By now you’ve probably been over and over them in your mind—there are countless reasons to get back in shape after having a baby. We all want to look great, of course, but it goes deeper than that. As moms, we need to be healthy and strong both for ourselves and for our families.
Starting out may seem complicated. After all, birthing a tiny human can wreak havoc on your body and your mind. And whether your child shares your DNA or not, time and energy are always short when you’re a mom.
You’re probably thinking the same things as the rest of us:
- Where will I find the time?
- What exercises should I do?
- How careful do I need to be?
- What if I’m nursing?
- Where do I begin?
That’s what this article is for. Let’s dig in.
First thing’s first: You need the all-clear from your doc.
Sometime around six weeks after your baby comes, you’ll see your doctor or midwife. That appointment is a great time to talk about physical activity. Most doctors and midwives have seen it all, so they’re the best place to start when you’re thinking about getting back into shape.
Got the OK? Now it’s time to test the waters.
If you’ve done this exercise thing before…
If you worked out regularly before or during your pregnancy, you’ve got a solid basis. Though it may not seem like it now, your body will remember what it’s like (it’s called muscle memory), and you’ll soon be back to running, walking, swimming, lifting, yoga-ing, or anything else you like.
If you’re tackling exercise for the first time (or if it’s been a while)…
If you’re new to fitness, that’s no problem. Start slow and make it a habit, and it won’t be long before you notice results (more on that in a minute). Remember that you’re not alone. Lots of moms start working out for the first time after they have a baby.
When you search for “how to lose baby weight,” “how to start exercising,” or “how to get in shape” online, you’ll be inundated with information. As a new mom, you probably don’t have time to sift through it all. Don’t worry about all the details. Check out the information below and you’ll be ready to get started.
Once you have your doctor’s or midwife’s blessing, try some light walking or a jog. If it feels good, do some more. If not, dial it back a little. Here are the basics for a few of our favorite postpartum exercises.
Ideal exercises for 6–12 weeks postpartum (and what you’ll need):
This is a great one because it can be done with or without your baby, and you can usually start four to six weeks after delivery. Plus you can do it inside or outside.
- Any stroller with a shade for baby
- Water for you
- Walking, jogging, or cross-trainer shoes
- If you’re taking your little one with you, a jogging stroller like BOB’s Stroller Strides Fitness Stroller provides a smooth, stable ride and wheels that go anywhere. Plus, if you want to transition into running, a jogging stroller will make it easier.
- A way to stay cool on warm days. Try a spray bottle or a battery-powered fan (or a combination of both!)
How to get started walking
Getting started is as easy as putting on your shoes and going for a walk.
Yes, I know, that’s not easy at all with a newborn in the family. But do try. Walking is a great way to get back into shape after childbirth. You can go at the speed that’s right for you, and you can take your whole family with you (or go it alone for some peace and quiet).
Cycling is good once you’re healed, but don’t push yourself if it’s uncomfortable at first. Many moms find that they need several months (and maybe some kegels) before they can ride comfortably.
- A bike. An indoor exercise cycle is great. For outdoor rides, recumbent bikes, mountain bikes, or hybrid bikes are best for stability in the months after childbirth. But truthfully, any bike will do.
- A helmet if you’re hitting the road.
- Don’t forget that water!
- For outdoor bicycles, make sure you have your chain lube, spare inner tubes and a tire pump available. (Your local bike shop can help you with all this if you’re just getting started or need to stock up.)
- Chamois cream and bike shorts that fit if you’re using a road or mountain bike
- Lights for the front and back of your bicycle (if you’re heading outdoors at dawn or dusk)
- A child seat for your bike once your baby can sit up
How to get started cycling
First, know that it’s fine if you don’t have all the gear. The only essentials are a bike, a helmet, and water. Just remember the cardinal rule:
Start slow and stay safe.
Try riding for just twenty minutes at first. If that goes well, take a day off and hit the road again, this time for forty minutes. Listen to your body and increase your time on the bicycle accordingly.
A note about form: Remember not to put too much strain on your elbows and wrists. The majority of your balance should be in your core. This may mean shorter rides at first, but your joints will thank you in the long run.
Yoga is a great activity for moms because it’s so customizable. You can strengthen your body and improve flexibility while protecting your joints. Yoga practices that include some meditation or mindfulness aspects can also help you reset and re-center.
- A good yoga mat
- A workout from an instructor or video
- Comfortable clothes you can layer
- Props such as blocks, straps, and bolsters—These are usually provided by yoga studios and are not needed for beginners. Consider purchasing them if you want to get into advanced techniques on your own.
How to get started with yoga
The best place to start is with a class or a video. The instructor will help you learn the basics and guide you through your sessions.
As with any exercise, it’s important to take it at your own pace. Don’t force your body into positions it doesn’t want to be in. Start with the basics and, if you feel good about it, keep learning and practicing. An instructor who understands postpartum exercise can really help here.
Resistance training is a great way to improve muscle tone, increase strength, and boost your overall health. There are so many things we do that require strong muscles and bones, and strength training helps us be fit for motherhood.
Bands are better than weights in the first few months after childbirth. They’re easier on your joints since they don’t rely on gravity. Plus, they’re portable! You can pop a band into the cargo net on your stroller and hit the road for a combined cardio/strength workout.
Resistance training must-haves
- A good band (Hint: Don’t buy one if you’re joining FIT4MOM Grapevine/Coppell/Colleyville; you’ll get yours free when you register.)
- Instructor-led exercises either in person or with a video
- Water! (Can you tell how important this is?)
Resistance training nice-to-haves
- A variety of bands so you can use the one that’s right for you with each exercise. How do you know? Try to do about fifteen reps with a brief rest in between. If you can do three sets of fifteen reps and feel tired at the end, you’re using the right band.
How to get started with resistance training
Personal training or a class with a live instructor is the best way to get started with strength training. A fitness pro can help you make sure you’re getting the most out of the exercises and doing them safely. If you want to use a video or a workout from a magazine or website, pay careful attention to the instructions and pictures.
Tip: Try pairing cardio with strength training, mixing bursts of cardio with sets of strength exercises. You’ll boost the effectiveness of both.
A postpartum exercise class that combines strength and cardio for new moms
If you need an extra bit of support, a postpartum exercise class that's designed for new moms is one of the best ways to get in shape and stay that way after baby. FIT4MOM, the leading postpartum exercise program in the US, has locations all over the country.
A class is a great way to bring it all together and get strength training, cardio exercise, and support from other moms all in one place.
No matter where you decide to begin…
Even though you have the OK from your doctor, it’s important to use the first few weeks to see how your body responds to exercise. It’s a great time to join a class that’s specifically designed for new moms.
Here’s what Farrah Agado, owner of FIT4MOM Grapevine/Coppell/Colleyville has to say about getting back in shape after delivering a baby:
"Listen to your body. Be patient and practice forgiveness. Becoming a mother does not come with a handbook and directions, so as you figure out your routine with your baby, know that all your efforts to fuel your body and soul are worth it."
Get out of the house and take that first step. You are strong enough, mama!
Take small steps to starting your exercise routine. Lots of programs offer a first free class, so why not take advantage of that? Stroller Strides allows you to get out of the house with your baby and meet other moms. The workout is a bonus and designed for all fitness levels, especially new moms starting as early as six weeks postpartum.
Extensive postpartum care is getting more attention, as it should. Finding a postpartum workout that caters to your needs can be crucial in your recovery. New moms face multiple physical, social, and psychological changes.
Now that you have this beautiful new baby, know that support is out there for you. You are not alone. We get it. FIT4MOM is here for you!
Ready to move beyond the basics? Planning is key.
Once you (your mind and your body—this requires both) are ready to commit to regular exercise, it’s time to make a plan.
“Plan?” you may be saying. “How can I plan? I have to feed this kid every ten minutes, and if it’s not a feeding, it’s a diaper change or a nap or screaming in my ear for no reason.”
Or maybe you’re saying, “No problem. I could set my watch to this kid, and I’m super organized. I love planning.”
Whatever your reality, it’s important to plan your workouts and do your best to stick to the plan. You’ll thank yourself when you start seeing results. Try putting your workouts in your calendar. Treat it like the to-do item that it is—it’s self-care. You need it. You deserve it.
Flexibility is key, too.
Motherhood is a bizarre mix of order and chaos, isn’t it? Somehow every day is the same and yet crazily different. That’s why, even though you have a plan and want to stick to it, you have to be gentle with yourself when things don’t work out.
It also helps to have a backup plan. Are you going to be 15 minutes late to your Stroller Strides class? That’s OK—go anyway. You’ll still get 45 minutes in, and you’ll get to see your mom friends. Planned to go for a bike ride but the baby needed you? Not a problem. Make time to go later or do some strength and cardio moves during naptime.
By the way, classes that cater to moms and babies are amazing at being flexible. When you’re working out with a group of moms and instructors who understand the ins and outs of motherhood, you’re among friends who truly understand you and your baby.
If you need to stop and nurse, no problem.
If you need someone to keep the stroller moving while you do wall sits, your friends have got you covered.
The best postpartum workout groups are amazing at this kind of support.
Whatever happens, just do your best to show up, because that’s how you get results. And if everything goes kaput and you just don’t make it, be kind to yourself, get some rest, and try again tomorrow.
Nursing? Yes, you can work out.
For millennia, moms around the world have gone about their daily lives while nursing their little ones. Sometimes it’s not easy, and there are some things to think about, but yes, you can work out while nursing.
Here’s what you need to know:
Make sure you’re getting the right nutrition. You may need to add a healthy snack or two to your day. This is another area where it’s crucial to listen to your body. Don’t go on a diet (your baby needs those calories), but do make sure you’re getting enough of the best kinds of foods.
Try pumping or nursing before your workout. Working out with engorged breasts can be downright painful. You may want to relieve some pressure before or during your workout. (By the way, if you plan to nurse during a workout, you may need to wipe yourself down. Sweat makes some babies mad; others don’t care whether you’re shower clean or yoga-mat salty.)
Water, water, water! Yes, this again. For nursing moms, staying hydrated is doubly important. Your body can’t produce milk if it doesn’t get enough water. Hydrating is good for you and your baby.
Take it slow. Sound familiar? With nursing, taking it slow means making sure your baby gets enough to eat. If your workout routine causes problems with your milk supply, you may be working out too hard or too often. That doesn’t mean you have to stop. Just take a break, check with your doctor, and make a low-key return to exercise.
You need a support team.
Whether it’s a trainer, your best friend, your family, or someone you team up with online, support from others is critical. It turns out there’s plenty of truth to the idea that working out is better with friends. (Not convinced? Check out this NBC News round-up of studies that show that group exercise is more effective.)
For working out, the best support teams come in two parts: your trainers and your friends. And yes, there can be some crossover there. (If you hire a trainer or take a class, clicking with your instructor is an absolute must.)
Choosing a trainer or class
Here are some questions you might want to ask before you make a decision:
- Are children welcome at workouts?
- If so, are children included in the activities and kept safe?
- If not, is childcare available?
- Does the trainer have specific training and experience in working with postpartum moms?
Choosing your village
It’s no secret that working out with others is motivating. Encouragement (and a little friendly competition) go a long way.
If you’re a new stay-at-home mom, you might be surprised at the solitude that comes with the job. Sure, your little one is always with you, but after a while you just start craving adult conversation.
Joining an exercise class or working with a trainer can provide you both the companionship and the physical activity you need. (And when you’re a parent, multitasking is a must.)
Fortunately, new moms are finding their villages all over the US in group classes like Stroller Strides and Stroller Barre. Groups that cater to moms come with a major perk: a built-in village of friendship and support. FIT4MOM Grapevine/Coppell/Colleyville and other FIT4MOM groups in North Texas go beyond workouts. They also offer free playgroups with fun activities for the kids and monthly Mom’s Night Out events. There’s nothing like relaxing with friends to recharge your mom batteries.
There’s a whole world of resources and support for you right here at home.
There are loads of options for North Texas moms looking for a support network. Just like oh, say, everything that has to do with adding to your family, deciding on a workout takes some research. Fortunately, the North Texas area is a hotbed of amazing fitness groups just for moms.
If you’d like to talk to some of the experts we have here in North Texas, all you have to do is ask. Here’s how to get in touch with North Texas’ top trainers for postpartum workouts. You’ll find these pros leading classes all over the DFW Metroplex (and all over the US).
Got questions? Contact:
Farrah Agado, FIT4MOM Grapevine/Coppell/Colleyville: firstname.lastname@example.org, 682-651-7895
Bethany Gregory, FIT4MOM Keller/Southlake/Trophy Club: email@example.com, 817-683-6900
Monica Higdon, FIT4MOM Hurst/Euless/Bedford: firstname.lastname@example.org, 817-371-2735
FIT4MOM Flower Mound: email@example.com, 512.468.4311
Quinn Persinger, FIT4MOM West Plano: firstname.lastname@example.org, 214-236-4007
Lauren Galipp, FIT4MOM Arlington/Mansfield: email@example.com, 817-476-0248
Leslie Cuevas, FIT4MOM McKinney/Allen/Prosper Little Elm/Frisco: firstname.lastname@example.org, 972-439-5536
Not in North Texas or don't see your city listed? Click here to find a location near you.
Now, about those results…
The results you want won’t necessarily come easily or quickly. The truth is, as new moms, we find our lives have changed in ways both devastating and wonderful.
Nobody can promise that you’ll fit into your high-school prom dress just by using one weird trick.
That’s not what this journey is about.
It’s about health. It’s about you and your baby. It’s about strength for motherhood.
You will see results. You will get stronger. You will have more energy. You will feel better about yourself.
One last, super-important thing:
Please, please, please have patience with yourself. (It just can’t be said enough. It’s that important.) Be kind to your body and your spirit, and surround yourself with others who want what you want—health and happiness for you and your family.
Ready to get started with your new workouts (and your new friends)? Contact one of the experts above to sign up for a free FIT4MOM class with no obligation. Your village is waiting for you.