your body carefully. When brisk walking, ensure you consider your posture:
- Engage your glutes
- Don’t round your shoulders
- Keep your elbows tucked in
- Contract your core (abs)
Walking with pushchairs
When your baby is first born, any pushchair is suitable for getting outdoors, but if walks in the country are your thing then bigger wheels and suspension are important.
Phil & Teds offers some great 3 wheelers that would be a good starting point (Phil & Teds Mountain Buggy and OutnAbout also have suitable products.).
Alternatively, baby carriers are a brilliant, hands-free way to carry your baby without having to take a pushchair. It also allows for a wonderful bonding experience between parent and baby. Please remember that carriers are not suitable for sporting activities, although, I confess to taking part in the parents egg and spoon race this week with my baby asleep in the Babybjorn. Babybjorn is the market leader in soft carriers and always my carrier of choice, especially with the creation of the ONE that can last from birth to three years.
Put a bounce in your step
It is normally advised that women don’t try jogging until their baby is over 6 months – once your baby is 6 months and your core is a little more stable you will be super ready to jog! Having said that, you know what your body is capable of and I completed my 16th marathon last week, nine months after having my fourth baby. Try building your stamina and burning fat by jogging for 1 minute and brisk walking for 1 minute. Jogging is a brilliant way to get fit which does not cost a fortune and you can do with your little one in tow! I even jog around the outside of the house at home, just to make sure I get something done and I can do that with the pushchair, baby monitor or with the children! There are ways to get things done, you just have to be creative…sometimes very creative!
If you want to take your child on a run with you then there are some great buggies which are specially adapted for running – check the product guidelines to ensure whether or not your buggy is suitable. The Mountain Buggy Terrain is suitable for jogging and also the OutNAbout Nipper Sport. I had a Red Castle Sport and we now have an O Baby. The important features to look for are:
- A brake on the handle bar for easy breaking
- A lockable front wheel
- Suspension for a comfortable ride for baby
- Pneumatic tyres
Get your kit on
There are two main things to remember before starting your fitness journey:
Get a good sports bra
I can’t stress this enough! For my recent marathon I ended up wearing two on top of each other just to control my breastfeeding boobs but by the end of the marathon they were busting out. The breast is a fragile organ and it is essential to wear a correctly fitting sports bra that provides horizontal and vertical support. Sports bras with cups (encapsulation bras) give more support than the crop-top style designs. Wearing a sports bra can reduce strain on the upper back and neck and reduce joggers’ nipple! – A spot of Vaseline on your nipples also helps reduce that.
Choose the right running shoes
Not every runner is the same and it’s important to choose a running shoe which is suitable for your gait. Runners who overpronate (the foot rolls inward) should consider wearing a support shoe.
To find out what type of runner you are you just need to do the simple wet test, and for this all you need is a bowl of water, a dark piece of paper (a brown or manila envelope is ideal) and your feet. Just dip the sole of your foot into the water, shake off any excess, then press your foot onto the paper/envelope as if you were walking over it. Match the imprint left behind to the symbols used below to find out what type of runner you are. See this handy video for a demonstration:
What are your personal fitness goals?
Everyone’s will be different, which is of course what makes them personal. For me, after four children, they go a bit like this:
- lose weight
- maintain weight loss
- tone up
- continue to increase the number of marathons completed, even if that is only one more each year
- feel better
- lose water retention