My husband and I are welcoming our first child into the world this November. I am overjoyed to be a mom, and I can't wait to meet this little gal (or guy....it's a surprise)! But I would be lying if I said that I haven't thought about the effects that this beautiful baby will have on my poor body. While I've walked around a fair amount during this pregnancy, there were a ton of exercises like running that I simply could not do. Combine this with an appetite that rivals Jabba the Hut's and the fact that I've now gone up 3 sizes in maternity jeans is hardly surprising.
But I comfort myself with the thought that I CAN get my body back. I've talked to many moms who had gained a lot of baby weight but are now in the best shape of their lives. All it takes is a lot of hard work, dedication...and in my case, asking my husband to hide the Nutella! Whether you're baby is ten months or ten years, it's never to late to start a postpartum exercise regime.
It's important to keep in mind that not all exercises are created equal when it comes to a post-baby body. Some exercises, like crunches, can actually worsen common postpartum complication such as diastasis recti (abdominal wall separation). Through some careful research and consultation with my friend, who is a board certified personal trainer and new mom, I've compiled a list of the top 5 types of workouts for moms.
Note: New moms should consult a physician before starting ANY postpartum exercise regime
1. Barre3: This unique exercise combines the best of ballet barre, yoga, and Pilates. Classes are set to a fun, fast-paced soundtrack...so it feels more like a dance party than a workout! This exercise is great for new moms because it targets and strengthens the specific areas that are weakened during pregnancy and childbirth: the pelvic floor, upper back, glutes, and transverse abdominals. If you suffer from diastis recti, or any other pregnancy related issue, make sure to let the class instructor know, and they will modify certain exercises for you.
2. Kegel Exercises: These postpartum exercises have stood the test of time! Developed in the 40's, these effective exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, urethra, rectum, and uterus. Kegels were originally developed to target urinary stress incontinence (affecting 70% of new moms) and anal incontinence. They are also great at improving the muscle tone in the vagina, and tightening up a post-baby tummy. While Kegel exercises might seem a bit dull and tedious, aim for 100 a day and I guarantee you'll see a huge difference. For some great Kegel exercises click here.
3. Tabata: This high intensity interval training is becoming a popular postpartum exercise. Developed by a Japanese scientist in the 90's, Tabata consists of a set of challenging but straightforward exercises. Each exercise is performed intensely for 20 seconds, and then followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated 8 times. Tabata is ideal for moms struggling to regain their cardiovascular endurance, because 20 second intervals appear a lot less daunting than 60 minutes on the elliptical.
4. Postpartum Yoga: A lot of us are familiar with prenatal yoga, but this 5,000 year old practice also provides a host of physical and psychological benefits postpartum. Physical benefits include posture perfection (body alignment and posture offer suffer during pregnancy), core toning (for that stubborn mummy tummy), and flexibility. The psychological benefits include relaxation and positive emotions--powerful antidotes to postpartum depression. Some yoga studios even offer a Baby and Me yoga class, so you and your little one can practice together!
5. BabyWeightTV: This excellent on-line resource offers over 100 health and fitness videos tailored specifically to moms. There are excellent cardio workouts, core strengthening videos, and yoga--and each is designed specifically to exercise those muscles impacted by pregnancy. Click here to visit the website.