When I turned my back on my last office job to return to my passion, which is training and helping people get healthy, one of the areas I wanted to pursue was prenatal and postpartum fitness. The female body is incredible for being able to procreate, and I wanted to help mothers feel more radiant and happy, especially during a time when fitness can seem overwhelming.
The best time to start thinking about postpartum fitness is actually during your pregnancy. By staying fit and moving as much as their pregnancy allows while maintaining a healthy diet, many new moms have a faster recovery and shed off baby pounds more quickly.
One of my first regular clients was a woman who had just started her second trimester. She had a regular fitness routine pre-pregnancy and was looking for something more than just prenatal yoga. I was able to guide her in light strength training, some martial arts-inspired workouts, fast walking and yoga.
Around the same time, I started offering postpartum workshops for groups of up to 12 women, in which I applied the same array of disciplines, focusing on the various body parts that had been worked the hardest during pregnancy and immediately post. Namely, the upper back, hips, legs and core.
While I don't have children (yet), I observed and learned many things from women on both the prenatal and postpartum side. Here’s a few tips that might give you the fitness push you need to get your post-baby body back.
1. Having guidance from a certified and motivated trainer and other women are key in helping women navigate fitness during and post pregnancy.
Even if you were fit and trusted your body before pregnancy, suddenly there are so many things that you are told you can’t do. Working out alone feels a lot more daring than it ever did before. Thankfully, many places in NYC offer women both guidance and community during pregnancy. But, while there are a lot of fitness options for women during pregnancy, there is actually very little postpartum. Women are often left to their own devices. If they are going back to work, they only have a few months to adjust to being a mother while trying to exercise. This can put a lot of pressure on women who are already stressed with sleep deprivation and their (new) everyday chores, and are dealing with them mostly alone. Push your local fitness studios to offer classes for postpartum, or find a trainer that can offer support.
2. Women are a lot more resilient post baby than they were before.
Just like Brooklyn mom Andriana Spence proved impressively by running a marathon pregnant, women post pregnancy often tell me that their pain threshold is much higher. They want to be challenged during a workout, work up a good sweat and feel their muscles burning the next day. In low-risk pregnancies, and after the recommended recovery time postpartum, women can operate on high fitness levels, which will promote not just physical well-being but also emotional balance. If you need more evidence, just watch Paula Radcliffe win the NYC marathon a mere 9 months after giving birth.
3. Women are more much more motivated to workout in a group of new mothers.
People in general push themselves harder in a group, but going into a "regular" fitness class as a new mother, when you are dealing with body issues as well as physical ones such as postpartum incontinence, can be intimidating. However, being in a group of mothers usually helps everyone laugh about their issues together. Everybody in the room understands and empathizes, and the level of support is amazing to watch.
Usually when I start a workshop, it’s a little quiet--nobody knows how they are going to feel and everyone dreads having to re-shape areas that have softened, stretched and enlarged. Every woman is convinced that she is the most out of shape in the room. By session two, and by incorporating a lot of partner work, the mood lifts, friendships are formed, stories are being exchanged. There is sweat and hard work, light chatter and big laughter, a united front “against” me and a lot of elation.