The Secrets to Bouncing Back After Pregnancy
First and foremost, the easiest way to have your body bounce back after pregnancy is to make sure that you do your best to have a fit pregnancy. Your body before and after pregnancy still keeps its same muscle memory. So staying in shape during pregnancy is the first step to making sure your body can bounce back quickly. And no, that doesn’t mean doing your usual HIIT workouts until the end, but even daily walking throughout the 3rd trimester can help you stay strong and be fit for your postpartum body.
The media, celebrities, models, and Photoshop can sometimes lead to unrealistic expectations of how quickly your body can bounce back after having a baby. The truth is that it takes anywhere from 1month to 1year for your body to truly physically recover. It depends on your age, weight, prior health, and the nature of your childbirth. Keep in mind that postpartum physical recovery requires a multifaceted approach. The two key elements are fitness and nutrition. You may not be able to get right into your old regular routine, but following these simple steps may help.
7 Steps to Getting Back in Shape After a Baby
At times, getting back in shape can feel like an insurmountable challenge, but it's important to remember that getting your body back post-pregnancy is a long game and requires patience. Focusing on small wins as you get your strength back will not only help you, but also make you strong and energetic for baby. These easy tips outline how to get your body back post-pregnancy.
- Take Time to Heal
The first step is to really check-in with yourself and honor your body. Is it ready for intense physical activity? Your body has just accomplished an amazing miracle and 9months of growing a human—plus labor is an extraordinary undertaking. It will take time for your body to adjust from the physical extremes of pregnancy and birth. Your doctor(s) will always be the best source of advice. Consider some of these reasons to take it easy before hitting the gym:
- Many women struggle with core and pelvic floor issues after birth. And it could take a while for you to realize them.
- Your doctor will be the best source of advice on when to begin hitting the gym.
- It's very common for the ab muscles to separate during pregnancy, called diastasis recti. If this happens to you it's important to work with a physical therapist to do certain exercises to knit the abs back together. Or simply choose rest, as this condition often heals itself in time.
- Pelvic floor physical therapy also helps many women and is a great way to help your body recover. Resting is also the key here to letting your body heal.
- Set Realistic Expectations
Getting back to your old self is all about setting realistic expectations. You may not be looking at a perfect 6-pack anytime soon. But plenty of times it's actually setting unrealistic that ends up resulting in failure. Here is the key to making step one work:
- Everyone’s timeline will vary, so don’t feel pressured to make all your deadlines.
- You must make sure that your body has actually healed before you really start to put in the work.
- Be flexible about what you use to measure your progress. Maybe you’re used to shedding pounds quickly, or working up to multi-mile runs. These may not be as easy to do postpartum. So instead think of frequency to measure your progress and stamina. Working up to multiple workouts in a week for a longer time each time.
- Get in Your Steps
Going for daily walks can be one of the easiest ways to get your pre birth body back. In fact, after months of carrying the extra weight of a babe, you may be surprised how easy it is to get in your 10k steps per day! Walking is one of the easiest types of cardio that you can use to help get your postpartum strength up.
- Try Breastfeeding (If Possible)
Breastfeeding can help you get your pre-pregnancy ody back, by burning as many as 600+ extra calories/day. Although physical issues can get in the way. If you are having troubles with breastfeeding, there are many ways that your doctor or a lactation consultant can help you. And if it's not for you, then there are plenty of other ways you can help get your body back, and regardless of breastfeeding, your body will heal with time.
- Incorporate Strength Training & Light Cardio
You may need to reformulate your postpartum workout routine to accommodate the radical changes in your body, strength, and endurance. The ideal postpartum workout routine should include both strength training AND cardio. But keep in mind that your workouts may (and probably should) look radically different than your pre birth workouts. Some ideas are:
- Scale things back, reduce weights, and be patient with your body when needed.
- Try ankle weights when walking around the house with your baby if you have a hard time fitting in a workout with your schedule.
- How much does baby weigh? Chances are you’re picking up your infant very frequently throughout the day. So make sure you do some counterweight exercises for your arms to ensure you aren’t getting some muscle groups to be overdeveloped.
- Don’t Skip Rest Days
Rest days become even more important when you’re working with a postpartum body. These play an integral role in any fitness routine. Because without rest, your body/muscles don’t have time to recover. And even worse, if you aren’t resting you could unintentionally injure yourself in your postpartum state. Don’t be afraid to incorporate more rest days into your routine while your body continues to adjust. This is how to really get your body back after pregnancy. There are also a lot of lighter workouts you can do for a few ideas for “active” rest days. Here are some examples:
- Take a hike/walk
- Zero In on Your Nutrition
Of course the crowning jewel of any successful postpartum body journey is balanced nutrition. It’s highly important––especially if you’re breastfeeding––that you have the best nutrition you can after birth. This will help your body repair itself, your muscles heal, and your uterus shrink back to its normal size. It's important to take the necessary nutrients, like multivitamins, fish oil, or protein supplements to help keep things in balance. Consider other important things like these:
- Macro breakdowns: Extra fat, protein, and carbs for energy and a healthy breastfeeding journey.
- Hydration: Staying hydrated is always paramount, but its especially important if you are breastfeeding. Your body needs water to make milk. Make sure you are getting between 3L - 1 gallon of water everyday. This will help you not only achieve your fitness goals, but also keep your gut healthy and make you slimmer.
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The postpartum journey is a wild, unique ride. It’s important to be patient with your body and honor the miracle of birth. Don’t expect to bounce back in a day. Rather, focus on small lifestyle changes to support your recovery and help get you back to your old self.
Taking the time to heal, having rest days and setting realistic goals are the start of any successful postpartum journey. Light cardio, weight training and getting in your steps will help you build your strength back slowly and put you on the right path to getting your body back after baby. Making sure that you have the right nutrition is also key. Protein has been shown to help with lactation and can also help to rebuild strong muscles. Supporting your journey with the right nutrition will get your body back after pregnancy and leave you feeling energized to focus on the joys of being with your baby.