While there’s a reason giving birth is often referred to as a gift, it’s a gift that comes with conditions. Your gorgeous new baby has arrived, but it’s left you with a body that looks completely different from your old one. What do you do?
Get real about what you’re now working with and get smart about what to do next. Here are the five painful truths you must accept before you can get your body back to where you want it to be. And keep in mind that taking it at your own pace and not feeling obligated to live up to an external standard are keys to feeling good.
1. Face the facts that your body is going to be completely different from it was pre-baby.
Once the beautiful one comes out of you, no matter how long it took, you’re going to feel utterly exhausted. The amount of pressure, muscle tension and elevated heart rate can have you burning astronomical amounts of calories — in the thousands. So, like any major workout, recovery is key. Take at least two weeks to lie around as much as possible, and during this time, consider a slow walk your equivalent of a full high-intensity class.
2. Even though you feel ready to start working out, your body might not be.
I thought I had it down the second time I had a child; I’d worked out all the way through, the birth was great and I was starving for a workout.
So I started walking a lot soon after the birth and took my first dance class two weeks later. Since that I felt great, I decided I could up the intensity of my workout and added weights. I was doing weighted lunges and I almost instantly pulled my adductor. Because here’s the reality I didn't want to face: You’re weaker now. Your pelvic floor took a hammering, and so did your abs and thighs. Plus, you were probably working out less and less toward the end of your pregnancy. To put it simply: Assume you’re starting at zero and congratulate yourself for each step you take from there. Something like: Three sets of 20 lunges, 20 squats, 20 push-ups is a very decent starting point.
3. It’s going to take hard work to get your body back to where it was.
The reality is, if you’re like me, you gained a little extra during your pregnancy than was “required.” Who knew doughnuts went so well with fried pickles? Unfortunately, this type of weight is the hardest to lose. But do not fear! You CAN do this! You just gave birth! There is nothing you can’t do.
Initially, it's relatively easy to drop some of the weight — mainly due to water loss and breast-feeding. But once your body gets into more of a routine, it's important to remember that you're no longer eating for two. Try to tune into the cues of your body and eat only when you're feeling hungry. Then, when you feel ready, up the intensity of your workouts. A mixture of resistance and cardio work is ideal for fat burn and muscle gain.
4. Your stomach is always going to look a little bit different now.
The tight flat stomach, the taut smooth skin? That is not you anymore. You carried another human around inside of you. Things have changed, but not for the worse. Basically, all the clichés are true — the stretch marks are worth it.
I love my stomach now, much more than I liked it before I had kids. I have a few stretch marks, my skin is looser when I bend over and my belly button decides to be an innie or an outie completely randomly. There's no disgust on my part, only appreciation and love for what my body is capable of.
5. Having no time is no excuse.
Even just 10 minutes of squats, lunges and push ups while your kids do a puzzle, nap or draw will get you feeling better. If your baby won't sleep, lunge or jog while you push the stroller. Hold your baby and squat, or ask a relative to baby-sit for an hour so you can go to the gym. If no one lives close by, join a mom's group and find a friend who will alternate with you. There are always options — you just might need to get creative!
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