By Dawn Van Osdell
There’s a lot of contradictory and downright erroneous parenting info floating around out there. We’re not afraid to tackle it head-on!
You’re never the same after becoming a parent. And while it’s all for the better, most moms wish for a speedy return to the body and the energy level they had before bringing home a baby. Starting or resuming a regular fitness routine is the surest way to look and feel as good—if not better—than your old self. Finding the time, motivation, and energy to squeeze it in is another story.
We talked to super fit (and super prego!) mom, Linda Okwor, the founder of one of Los Angeles’s most popular Baby Boot Camps, to set us straight on post-partum exercise. This fitness trainer and former NBA cheerleader and fitness competitor knows a thing or two about getting in shape. As the mom of a toddler with a second baby on the way, she also knows what it takes to care for yourself when you’re being pulled in so many directions. Read on!
Myth: Now is the time to focus on my newborn, not myself.
Truth: Congratulations on your new little one! While it may be emotionally tough to take yourself from away from your new addition, it’s important to take care of yourself by getting back into a regular fitness routine. “You will be healthier, happier, and more balanced if you exercise,” says Okwor. Regular exercise helps to shed excess weight, restore muscle strength and tone, boost energy, and relieve stress. And what new mom doesn’t need all that? Consider, too, that research shows that moms who make the time to work out have a more enjoyable experience with their newborns and are less likely to struggle with postpartum depression, which means regular sweat sessions are good for you and your baby. “Taking care of yourself takes a little time and effort, but the reward is well worth it,” says Okwor.
Myth: I want to bounce back quick! A strenuous, challenging workout is the way to go for results.
Truth: Barring any unusual circumstances or complications, doctors give most new moms the green light to exercise six weeks after their baby’s birth (slightly longer for moms who deliver via C-section). But, says Okwor, “Some moms need more time to heal and it is perfectly okay to postpone activities until you feel well enough to return.” She advises moms to cut themselves some slack by easing back into an exercise routine. “Even though you are cleared to work out, you are still healing and your body is going through a lot of physical and hormonal changes,” she says.
Okwor recommends that new moms start with a post-partum exercise program or hire a professional trainer who specializes in working with women who have recently given birth. “They know the challenges and restrictions for new moms, and can guide you and help you build your stamina and strength,” she says. Start slowly and gradually increase pace and intensity to avoid injury or petering out before you’ve found your groove. To get a workout that gives you some pep, hold off on taking an intense spin class or tackling an uphill run, and instead choose moderate intensity exercise: a walk, yoga class or strength training. Also be sure drink plenty of fluids—this is especially important for nursing moms. And of course, stop what you’re doing if you feel any pain.
Myth: I’m already exhausted. Working out would zap my energy and put me over the edge.
Truth: “I am a mom, too, and I am expecting my second so I completely feel you when you talk about exhaustion!” says Okwor. But contrary to popular belief, exercising doesn’t make you tired. It gives you energy, kick starts your metabolism, and helps fight fatigue. The key to working out when you’re sleep-deprived is to find the motivation you need to get moving and choose the right exercise. For some, the social interaction of exercising with other moms—babies along in a stroller or a carrier—can be motivating. “Remember the nutrition part of the equation, too— a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients will fuel and support healing and a new level of activity,“ says Okwor. “The right diet is really important and really motivating.“
Photograph by Kyle Monk