I found out I was pregnant immediately after meeting a major fitness goal: I had transformed myself from a mostly sedentary person (ahem, kind of a couch potato) to an enthusiastic, near-daily runner. My new running addiction came after trying the “Couch to 5K” app on a whim and, to my great surprise, I fell in love with the rhythm, release and total high that I felt during and after a workout.
I continued my running throughout the first half of my pregnancy, slowing my pace when necessary, but around week 25, it just got too uncomfortable (not to mention difficult to find bathrooms along my route for the increasingly frequent pee stops I needed). Sad to stop running but determined to stay in shape, I switched to brisk walks, light weight training and lots of stretching until I had my baby girl in April.
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The Joys of Being a New Mom
The first few weeks of new motherhood were a combination of bliss, exhaustion, anxiety and unbridled joy as we learned to care for our sweet daughter, and I recovered from giving birth. We took a few short walks around our neighborhood, our baby strapped to my husband’s chest in a carrier or tucked in her stroller. With every step, I found myself longing to get back into shape, but I knew I would need to keep a few things in mind.
Childbirth Is No Joke
Having a baby is a major medical event and is hard on the body. Just as with any other medical procedure, it would be important not to push myself too hard right away. I wouldn’t run laps right after a surgery, would I?
No More DINK
We’re a family of three now, with more expenses than when we were a DINK (double income no kids) couple. That means that fancy personal trainers or meal delivery systems are out. They just aren’t the best uses of our money now.
Snack on Exercise
Gone are the days when I could go out on an hour-long run by myself, followed by an indulgently lengthy cool-down stroll, $8 kombucha at my favorite neighborhood cafe and a little yoga in the park. Now, I either have to take the baby along or run home as quickly as I can to feed her as soon as I start to really break a sweat. A better option is to exercise in little bites throughout the day — a gentle 20-minute jog here, some stretching or free weight lifting while the baby naps, a walk with a friend while the baby sleeps in her stroller or a carrier on my chest.
If you’re able to breastfeed, keep it up. Making milk for a little one can burn 300-500 calories a day, or almost as much as an hour on an elliptical machine.
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Wear That Baby
Not only is strapping my 8-week-old daughter into a sling or carrier on my chest the only way I can get anything done around the house when she’s awake, but it’s a great weight resistance exercise. It’s a major calorie burner, too: 340-420 calories per hour of activity. Pretty sweet. Plus, she completely loves it.
Take It Slow and Go Easy on Yourself — This Is a Journey
When I’m out walking with my daughter and a runner zips by me, I feel pangs of jealousy and inadequacy, remembering just months ago when that was me. But then I look down at the sweet, smiley bundle on my walk with me, I remind myself that I’ll get back there eventually, and savor the time we’re spending together. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it.
A lot of this may resonate with you if you’ve just had a baby yourself. Or maybe it sounds familiar because you’re just getting back into the game after an injury. Perhaps you just want to commit to getting healthier for the first (or second … or third) time. Whatever the case may be, just remember to be patient with yourself and stick with it, and you’ll get where you want to go on your personal fitness journey.
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