I’ve started this post a number of times but have held off on getting it done because there’s so much to say about it and so many factors that make every woman’s postpartum fitness experience different. I have some researched advice and ideas that will go in a future post, but for now, here’s what I have been doing to regain and improve on my pre-pregnancy fitness levels in the 7 months since I gave birth.
Post-partum fitness depends on so many factors. Some women are ready for a bodybuilding show less than a year after giving birth, while others take longer to return to a fitness level they are comfortable with or decide to prioritize other things. I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m focusing on taking care of my baby, myself, and my relationship with my husband, plus a big landscaping project to re-do our backyard, working, and trying to have a bit of a social life, and balancing those means, for me, that I’m exercising more to stay fit and healthy than to reach a certain strength or body composition goal. I’m working on problem areas of mobility, flexibility, and basic strength rather than going for major new strength goals.
Although I lost a lot of strength in some areas during pregnancy, I maintained good overall fitness and strength, so I wasn’t starting completely from scratch when I was able to start exercising again postpartum.
I rested completely for 2 weeks, doing only stretching and some easy Original Strength resets during that time. Not everyone needs to wait this long before getting moving again, and some people will need to wait longer. It’s a highly individual thing. I tried going for a walk around one week postpartum, but it was very uncomfortable, so I waited a bit longer.
The first few weeks that I got back to exercising were rough. My endurance was a far cry from where it was pre-pregnancy. Everything made me out of breath, and I felt weaker than at 40 weeks pregnant due to lack of sleep, hormones, and the adjustment to having a newborn. But after a couple weeks of bodyweight training and light lifting, I started to feel more like ‘myself.’
By 3 months postpartum, my endurance was close to where it was pre-pregnancy, and most of my lifts were at my pre-pregnancy state as well. At 7 months postpartum, I still have not regained my bodyweight pullup (pre-pregnancy I could do sets of 5), and my barbell squat is about 20lbs shy of pre-pregnancy levels. I also swing the 28kg and am only just starting to get back to the 32kg kettlebell. However, I haven’t put a focused effort on these lifts, so if I had, I would probably be back at my pre-pregnancy strength levels in all aspects.
I’m still 10lbs above my pre-pregnancy body weight, which does not make the pull-up any easier, I’m sure! I’m eating well and exercising, so I’m pretty confident that hormones are keeping that last little bit of weight on for a while, since I’m still breastfeeding. Breastfeeding does burn a lot of calories each day, but hormones play a large role, too. Some women will drop pregnancy weight very quickly, while for others the body hangs on to a bit of extra fat to fuel the breastfeeding. It appears I am one of the latter! This isn’t unexpected, since I was pretty lean before, and I would rather my body prioritize nursing my baby than losing that extra weight. The hormones seem to finally be shifting in my favor, as once I hit the 6-month postpartum mark, my weight has been decreasing about a pound a week. I’ll get there.
It was a bit of a struggle for me to accept this new shape I have, having been the same weight for over 10 years before having a baby, but I’m taking care of my body, and it’s taking care of my baby, so I will have to be patient.
So what’s my fitness routine now? It varies a bit depending on my fatigue levels and how my baby is doing that particular day, but in general, I do:
– Strength Training 2-3x/week
Sometimes this is a quick kettlebell and bodyweight session at home, and others it’s a longer session at a gym. This includes Original Strength resets.
– Kickboxing 1-2x/week
This is me ‘me time’ activity. It’s fun and cathartic, and the bonus is that it’s good for strength and conditioning.
– Yoga/Long Stretching Session 1x/week
This is currently an at-home session, and I’m not always good at fitting it in, but I feel so much better if I do. I’m trying to do more stretching and posture improvement. My right shoulder is starting to roll inward from carrying my baby all the time and not stretching/rolling my pec area enough, and I can’t get as low in my squat due to some mobility and flexibility losses that are purely the result of not keeping up with working on those areas. I have a lot of knots and tight muscles that have started to cause pain and that I’m finally getting back to paying attention to. I find it hard to maintain good posture sometimes as my baby gets heavier. I wear her a lot, and while my carrier and wraps do distribute the weight well, it’s still an effort to not let my pelvis shift into anterior tilt (which feels awful on my back).
– Sprints/Longer Runs 1-2x/week
I try to make time for some sprinting and running, and I recently made a trail-running friend who will get me back on the trails, which I’m looking forward to. I’m not planning to be an endurance athlete again, but I find trail running fun and relaxing.
So that’s what I’ve been up to for the last 7 months. Time seems to have flown by!