Having a baby can completely change your priorities. During the first weeks, exercise (and getting more of it) is probably the last thing on your mind, as all you can think about is your perfect little newborn. However, as the new routines become familiar, you might start feeling like moving your body again as you remember how much more energy it gave you before.
Getting more exercise after pregnancy is vital not only for getting back your pre-pregnancy figure, but also for preventing and healing back, shoulder and neck aches that may have resulted from carrying your baby and bending down to stare at your little miracle–something that most new parents can’t get enough of.
There are a few steps that you can take to increase the amount of exercise you get, without tiring yourself more than being a new parent already does. The key is to make small changes so that you don’t feel overwhelmed, and so that you still have the energy to enjoy these few unique, precious months with your baby.
1. Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps
Although this may seem counter-intuitive when talking about getting more exercise, you should first make sure you’re getting enough rest. Straining yourself by working out while tired can actually lead to lower fitness levels, so make sure you’re getting all the sleep you need. Instead of squeezing in exercise during your baby’s nap, join them and wake up refreshed and happy to tend to their needs. There are ways to get strong during the waking hours too.
2. Carry Your Baby
Carrying your baby in a wrap, sling or baby carrier is one of the best ways to strengthen your legs, pelvic muscles and core. Keep your abs and pelvic muscles engaged when carrying your baby, and squat instead of bending down every time you need to pick something up. You can carry your baby indoors while you clean or do the laundry, or when going for a walk outside. If your baby weighs even one tenth of what you weigh, every step you take will be ten percent more effective.
Being carried is great for your baby too. Their balance improves, attachment to you strengthens, and any fussiness due to tummy aches or tiredness and overstimulation calms down. In order to protect their back and hips from unhealthy stress, make sure your method of carrying places them with their knees higher than their bum, and their back on a round C-curve.
3. Do What Your Baby Does
When my baby started turning from back to front, the time he spent on the floor started to look more and more like a yoga or Pilates class. In the last five minutes I’ve seen him go from pushups to downward facing dog to cobra to pigeon pose, and when he turns onto his back he does what seems like a very intense core workout with his legs kicking just above the floor. All I have to do is get down and dirty with him (copying all his movements), and I get a great whole-body workout–all the while giving my baby boy the attention and one on one parent time he loves.
4. Exercise On The Go
No matter how much fun you’re having napping and playing with your baby, eventually you’re going to have to leave the house for some fresh air. And when you do, you can make the most of it by incorporating your favorite yoga and Pilates moves into your pram walk. Walk a few minutes to warm up, then do some standing poses, stretches and moves to open your hips and shoulders and relax your back and neck (using your pram as support if you need to). Then continue walking and feel the difference in the way you move.
Lastly, be gentle with yourself. Instead of thinking about the exercise you don’t have the time or energy for anymore, concentrate on the little bits of healing, strengthening and fun movement you can incorporate into your daily life.