Thinking of returning to exercise after having a baby? Don’t know where to start or how you’ll find the time? Read on!
Get in the right mindset
The first hurdle is often a mental one. I remember feeling very guilty for wanting some time for myself to exercise. If this sounds familiar, let me start by saying that it is absolutely not selfish to feel this way. Remember that you are a person too, and you deserve time to look after yourself, regardless of your responsibilities to anyone else. I still have this guilt sometimes, but I try to remind myself that if I take that bit of time for myself to exercise, I am a more patient parent, and a better person to be around, so everyone wins.
Check your core and pelvic floor
This is huge topic and worthy of a blog in its own right but if you are at all concerned about your pelvic floor – if things just don’t feel “right” or if you are leaking, then please don’t suffer in silence. I can assure you that there is so much that can be done to help your pelvic floor, but it won’t get better on its own, so make that appointment to see your GP. Some women also suffer from something called “diastasis recti”, which is a separation of the stomach muscles after pregnancy. Again, whilst this is common and not something to be scared of, it isn’t going to get better on its own, and can actually worsen if extra strain is put on these muscles by certain forms of exercise, so again, please ask your GP to check these muscles for you – it takes two minutes and if there is an issue, it can and should be treated.
Think little and often
If you wait for a whole hour to yourself to do a workout, it is very unlikely to happen, or at least not very often! Also, a big exercise session can seem really overwhelming when you are tired. If you break it down into bitesize chunks, then you can actually fit quite a bit of exercise into your day, and I promise it won’t be a huge drain on your energy levels, either. One tip is to put little sticky dots around the house, in your car etc. where you’ll see them and they will remind you to be active. For instance, sticky dot on the bathroom mirror = do squats whilst brushing your teeth. Sticky dot on the car dashboard = do your pelvic floor exercises waiting at a red light. You’ll surprise yourself with how much it mounts up.
I’m a huge believer in the mood elevating effects of getting outside, whatever the weather. Even if it’s cold, rug up and pop your baby in the carrier or buggy and get out there for a walk. Walking is one of the finest forms of exercise, building functional strength in the legs (and arms if you’re pushing a buggy) and, if you keep it brisk, is great for your aerobic fitness. So, walk whenever you can, you’ll feel so much better for it.
Involve the children
Ok, so this is not exactly time for yourself in the purest sense of the word, but bear with me! Firstly, there are lots of fitness classes you can do where you can bring your baby with you (I teach some myself, and little ones are always welcome in my personal training sessions, too). Secondly, if your children are older, then why not do some exercise with them around? Yes, you might have to stop to help them with something and, if there anything like mine, they might enjoy climbing on your back whilst you’re trying to do a press up (!) but that’s all part of the fun. It means you get your workout in, plus it sets a great example to your children about the importance of looking after your body and taking care of yourself.