A personal trainer shows us how to set realistic fitness goals postpartum.
It’s that time of year again: the cold sets in and we become less active. And a certain underwear company holds a big fashion show in which women wear very little. While many of us choose not to watch, we are all exposed to it through social media, regardless of whether we want to or not.
One recurring theme of the past years has been the impressive weight loss that women achieve leading up to the show -- especially the models that are new moms. Their routines have been praised by the media.
Journalists love to highlight these supermodels’ postpartum weight loss and make comparisons to other women. Once 12 weeks postpartum seemed like a fantastic comeback...then 10 weeks...and now it can be as little as 8 weeks from delivering a baby to baring it all on the catwalk in front of cameras and the world.
As a personal trainer and coach, I commend my peers who coach these women through the rigorous routines which they must surely endure to achieve these results. But as a woman and somebody who has worked with hundreds of expecting and new mothers, I shudder at what message the media is sending and how this adds to the already full plate of a (first time) new mom.
Most women don’t get the green light from their doctors to work out until 6 weeks postpartum. This depends on their level of fitness before and during pregnancy and whether the pregnancy was high or low risk. The shortest I have witnessed has been 3 weeks, and even then, I advise new moms to get back to working out at their own pace before I restart my work with them.
What we must all keep in mind, is that women in the public eye make their living off of their appearances and, as such, treat nutrition and fitness as a full time job. They work out up to 5 hours a day, 7 days a week and have nutritionists watching their diet and assisting them in their healthy lifestyle. During those first weeks postpartum, many can focus almost solely on their goal event with the help of assistants, nannies and others.
While we all know this on some level, it’s hard not to get sucked in to wanting to look the same -- and as quickly -- postpartum. So here are a few pointers to keep in mind while you’re losing your pregnancy weight.
- Find other new moms to get active with. Whether you go for a walk or do a mommy and me yoga class, the accountability, camaraderie and motivation that comes from doing it with others, will get you out the door even in the winter.
- Acknowledge the changes in your body. Forty weeks of pregnancy will wreak havoc on even the fittest of women. It creates tension and loose joints, and you will feel more winded doing cardio. The immediate postpartum period can be overwhelming with nursing, insomnia and learning many new things as you adjust to keeping a newborn alive.
- The best foundation is building strength and balance in the body. It’s not about bulking up or building muscle, but rather about strengthening your core form the inside out. This will help you combat conditions such as diastasis recti, ensure a strong pelvic floor to avoid problems like incontinence, and create stability and strength in your upper body and limbs to avoid mommy thumb, shoulder and back pain. That new-found strength has a positive effect on your mental attitude too.
- Remember that some women lose weight because they breastfeed and others (the lesser known camp) lose weight when they wean. Accept that if you fall into the latter category, you may hold on to a few pounds around the hips that are there to ensure your baby has enough resources. It’s nature, and it’s unfair, but don’t be tempted to interpret this is a good reason to quit breastfeeding. Rather, think of it as a nice amount of weight loss to look forward to without much effort once you stop nursing!
- Take every opportunity that someone offers to watch the baby to get off the computer and get out and get active. The internet can suck you in -- and make you compare yourself to others. Especially when you’re feeling depleted and low and isolated at home, in your pajamas (because it’s just you and the baby after all). Part of the reason why celebrities “bounce back” quickly is because they are being watched 24/7. So don’t be shy. Go out! Make it a priority to leave the house and face the world.