Some days are god days, some days are bad days.
Personally, postpartum hit me like a ton of bricks–not the sad feelings that are typically discussed in relation to postpartum, but the reality of all the changes you have to get used to in terms of your “new body.” When it came to getting back into the fitness game, I knew I’d have to recover and take things slow, but I don’t think I was prepared for exactly how different and unlike me I’d feel.
Disclaimer: I am by no mean saying that I am not happy with myself or don’t love my postpartum body and all it has done for me. A woman’s body is AMAZING and I can’t believe we have the ability to do all we do. I am just being honest honest about the changes you could go through both physically and mentally post baby.
My First Postpartum Workout
My first postpartum workout was actually a simple walk on the treadmill. Sounds simple enough right? I used to alternate between running at a speed of 6.0 mph and walking on a 15 incline, so I had this in the bag.
Well peeps, I bit off more than I could chew.
I initially planned to walk on the treadmill for an hour and keep myself entertained by watching the most recent episode of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team. I shiz you not…I crapped out 20 minutes in. I couldn’t even make it to the 30 minute mark!
Problem #1: I was only 4 weeks postpartum at the time. I had NOT been cleared by my OBGYN, but I had felt infinitely better walking around at home so I thought why not give it a go?
By minute 15, my whole “bottom area” was sore–gravity started working against me and it was a little painful to take steps.
Problem #2: A normal person would start slow and take it easy. I decided that walking on an incline of 3.5 at 3.5 mph was “taking it easy.”
As I walked out of the gym with my tail between my legs, I was so disappointed. When I told my husband about my experience, I laughed it off. Internally, I was mortified.
Who was I? This was not my body.
For the next two weeks leading up to my 6 week OBGYN check-in, I stuck to short, slow walks around the neighborhood with the stroller.
Regroup and Restart
Once I was officially cleared to workout again, I of course wanted to jump right back in but decided to come up with a workout plan of action that would get me moving, but wouldn’t be too physically strenuous. I have been a member of the Tone It Up community since 2014 and knew they had a specific section for postnatal workouts on their app. I decided to give this a try as:
- I had used the TIU workouts previously to lose 20 pounds after college.
- I liked that I didn’t have to guess at which workouts were ok for my current physical state.
- Each video was no more than 30 minutes long (most were 10!) as they were made with the thought in mind that TIU mommas would be working out during nap time.
Instead of going the intense route, I selected yoga routines, stretching sequences, short ab videos, and the occasional dance cardio video to get the blood flowing. I have been a dancer for over 20 years so I thought this would be a fun way to get back into things. I’ll be honest, after the first dance cardio video I definitely felt a little nauseous (I hadn’t hopped around or moved that fast for over 9 months) but I had an absolute blast. I was so proud of myself for making it through to the end even when I felt like quitting.
After a week or so of these daily at-home workouts, I decided I wanted more of a challenge. I had previously been a member of Burn Bootcamp and I knew they had free classes on the weekend. They also offer free daycare for their members–this was especially clutch as my husband was officially back and work and I obviously was not trying to leave my kid with a sitter at the 8 week point. Luckily, I had a fellow momma friend who was still a member at the gym so I asked to join her for a workout.
My first camp was hard….like super hard. But I felt invigorated! It was totally different coming back to the gym and knowing that the women around me who were killing it were moms too and had been through what I was going through. I was re-hooked and resigned as a member that day.
Just Make it Through and Finish
Going back to Burn Bootcamp helped me feel more like “me,” and it was nice to be working out with other moms who understood what I was going through. I was able to make it through the workouts without having to take too many breaks, but I definitely had to alter some of the exercises. Unlike before, modifications were my friend. Sometimes, I even had to modify the modifications–which was personally a little embarrassing for me. I had to constantly remind myself that I just had a baby and I haven’t done these types of workouts for over 9 months.
I used to workout with people who were super competitive–always liked to finish first, do the most reps, or mod-up (increase the intensity) of the already difficult workout moves. I just used to root them on and laugh, but always insisted that I wasn’t competitive at all.
I was lying to myself.
Now that I’m struggling with a lot of the workouts, I absolutely hate it. I’m used to killing the moved and for things to be easy. I would always pick a spot in the front of the gym mat, but now I’m chilling in the back corner near the dan in case I get a hot flash…for real y’all.
It’s definitely different, but I’m there. I’m showing up, and that’s all that matters.
My only goal at the moment is to finish each camp, make it through each exercise, and continue to show up to class. If I do this, I’m already winning.
Am I Being Lazy or Is This Really My Limit?
On the topic of having to modify exercises, I’d like to bring up the most recent struggle I’ve been working through.
How do I know whether I’m being lazy in a workout or if my body has truly met its limit in this current phase of recovery?
I’m so used to pushing pushing pushing and not making excuses for myself during a workout, but after the whole treadmill debacle I’m terrified that I’ll overdo it and set back my recovery. As it’s a constant thought, I find myself dropping the weights more quickly than I normally would or going straight to a workout modification.
How do you know when you’re ready to do more?
How do you know if you’re over straining yourself?
I unfortunately don’t have an answer to these as of yet, so I’m making myself push a little harder and go a little longer for each workout. It’s become a lot easier to do some of the harder moves (burpees anyone?) and I’m starting to see small improvements in my endurance.
Relearning How to Diet
The absolute hardest part of getting back into a fitness regimen is getting used to eating healthy foods and paying closer attention to my macros. I would love to say my pre-baby nutrition habits carried over into my pregnancy but it was for sure the opposite for me. Before baby, I was eating 1200-1400 calories each day and only semi payed attention to my macros. I was all about counting calories and eating the absolute minimum amount tht was required to get me through my workout and daily activities. I had extremely strict weight loss goals and my habits reflected that.
Post baby, I can’t follow the same regimen. First of all, I’m breastfeeding so I need calories to sustain my milk production. Secondly, 1400 calories is not enough energy to accommodate bootcamp sessions where I burn an average of 500 calories each class. Thirdly, now that I’m not on a tight deadline when it comes to weight loss, I want to ensure my new healthy lifestyle is sustainable and not just a quick fix.
I’m currently using MyFitnessPal to plan my meals and track my macros. If you’ve never used the app before, you can log the foot you eat each day to see your total calorie count as well as a breakdown of your macro percentages (carbs vs protein vs fat). You can see this macro breakdown in pie chart form or get into the nitty gritty and see how many grams you’re eating of each.
I’ve been given the goal of only being within 5 grams (plus or minus) of each nutrient type. As a beginner, this is pretty daunting. To ensure I stay on track, I have to log my food days, or a day, in advance to ensure I fall within my 5g allotment. It can definitely be frustrating seeing certain numbers increase too quickly (for me it’s the carbs), and other components like protein barely reach the goal amount.
It’s taking a lot of trial and error, but it’s been an awesome reintroduction to a healthy lifestyle.
My Takeaways and Tips for Moving Forward
- Always follow your doctor’s orders. You know you’re body, but you have to keep in mind that post baby you’re trying to be super woman. You’re healing while also focusing on keeping a human alive. It’s easy to convince yourself that you feel better than you do to mentally prepare yourself to get everything done.
- Take your time getting back into the groove of things. be patient with yourself and appreciate all that your body has been through and done for you. It takes a lot to create a kid!
- Initially, just get moving–go on casual walks or get in a calming yoga session. Stretching and getting those muscles moving again will feel amazing!
- Start with workouts that are specifically for the postnatal period. It relieves any stress that can come along with the guess work on what you should and should not be doing just getting back into workout mode.
- Set realistic expectations. Don’t expect to go to your first workout post baby and be the first to finish the race. Give yourself some grace and congratulate yourself on the small wins.
- It took 9 months for your body to chance initially and it could take around 9 months or more to get back into the groove of things. Don’t get frustrated or rush the process.
- Find your support. It’s always nice to share your struggles and/or have an accountability buddy. If you can find someone who understand what you’re going through, even better! You don’t want to feel alone in this process.
As always, everyone’s body and goals are different. I have my personal body image goal and yours may be completely different–and that’s ok! The point of this is to recognize that it’s normal to have these feelings, and the key is to be patient and kind to yourself throughout this journey.