Congratulations on your new baby! You might not be thinking of exercise just yet, but when you do, you want to make sure it's safe.
A good way to get back into an exercise routine is by doing some prenatal core exercises. Try a bridge, pelvic tilt or just brace your core.
The hormone relaxin is present for up to 12 weeks after birth - this is the hormone that relaxes your joints, ligaments and muscles, and makes it very easy to pull a muscle. So when you are stretching after your workout, not before, make sure you only do light stretches.
We all know that exercise has an endless list of benefits and some activity should be done every day. The following are a few specific benefits for new mothers:
• Improve your physical and mental wellbeing - exercise releases 'happy hormones', which helps combat baby blues and can help a lot with postnatal depression.
• Lose any unwanted weight - feel better about yourself when you see a small difference in your weight every week.
• Improve your fitness levels - anything that makes looking after a new baby easier is great.
• Restore your muscle strength - your arms become strong, which is needed when carrying car seats, buggies, baby bags and even shopping bags.
• Strengthen your abdominals and core - this helps to ease back pain.
• Improve your posture.
• Socialise with like-minded mothers in a postnatal exercise class.
• Get out and about again.
• Set a good example for your child in later life by exercising regularly.
What exercises to do
First of all, get out walking with that buggy! It's easy, it's free and it's well worth spending an hour in your local park. You will feel much better afterwards. You should try to get out for a walk at least every day, if not every second day. Look up a mother and baby walking group or recruit your friends to go along with you. Or join a mummy exercise class where you can bring your baby along with you.
Or, close your curtains and get sweaty in your front room. When your little one has nodded off, or is happily playing on a mat or bouncer chair, give yourself 20 minutes to get fit and strong.
Do the following routine and you'll feel the difference in no time. This is a body weight workout, so no equipment is needed.
1. Jogging on the spot x 20
2. Squats x 10 - make sure your knees are behind your toes, bum pointed out behind
3. Jogging on the spot x 20
4. Press ups x 10 - easy version - box position, hands under shoulders, knees under hips, bring chest down to floor, using arms to come back up; intermediate version - from box position, bring hips down and forward, so your back is in alignment with your hips; hard version - on toes and hands
5. Ab curl x 10 - easy version - arms across chest, lift head and shoulders off the floor, keeping your chin pointed up towards the ceiling, not tucked into your chest; intermediate version - fingertips at temples, elbows out wide; hard version - bring legs up in the air
6. High knees x 20 - knees up high, bouncing and alternating legs
7. Plank x 20 seconds - press up, on knees and elbows, hold using stomach muscles; hard version - on toes and elbows and hold
8. Bridge x 20 - lying on back, feet on the floor, lift your hips up slowly, and come back down, squeezing your stomach muscles
9. Tricep press up x 10 - as normal press up, but bring your hands in close together to a diamond shape
10. Plank jacks x 10 - on hands and toes as hard version of press up, bounce both legs out to the side, and back in
Repeat the above three times and you will be sweaty and have burned at least 120 calories. Take a break of about 10 seconds between each exercise. All the stopping and starting gives you an interval training workout, which has been proven to increase your metabolism, and you burn more calories for up to 36 hours after each of these workouts.
When you are trying to lose weight, your diet plays a huge part in it. Healthy eating combined with exercise is the key to losing 1-2lbs of fat per week. You should avoid any type of extremely low calorie diet, or crash diet, or any diet that forces you to exclude an entire food group like carbohydrates. Everything in moderation is the key to success here.
Don't drop below 1,200 calories per day and try to eat every 3-4 hours to keep your energy up and metabolism working.
When you are breastfeeding, you still need to keep up that extra 200-300 calories per day. So just ensure that they are healthy extra calories, like vegetables or fruit or wholegrain carbohydrates. You don't need to eat a huge bar of chocolate to keep up your energy!
Use common sense when it comes to healthy eating and exercise. Losing weight is all about calories in versus calories out. So aim to eat between 1,800-2,000 calories per day, depending on your breastfeeding schedule, and burn between 100-300 calories by exercising and moving more.
Best of luck, and remember, it is possible to lose that baby weight, and feel great about yourself again!
Steph Sinnott, Founder of Baby Body Fit|Personal Trainer; firstname.lastname@example.org; Ph: 087 9254378