Finding Time for Exercise

Many new moms are eager to “get in shape” after they have their baby. This can mean different things for different women. For some this may mean resuming their old workout regime. For others this may mean finally getting into shape. Whatever your goal may be, it is important that you go slow and give your body ample time to heal after giving birth. For many of us this means waiting six weeks after our baby is born to resume working out, but for others this may mean waiting up to twelve weeks or longer.

I had to wait the standard six weeks after Leo was born before going to see my midwife and getting the “okay” to resume my normal activities. The first three or four weeks postpartum I made sure that I took it easy so that I could let my vagina heal. I mainly walked for exercise along with some very light, easy stretching. But by the time Leo was a month old, I was starting to get restless. I couldn’t wait to start working out again. It wasn’t a matter of if – the more pressing questions were, “When will I have time?” and, “What will I do?”.

I knew that for the first year or so I would probably keep my workout routine to thirty minutes. I wanted to make sure I made time for myself to take care of myself without taking too much time away from my son. I thought the easiest way for me to do this was to work out at home. My husband and I are members of our local YMCA, which offers drop-in child care for members while they workout. I, however, wasn’t keen on this idea, at least not until Leo was a bit older and his immune system was stronger. So I had to figure out how to get a good workout in at home in thirty minutes.

Given the era we live in, I searched for workout apps that would help me reach my goals at home. I started off using this app called 30 Day Fitness Challenge. It was great. The main reason I liked the app is I could do all of the exercises at home – no equipment required. All I needed were my Brooks, my yoga mat, and my phone. I could choose what muscle groups to work – arms, butt, legs, abs, or full body. I could also choose from six different levels of difficulty ranging from Easy to Hard. The app randomly selects a variety of exercises for you to do depending on what day you are on within the 30-days and the level of difficulty. I loved it because I didn’t get bored doing the same moves day after day. I started out on level Medium 2 since I was in decent shape before I got pregnant and continued exercising throughout the majority of my pregnancy. At first I would do the full body workout only. I was eventually alternating between the full body workout one day and the other four muscle groups the next, working out six days a week. I loved how once I completed one level I could start my 30 days over again either on the same level or the next one up.

After three months of using the 30 Day Fitness Challenge app I had worked my way up to the last level. By this time the workouts were taking longer than thirty minutes because of the amount of reps you had to do. So in order to make the most of my thirty minutes I started using the exercises from the 30 Day Fitness Challenge, along with some other standard strength training moves, with my Tabata Timer (my version of HIIT). Instead of doing a given exercise for a certain number of reps, I would do each exercise for a given amount of time before moving on to the next move. This worked out great because I could customize my workout based on the moves I found gave me the most “bang for my buck”. I would do each move for 45 seconds and then rest for 15 seconds before moving on to the next exercise. I would do two rounds of 14 moves.  I drew up 2 different workouts that looked something like this:

  1. Burpees
  2. Bicep Curls*
  3. Squat with Roundhouse Kicks
  4. Jumping Squats
  5. Tricep Extensions*
  6. Backward Lunge with Front Kick (left)
  7. Backward Lunge with Front Kick (right)
  8. Jumping Jacks
  9. Shoulder Press*
  10. Plie Squats*
  11. High Steps
  12. Backward Rows*
  13. Hip Thrusts
  14. Plank

(*use dumbbells)

These workouts took just over 30 minutes including a five minute cool down. I would alternate between these HIIT workouts and yoga, doing HIIT four times a week and an abbreviated ashtanga practice that takes about 45 minutes twice a week.

Now, the reality of working out with an infant in the house is that if it’s just you and the baby, the baby’s needs always trump your own. So in the early weeks I had to stop frequently to tend to Leo. I would put him on the floor beside me with his activity mat or some teethers. Sometimes I would have to stop every 5 to 10 minutes to reposition him or help him get a toy. Sometimes he would go down for a nap and I could finish just in time before he woke up. Sometimes I would have to stop half way through to nurse him. But every week it got it little easier as we both got the hang of things.

Now Leo is on to solid foods, so our routine is a little different as we are eating together in addition to me still nursing him six plus times a day. I’ve had to put my need to exercise on the back-burner temporarily while I work on establishing a new eat/play/nap routine. However, I continue to do a lot of walking and a little bit of yoga in the mean time. When Leo is old enough, my husband and I plan to get a bike trailer, which will make it easier for us to workout as a family. We will also be able to use our bike trailer as a jogging stroller, which will hopefully encourage me to get back into running (which I haven’t done in nearly five years). I hope between running, biking, yoga, and swimming, we will be able to continue to workout as a family as Leo is able to do more and more with us instead of just being along for the ride.

As Leo gets older I know I will have to continuously make adjustments to our routine in order to fit exercise into my daily schedule. The bottom line is, no matter what you do or when, make it a priority to workout – you will feel better which in turn will make you a better mother and partner to your significant other. Being a mom, in my opinion, is the greatest job on Earth, but it is also exhausting and stressful. Making time to exercise will provide you with the extra boost you need to get through those long, tiring, glorious days of motherhood.

 

 

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