During the last few weeks of your pregnancy, you most likely lived in blissful ignorance, at least where your post-baby body was concerned. Keeping up a fitness routine became more difficult and other postpartum matters -- like having your household ready for the baby -- took center stage.
Now, six weeks post delivery, you technically have your doctor’s green light to work out again. But in reality, the days still feel really short, your body is uncomfortable and exercising feels like something you haven’t done in ages.
This is when you can start a postpartum exercise plan by incorporating the exercises mentioned below into your daily routine. You can do them at home with the baby around -- they don’t take much time and you can spread them out during the day or do them multiple times a day. Think of it as “exercise snacking” -- do a little bit here and there, and you will notice a shift in balance, strength, well-being and fitness quickly.
Below, find 5 exercises that will build a strong foundation for your fitness routine. Then head out and take a class, go for a run or do a different physical activity that requires you to be able to exercise continuously for 30-60 minutes. These exercises also build strength in the upper body, core, hip and pelvic area, legs and feet.
- Upper Body, shoulders and wrists: swing your arms forward and backward 20 times in each direction, then interlace the fingers behind your back and bend forward reaching the arms over your head. Then get into downward facing dog and focus on spreading your fingers wide, engaging your upper arms, pressing your chest back towards your thighs (your legs don’t have to be straight, you can bend the knees deeply to focus more on the upper body).
- Core: lying on your back with the soles of your feet flat on the floor and knees bent, imprint your lower back onto the mat. Inhale as you relax your stomach, exhale and engage pressing the lower back into the ground. As you get better at these and up to 15-20 controlled reps, you can come onto all fours for birddog, extending one arm and the opposite leg while keeping the core engaged, to build strength in the lower back as well.
- Hips and pelvis: Glute bridges and clam shells. In the same position as in number 2, lift your hips to a full extension. Once you can do 15 repetitions with both feet on the ground, you can cross one ankle over the opposite knee and add on 10 reps on each side. For the clam shell, lie down on your side with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet stacked. Lift the top knee and lower. 20 reps on each side.
- Leg strength: lunges in three directions: stepping forward with one leg, without pushing the knee over the big toe, stepping out to the side and stepping back. In all three types of lunges, the emphasis is on keeping the weight in the heel of the foot that steps forward and to the side and in the foot that stays planted in the backward lunge.
- Feet: The feet are often overlooked as a vital component of the foundation for strength and later cardio. Start by balancing on one foot with the other knee up at a 90 degree angle for 30 seconds on each leg. Then try the same with your eyes closed and ultimately shift your gaze - while balancing - from over your shoulder on your right to over the shoulder on your left, without losing balance.
All these exercises will set you up to be even stronger when you restart the cardio routine of your choice which will make you fitter, leaner and improve your overall well-being.
I would love to hear your postpartum fitness go-tos in the comments.