Five Tips for Returning to Exercise Post-Baby

Hello! I am thrilled to share a guest post with you today, that answers one of the most frequently asked questions since I started working out again, six weeks after giving birth to Katie. Each day, at least a few people reach out over email, Facebook, Instagram or blog comments asking for tips for returning to exercise in a safe and healthy manner after giving birth. Since I am not an expert on the topic, I figured I’d enroll the person who helped me return to strength training – Carolyn. Carolyn is a pre and postnatal health coach and personal trainer who lives in Brooklyn. During my maternity leave I had the pleasure of attending her mother & baby workouts with her two times a week for almost three months!  Enjoy!

I’m so excited to be guest posting on Ashley’s blog while she is adjusting to life as a working mom.  My name is Carolyn and I’m a pre and postnatal health coach and personal trainer – and also first-time mom to Charlie who is about to turn 1 year old! Whoever said that with a baby “the days are long but the months are short” nailed it. I have no idea where the time went, but what an amazing journey it has been so far.

When I became pregnant with Charlie, I was in the process of studying for my health coach and personal training certification. As I learned about various dietary theories and fitness components the body needs to thrive, I felt so lucky that I had this information that I could immediately apply to my own pregnancy. Armed with this wealth of knowledge, however, I became hyper-aware of how little we’re counseled on how to have a healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery unless we actively seek the information out.

In most cases, we’re told by our doctor that whatever form of exercise we were doing before getting pregnant is fine to continue (within reason) and then we’re quickly given the go-ahead to resume all exercise at 6-weeks. I’ll never forget at my 6-week postpartum visit, my OB cleared me to start running again. It was exactly what I was hoping to hear, but I looked at her in total disbelief. My core felt so weak (and by weak I mean non-existent) and my hips and pelvis felt like – well like I had just pushed out a 9-pound baby! I had exercised almost every day before and during my pregnancy, but pounding the pavement felt like the last thing my body needed. Each and every person’s body is different and every recovery is different, so if you were able to lace up your sneaks at 6 weeks – all the power to you! But if you are wondering how to safely ease back into an exercise routine, here are 5 tips to get you started:

  • Listen to your body. Ashley talks a lot about her fitness journey pre, during and post pregnancy and how she is always reminding herself to build back up slowly. This is so important. No matter what kind of birth you had, your body just went through an amazing, life-altering, endurance test and you know yourself best. If something doesn’t feel right, take a pause. Now isn’t the time to force it.
  • Remember to breathe. Did you know the diaphragm is actually the most important muscle of the core? Here’s a test: Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly just below your rib cage. Now take a deep breath. Does your chest or belly rise first? For a variety of reasons, including desk jobs and chronic stress, most of us have become chest breathers, when in fact breathing should come from the diaphragm. While it sounds simple, changing the way you breathe can impact everything from our stress levels to our digestive system.

  • Reconnect with your core. Your core is the foundational aspect of your body that impacts everything else. If you recently had a baby, your core has been stretched in some places, tightened in others, and has been holding everything together for 9 months. It’s tired. It’s weak. It needs some love. Breathing through your diaphragm, doing Kegels and practicing modified abdominal work will help strengthen the inner layer of muscles that have helped carry and protect your little one up until this point.
  • Fire up those glutes. Second in importance to the core, the glutes help support your hips, pelvis and lower back, all of which have shifted around over the past 9 months. Strengthening these guys will help ease any residual aches and pains and provide support to the core. Squats and lunges are the best exercises for your buns and are easily done with baby in tow.
  • Stretch with caution. You may have heard about the hormone Relaxin that is released into your body throughout pregnancy. Its primary job is to loosen up your ligaments to prepare you for childbirth, but while It’s unclear exactly how long your body continues to produce it, some believe it can last up to a year postpartum. So, if you can touch your toes for the first time now that you can finally see them again, just be careful not to get overexcited, it could still be the Relaxin talking. Only stretch out areas that feel tight or like they need to be lengthened to avoid overstretching.

If you have other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments and, if you are local, I would love to see you for one of my workouts in Carroll Park or Prospect Park.

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Weekly Workout Recap–August 30th–September 6th

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Hello! It’s been a hot second since I blogged as I took made an impromptu decision to disconnect from blogging during the second half of our vacation. I realized that I never took a true leave from blogging after giving birth to Katie as I found so much support, inspiration and energy from blogging right after she was born. As soon as we landed in Savannah I felt the urge to disconnect 100% from email, blogging and most of social media. While I shared a few stories on Instagram and a few posts, I spent most of the time soaking up the Savannah humidity and all the love from our Savannah friends and family.

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In a similar vein, working out was not my number one priority. While many people assumed that Bo and I would take advantage of the time with grandparents to run errands, go on a date together, or workout we both found ourselves wanting to spend the time together with everyone, including Katie. For me, that meant that workouts were not a priority during this trip. While I did squeeze in a few workouts, I spent more time chatting with family, rolling on the floor with Katie, sipping beers on the back porch, and enjoying delicious food. Maybe it’s the unofficial end of Summer or cooler Fall weather, but since returning to Brooklyn yesterday, I’ve been inspired to dive back into blogging as well as a healthier, more mindful workout and food routine. Most of my maternity and post-baby clothing that I’ve worn all Summer is just that, Summer clothing, and therefore if I have any hope of fitting in some of my Fall wardrobe, I need to get back to workouts and cleaner eating. Don’t get me wrong – I have no skewed thinking that these new hips or my larger chest will fit in some items, and that is just fine. But, I know that if I can shed the few pounds that I gained over the past month of travel and fun, a majority of my leggings, jeans, sweaters and flowy blouses will be an option for the cooler, Fall temperatures.

Since I’m aware that dieting and extreme exercise can have a negative impact on breast milk supply as well as add unnecessary stress, I’m taking a realistic, healthy, manageable approach. I am taking pictures of my food as a way to stay accountable and nix the mindless snacking and I’m dedicating Katie’s morning nap to the Post Baby Bod Workouts. This morning nap tends to be her longest one of the day so it’s realistic that I can do an at-home strength/cardio workout at least three days a week during this nap. The afternoon nap, around 5pm, tends to be the least reliable one so this is going to become a stroller walk time a few days a week. In regards to out of home workouts, my goal is two per week – one early, morning YMCA workout during the week before Katie wakes up and one weekend workout while Bo can watch Katie.

So, now that we’ve covered those bases, let’s get to last week’s workouts, shall we? Most of these workouts ended up being cardio since I didn’t spend anytime at a gym, fitness studio and were enjoyed with my mom.

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  • August 30th: A quick, 30 minute walk/jog around my aunt and uncle’s driveway in Vermont before our drive home to Brooklyn.
  • August 31st: I headed to the YMCA at 5:30 AM to squeeze in a workout before our flight down to Savannah. I did 30 minutes on the Stairmill and 15 minutes of arms/back before returning home. I added a bit more to the workout by doing a 5:1 walk/jog interval for the mile commute home.
  • September 1st: I headed out for my first solo walk/run through the neighborhood which was 45 minutes of 5:1 walk/jog intervals. It was hot and humid but the sunshine was so refreshing as was some alone time to disconnect and zone out to the music on my playlist.
  • September 3rd: I headed out for a solo 60 minute walk/run through the neighborhood and was able to cover 4.25 miles using a 5:1 walk/jog interval system. The workout felt especially tough due to the heat and humidity in Savannah but the views were gorgeous!
  • September 4th: My mom and I enjoyed chatting together during a 60 minute stroller walk through the neighborhood while taking advantage of the lower, evening temperatures.
  • September 5th: Travel Day home from Savannah, aka rest day.
  • September 6th: Since the weather in NYC isn’t conducive for a long walk today, I did 10 minutes of cardio (mountain climbers, jumping jacks, speed skaters) as well as the Total Body Workout from Gina’s Post Baby Bod ebook.
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OrangeTheory Brooklyn

As you guys know, I always enjoy a good, sweaty workout especially one that challenges me and can help me improve. However, since getting pregnant, I have been hesitant to push myself in boot camp or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) classes. Even though I’m working out with a heart rate monitor, since this is my first pregnancy, I am being very cautious.

Luckily, when OrangeTheory reached out to me, asking if I would like to try their Brooklyn Heights or new Park Slope location, I was thrilled to hear that they have coaches at both locations who specialize in working with prenatal and postnatal moms by providing adjustments, closely monitoring their heart rates and meeting with them before class. In addition, their heart rate based training makes it easy to stay in touch with my body throughout the workout.

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Suddenly I realized that it may be possible for me to have a healthy, cautious pregnancy and still get that great endorphin rush.  I was smiling like a kid on Christmas when I trudged through the snowy Brooklyn streets towards the Brooklyn Heights OrangeTheory.  The coach for the class, Garner, welcomed me with a huge smile and quickly reviewed the workout with me as well as giving me a tour of the studio.

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Since I’m still accustomed to the cramped, smaller Manhattan studios this location felt like a mansion. The location is spotless, features a huge entrance area where students can relax before and after class, showers, bathrooms and a locker area. As you can see, the studio is also spacious, featuring more than fifteen treadmills and rowing machines as well as a dedicated, spacious strength training area.

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Since OrangeTheory is a heart rate-based interval training class, each student wears a chest or wrist heart rate monitor that tracks your stats throughout the workout so you can see your heart rate on the screens during class.  While you can’t use your own heart rate monitor, students can use one for free during their first class and then rent or buy them for future classes.  The goal, for most students, is to stay in the orange or uncomfortable zone for at least a portion of the class. Since I am pregnant, we discussed my previous and current fitness, deciding that my goal should be to spend most of the class in the green zone with a few minutes in the orange zone.

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While each OrangeTheory class is different, most classes include a cardio portion, which is split between rowing and running, in addition to a strength portion.  This specific class session started with 25 minutes of cardio, rotating between the rowing machine and treadmill for intervals followed by a balanced strength portion targeting arms, abs, and legs.

By the end of the class, I was a sweaty mess but still smiling. With Coach Garner’s help, I made sure not to push myself too hard but still left class sweating and woke up the next morning feeling my hamstrings from the hills and feeling muscles I hadn’t pushed in the past few weeks.  In fact, I loved my first class so much that I was back just a few days later and am now seriously considering a package.

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If you’re interested in trying OrangeTheory, your first class is free. If you live in Brooklyn, the Park Slope location is offering discounted packages and specials to celebrate their opening.

 

This post is sponsored by OrangeTheory Brooklyn but as you may have seen on Instastories and Snapchat, I’ve already been back again! I love OrangeTheory and all opinions in this post are my own. 

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