By: Darrell W. Butler
ACE, NFPT, ISCA Certified Personal Trainer
If you’re an expecting mother or have recently given birth to a child, congratulations! A newborn baby is one of life’s most precious gifts; however that gift usually comes packaged with a few extra digits on the scale. Unfortunately you can’t blame your child for those extra pounds forever. If your son is now old enough to shave or your daughter is currently picking out prom dresses; you’ll probably have to stop using that whole “baby-weight” excuse!
So how is it that some women seem to snap back to their original weight instantaneously while other mom’s struggle for years? Honestly it’s not a magic trick; it’s simply a matter of exercise and proper nutrition throughout and immediately following your pregnancy.
With that said, here are a few simple ways that recent and expecting mother’s can go from “mommy” to “sexy mama” in no time flat!
Research has proven that a daily dose of moderate physical activity can lead to a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby. Your first step, however, should be to consult with your physician for proper guidelines specific to your particular body, especially if you’re having multiple babies.
Generally speaking, if exercise is already a regular part of your lifestyle, you won’t have to change your routine much during your first trimester. Just make sure not to participate in any contact sport such as basketball, soccer, etc. Risky and unstable activities aren’t the best idea either, so you should probably shelve the rollerblades and rock climbing gear as well. Remember that you’re not trying to break records during this time, so always keep things safe.
Also remember that you shouldn’t necessarily aim to slim down during this time either, however that doesn’t give you a free pass to binge on Cheetos and ice cream for nine months! The goal is to gain weight and maintain muscular strength to support your pregnancy, but in a safe and healthy manner.
Some of the safest fitness activities for expecting mothers are swimming and water aerobics, since the pool is easiest on the joints and will keep you from overheating. Prenatal yoga and low impact Pilates are also great for developing proper breathing techniques, decreasing stress and strengthening the abdominal wall.
Strength training is also important, although after the first 14 weeks, during your second and third trimester, it’s imperative that you avoid performing exercises that involve lying on your back for long periods of time. If you have limited experience with weights, you should seek out the assistance of a certified fitness professional with prenatal training experience.
Walking for up to 30 or 40 minutes is also a great idea, however you should aim for a pace at which you can still maintain a full conversation or sing your favorite song. If you’re out of breath to the point where you can’t speak, you’re going too fast – so dial it down and save the speed for your postnatal routine!
Boot camps, step aerobics and other non-prenatal group exercise classes may not be the best idea either. Aside from the impact that it will have on your breathing, heart rate and joints, the large setting will make it difficult for you to receive the specialized attention that you might require. Additionally, a non-prenatal instructor may not be able to modify your activity to make it safe for you to perform so it’s best to sit these classes out for awhile.
Whichever prenatal fitness activity you choose to engage in, make sure to eat something before you begin. Also remember to drink plenty of water and to focus on your breathing throughout your workout. You’ll also want to wear comfortable clothing, especially a well-fitting sports bra. And most importantly you’ll need to remember that you should always stop if you feel anything out of the ordinary.
A common approach by many new mothers is to wait until their baby is a full year old before attempting to work off the extra pounds. Unfortunately, that is a costly approach because it makes their weight loss challenge twice as difficult to achieve.
After giving birth, your body is somewhat designed to return back to the weight it was prior to your pregnancy, however you’ll have to help it along by eating properly and exercising. If you don’t, and choose to wait for an entire year or more, the extra pounds have time to settle on your body making them harder to take off later. Instead, if you attack the weight as soon as you’re medically cleared, you’re likely to lose the baby weight and more, resulting in a body that may be even fitter than it was before you gave birth!
Some extremely cautious doctors recommend waiting until your six-week postnatal checkup before you start working out, however most are likely to approve mild strength training almost immediately. Regardless of your physician’s approach, it’s important that you consult with them once again for suggestions, guidelines and restrictions. This is especially important if you had a caesarean section or any complications during your pregnancy. There may be physical and emotional issues that you’ll first need to deal with, so seeking out a professional should always be your initial step.
Once you’re in the clear, it’s time to get moving! If you worked out throughout your pregnancy, you should be able to pick right back up where you left off for the most part. Those who chose to take some time off from their fitness routine, or never had one to begin with, will need to ease into things slowly. You may feel pressured to take that baby weight back off as quickly as possible, but you have to remember to honor your own body and go at your own pace. Otherwise, you might injure yourself and not be able to workout for an even longer period of time!
With a newborn baby, finding the desire to exercise may be less of a challenge than finding the actual time. Many daycare facilities refuse to take a child under six months of age so unless you have a sitter or a relative who can watch your bundle of joy, you may have a hard time squeezing in a trip to the gym.
Here are a few creative ways to incorporate your baby into an exercise routine that you can perform together-no gym required! And while I’ve focused primarily on mothers, newborn fathers who packed on a few “sympathy pounds” of their own should feel free to also try the following workout as well!
Squats – Get up off the couch! No, literally, place your child nearby and get up off the couch. Okay, now sit back down. That’s one repetition. It may not seem like much yet, but repeat that nine more times and you’ll begin to feel the burn. Rest for a minute then try another set of 10-20. If your child has developed enough to handle the constant movement, hold him or her in your arms as you stand up and sit down. This will provide an extra challenge for you, and a fun time for your baby! This can also be performed on a park bench as your baby watches from the stroller.
Walking Lunges – Speaking of strollers, why not put that to good use? If it’s nice outside, take your baby out for a walk so that you can both enjoy some fresh air. For a unique lower body challenge however, try taking a big step forward with your right leg. Hold that position as you bend your left knee towards the ground creating a 90 degree angle with your right knee. Hold this position for a second then proceed forward by taking a big step forward now with your left leg. This time bend your right knee towards the ground creating a 90 degree angle with your left knee. Continue this pattern until you’ve taken 20 steps then rest and repeat.
Push-ups – Place your baby on a blanket nearby and aim for a set of 10 push-ups. If you’re a beginner, you might want to start by using your knees for leverage. If you’re advanced however, position your baby underneath you so that as you lower yourself down you can kiss or interact with your newborn. Rest and then repeat for 10 more kisses…whoops, I mean repetitions.
Bird-dog – Kneel on all fours with your hands lined up directly beneath your shoulders. Your baby can lie between your hands to check out the action or nearby on a blanket. Now contract your abs and fully extend your left arm forward as you simultaneously extend your right leg behind you until both are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 1-5 seconds then perform the same movement using your right arm and left leg. Perform a set of 10 then rest and repeat.
Full Plank – Place your baby on a blanket either underneath you or to the side, similar to the last movement. Now assume a push-up position but instead of lowering yourself down towards the ground, you’ll aim to hold yourself in the upright position for 15-30 seconds. Make sure that your hands are directly underneath your shoulders, your core is tight and your hips are engaged and not sagging. Your body should be as straight and stiff as a board, hence the term “plank.” If you’re advanced, try holding this position for a longer period of time or try this same movement positioned on your forearms instead of your hands.
Kegals –Have a seat on the floor “Indian style” with your baby lying beside you. Sit upright with your hands on your stomach, breathe in and relax your abs. Now exhale, drawing your bellybutton towards your spine to engage your core. Hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds while squeezing your pelvic muscles upwards. Rest and then repeat five times.
Leg Scissors – As you hold your baby on your chest, lie on your back with your legs elevated 12 or so inches from the ground. While keeping them in the air, spread your legs as wide as you can, hold for a second then bring them back together. Perform this movement nine more times, then rest and repeat for another set of 10.
Losing extra weight gained during pregnancy can be a daunting task, but it’s not impossible by any means. As long as you follow the guidelines outlined above, you can be back in your skinny jeans in no-time!