Exercising After the Baby is Born: Real Moms Share Honest Stories
Women know that there are plenty of benefits to exercising (safely) during pregnancy and after the baby is born. Exercise, in general, can boost energy, relieve stress, help with weight loss, and promote better sleep. In postpartum women, exercise has been shown to help prevent postpartum depression. However, it’s not always easy to get the exercise you need. Finding something that works for you is the key to staying active at whatever level you can in the months and years following pregnancy. For some moms, it could just be a lot of long stroller walks. For others, it might mean years before finding the time to get back into a workout routine. These moms share their own personal postpartum fitness journeys:
Tessa W. (mom of one): I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety at about three weeks postpartum. A huge part of my treatment was exercise. Just moving and getting out of the house was a really big step for me, but when I started walking every day, I really started to feel better. In the first three months, I only really walked. Then when my daughter turned four or five months, I started taking Jazzercise classes at a studio on the weekends while my husband would care for her at home. I’ve been a Jazzercise instructor for almost 10 years now so I felt like I got a piece of “me” back when I started taking classes again. I still continued to walk about three or four miles on weekdays.
I started teaching Jazzercise classes again when my daughter was six months old. That’s when her schedule became more regular and her night feedings decreased to just one which meant that I had more energy for exercise since I was getting much better sleep too. I’ve tried lots of things but Jazzercise remains my favorite. There are several different class formats to choose from and most include a fun dance cardio portion to current music and a strength training portion. You sweat, laugh, and burn calories! My advice about working out post-baby would be to be kind to yourself and take it slow. Those first few months can be so hard, so it’s okay not to have a well established exercise routine. Just try to move a little bit each day. Give yourself the grace to enjoy those first few months.
Allyson S. (mom of three): I tried to go back to Crossfit as soon as I was cleared by my doctor at six weeks after my first baby, but it was just too hard. I did it for about six months but there was zero regularity to my schedule because everything was so dependent on the baby. I didn’t have a babysitter so I could only go at 5 AM. At that point, neither the coaches nor my workout buddies had kids so their “Just do it! Work harder! No excuses!” mentality was impossible for a new first-time mom.
I exercised daily throughout my first pregnancy. Because of that, I assumed I would be able to pick up immediately where I left off. It was shocking to me that my body just wasn’t moving the same way, at the same pace, or with as much intensity. When I started increasing my weights on Olympic lifts, I never felt stable. After that I learned I had diastasis recti and needed to allow my core to fully heal before I could safely lift heavy again.
My body was changing so much every day based on how much I slept, what I was I able to eat, what crazy tricks my hormones were playing on me that day, how much milk I was producing, and a million other factors. Since the group workout classes did not work out for me, I took what I learned and applied that to home workouts with my own equipment.
When I had a window to exercise, I tried to be intentional about what type of workout I chose based on how I slept, how stable my mood felt, how much energy I had or would need later. Sometimes that meant I could do a full Crossfit class, other times it meant I put on calming music and paced the driveway. Getting mad at my body for not running nine-minute miles totally minimized the amazing thing it did do — grow a human (a much more impressive feat!). So, I had to learn to respect my body more for what it does rather than what it used to do and especially not for what it looks like.
Stephanie H. (mom of three): I had done workouts sporadically here and there, and I’d had a gym membership before my first child was born, but it was too hard to get away after I became a mom. I joined MommaStrong when my second child was 15 months old and his 10-pound frame left me with diastasis recti. The MommaStrong workouts help with DR as well as other common pregnancy and motherhood issues like sciatica and incontinence. I got really consistent with showing up for my virtual workouts daily by the time he was 18 months old and his schedule was more predictable.
With my third child, I was able to do the Momma-to-Be program throughout my pregnancy and then start Hazy Days for postpartum moms within a couple of days of her birth. Hazy Days has five-minute segments that start with breathing exercises and other extremely gentle movements. I’ve since gone through New Momma for moms of young babies, and am now back in the Momma program. The different programs offer a daily 15-minute high-intensity interval training workout that is appropriate for each stage. I was able to stick with MommaStrong in part because I could do it at home with minimal equipment, time, and space!
Kyra S. (mom of one): I started walking right away after having my son, but waited to do anything else for 6 weeks. Then as soon as I was cleared by my doctor, I started attending Mom and Baby Yoga classes once a week. It was a great way to start moving in a class designed specifically for new moms, and it was a really nice way to get out of the house with my son! I also liked that I could both work out and meet other new moms at the same time. I love that the class felt like a community.
I felt totally comfortable if my son cried, or needed to be fed, or needed to be changed while we were in class. It can be daunting to take a newborn anywhere since they can be so unpredictable, but the classes at the Motherhood Center make it so easy. They even have a nursing room if you prefer more privacy! Since the classes were tailored to the needs of postpartum women, I didn’t have to worry that any of the exercises weren’t safe for me. The instructor went over things like checking for diastasis recti and what exercises you could do with it and what to avoid.
Working out again after having a baby can be a daunting task even if you are someone who worked out a lot before and during pregnancy. Things feel different and your body takes time to recover so finding classes tailored to postpartum women is so nice.