9 Things You Should Know About Postpartum Exercise (and Probably Don’t)

There’s a lot of confusing information out there about how fitness can change once you’ve had a baby. Here we clear things up.

There is no bigger wake-up call than the difference between how a woman pictures herself as a mom and the actual reality of the situation. Set aside all of the “I’ll definitely do X, Y, or Z as a parent” claims—especially when it comes to exercise.

Postpartum fitness will likely be an entirely different ball game than you anticipated. (Just look at star trainer Emily Skye, whose pregnancy journey was totally different than she planned.) Even the best-intentioned new moms may find that their fitness takes a backseat when they have a new little one in the house. Here, some need-to-know facts about postpartum exercise that may not be on your radar.

1. Your core will be stretched—or even separated.

Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest differences between your pre-baby workouts and postpartum exercise lies in your core. One 2015 study suggests that virtually all women experience diastasis recti (when the right and left abdominal muscles separate) at the end of pregnancy and that up to 39 percent still have some level of separation at six months postpartum.

Diastasis recti aside, “most women are surprised by just how different their core feels once baby has arrived,” says trainer Maura Shirey, a certified pregnancy fitness educator and owner of Bodies for Birth. “The core remains overstretched and the woman is left with a belly that feels very different. Women will describe feelings of vulnerability, disconnection, absence, vacancy, and nonexistence when referencing how their postpartum core feels in the early days.” Combined with a weakened pelvic floor, this can make returning to fitness quite challenging for new moms, since core strength is vital for overall health and basic fitness. Shirey recommends a focus on strengthening the transverse abdominis (the deepest muscles in your core) to regain strength and stability. (Try these abs exercises that can help heal diastasis recti or go see a physical therapist or trainer who specializes in postpartum training.)

2. Every labor and healing experience is different.

“Postpartum recovery time is different for every woman,” says Gina S. Nelson, M.D., fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and ob-gyn at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. “My impression, based on experience alone, is that your pre-pregnancy level of fitness is the biggest determinant of how you’ll do in postpartum recovery.” If you have good fitness habits and a degree of conditioning beforehand, you’ll likely have an easier transition back to fitness after giving birth. “That said, the vast majority of women will be able to resume all normal activities, including exercise, by six weeks postpartum,” she says.

There are several complications that can interfere with postpartum exercise, including “postpartum depression, c-section, postpartum hemorrhage, excess weight gain in pregnancy, pubic bone symphysis, and diastasis recti,” says Dr. Nelson, but all of these situations have solutions. A six-week post-partum check-up is the standard, but Dr. Nelson says you shouldn’t wait that long if you suspect something is wrong. “Many caregivers now are seeing patients at one or two weeks postpartum to identify problems early,” she says. Ideally, your doc will bring up the topic of exercise and give the go-ahead to get active again. But you should also have questions ready for your six-week visit and can ask specifics about returning to workouts that you may have been doing pre-baby.

Even without complications, Dr. Nelson suggests starting exercise “gradually and gently with much more mindfulness than before.” She says women should use the first three months of postpartum exercise to get their bodies used to working out again and not to make gains. For example, runners can start with walking, then walk-jogging.

3. You’ll experience brand-new aches and pains.

You hear all about relaxin (the hormone that helps loosen joints for labor) during pregnancy, but it actually stays in your system well beyond the birth of your baby. “Some sources believe that relaxin can stay in the body for up to 12 months after weaning,” says Shirey. This means your joints remain looser than usual. That lack of stability means your body is more prone to aches, pains, and injury.

Your new lifestyle could result in some aches too: “Motherhood can be a very ‘reactionary’ time, where we’re not slowing down to think about how we’re moving and positioning our bodies because there are needs that feel (and often are) more urgent (baby is crying, needs a diaper change, is hungry, etc.),” says Shirey. “You find yourself hanging out in super-uncomfortable positions until a leg or foot goes numb, with a full bladder, in an attempt to keep baby sleep.” She recommends focusing on alignment both during exercise and in everyday life.

4. There are emotional challenges, too.

Postpartum depression (PPD) has gained a lot of attention in recent years—and rightfully so, since the American Psychological Association estimates one out of every seven new mothers will experience PPD. Even women without diagnosable depression will likely experience hormonal shifts and possible mood swings as a new mom. (Emily Skye and Kate Middleton have both shared their personal experiences with the “post-baby blues.”)

“I witness this being a very emotional time for many women at some point or another,” says Shirey. While many women experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15 to 20 percent of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety, according to Postpartum Support International. Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and within the first year after childbirth. (Here are some signs and symptoms of PPD to keep an eye out for.)

While PPD or general postpartum mood swings may lead to a lack of interest in exercise, Dr. Nelson says working out will help improve your mood and boost confidence—which is especially important when you’re bombarded with crazy expectations of what your post-baby body and fitness should look like.

“I often find that there are very unrealistic expectations about what postpartum fitness should look like,” says Shirey, “I credit this to social media and the overall lack of good information found on the internet. With a general emphasis on ‘getting your body back’ postpartum and Instagram images of celebrities in waist trainers wearing their skinny jeans with a 6-week-old in tow, it can be overwhelming to discern what’s realistic for postpartum recovery.”

5. Sleep is as important as ever.

Sure, your new little bundle of joy will sleep about 20 hours per day at first, but that happens in several increments. This means most mothers have trouble getting enough consecutive hours of sleep to feel well-rested and to feel like they have the energy to work out.

“This can be a bit of a ‘catch-22,'” says Shirey. “Exercise has the potential to provide more energy, but it also has the potential to be completely depleting—especially when you’re already sleep-deprived.” Exercise should not add to exhaustion, so listen to your body and consider less-strenuous workouts when necessary. “One day, a higher intensity walk including some hills might feel great,” she says. “On another day, when feeling particularly fatigued, some stretching and breathing work might be the right fit.”

6. It takes a village.

One potential barrier to postpartum exercise is the fact that baby needs a place to be while you work out. Your days of grabbing your gym bag and heading out the door without a second thought are history. Now, you have three options: work out with baby (which often means your workout takes a backseat), pay for childcare (some moms are not comfortable with a stranger babysitting early on), or leave baby with your partner or another trusted family member or friend. This means your support system is key. “A disorganized family life where there is inadequate help is a big barrier to resuming exercise,” says Dr. Nelson. (Take a peek at these mommy-and-me fitness classes that actually give you a solid workout.)

7. Jogging strollers come with caveats.


Before becoming a mom, most female runners probably think they’ll just load up the stroller and their annual half marathon schedule won’t need to budge a bit. But there are some things to consider. First, do your research and make sure your stroller is actually built for jogging. (Believe it or not, there are strollers that have “jogging” in the name but aren’t suitable or safe for jogging.) Just like any baby product, there are options in varying price ranges. But expect a jogging-appropriate stroller to set you back more than its non-jogging counterparts.

In addition, Shirey says you should check with your baby’s pediatrician and your jogging stroller’s manufacturer to find out when your little one can safely tag along on a run. Most babies aren’t ready until they’re 6 to 8 months old. After all of the above, “They can be surprisingly challenging to push and get used to using,” says Shirey, “so it’s best to be patient, take it easy to start and focus on alignment/core strength while working with this extra resistance.” (This Pilates stroller workout can be a great place to start.)

8. Breastfeeding burns calories, but it’s not a workout.

Nursing may not count as strength or cardio, but breastfeeding and making milk does demand a large amount of metabolic resources, says Dr. Nelson: “Breastfeeding requires an additional 300 calories above that required at the end of pregnancy,” she says.

Because you burn calories from breastfeeding (but it doesn’t necessarily count as exercise), you may notice the scale dropping while your clothes still don’t fit the way they did the last time you were at that weight. Shirey says that most women experience some degree of de-conditioning during pregnancy. She recommends slowly and methodically progressing resistance training to build or rebuild strength and muscle tone. (Related: This Woman’s Heartbreaking Confession About Breastfeeding Is #SoReal)

Very strenuous workouts can actually impact breast milk too, though your supply should stay intact as long as you’re eating enough and drinking enough water. Dr. Nelson recommends consuming extra calories and increasing water intake by one or two liters per day while nursing.

“Beyond sheer calories and hydration, I know of nothing about working out that diminishes milk volume,” says Dr. Nelson. Studies show that regular exercise at moderate to high intensity does not alter the quality or quantity of breast milk, but that extremely intense anaerobic exercise (read: jumping, sprinting, etc.) may alter the taste of milk due to physiological byproducts of exercise (such as lactic acid) and may impact your baby’s nursing behavior, according to a review published in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology.

9. Take it easy and know it’s worth the effort.

With all of these challenges and precautions, it’s still worth it to carve out time for exercise as a new mom. “When women resume workouts after a baby is born, they often comment on how much it means to them,” says Dr. Nelson. “The time they spend on themselves takes on a heightened importance which they cherish.”

There are so many benefits to postpartum exercise, says Dr. Nelson. “I encourage new mothers to be patient with themselves, their babies, and their families. I would like them to be self-accepting and to give themselves permission to take time for a workout once they have recovered. They should be encouraged that it will be good for them and good for their family too.”

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Zumba for Postpartum Fitness: One Mom’s Success Story

Zumba fitness guru Gina Grant dishes on how the Latin-inspired dance workout helped her drop the baby weight.

Looking at Gina Grant’s tight, toned body, it’s hard to believe that she’s ever had a baby. In fact, the 36-year-old has given birth to four (now ages 8, 9, 13 and 15), with the youngest two born just a year and a day apart. Good genes? Perhaps, but she still had to work hard to get back in shape and lose the pooch after each pregnancy. And it wasn’t until after the arrival of her third child that Grant discovered her secret weapon: Zumba classes.

Blending moves from world rhythms that include salsa, meringue, mambo, hip-hop and tango, the high-energy dance workout was “exactly what I needed to get me back to the gym,” Grant explains. With its lively music and fun choreography, it felt more like a nightclub than an exercise class. “I was having a blast and sweating like crazy,” she says.

Before long, the pregnancy pounds had disappeared, along with the bulge around her middle. “It really is the best thing after having a baby,” she professes. “It’s a total-body workout and you’re constantly using your core,” helping to tighten up the muscles that get weakened and stretched during pregnancy.

Losing weight wasn’t always so easy for Grant, especially after packing on a whopping 55 pounds during her first pregnancy. “I did exactly what you shouldn’t do with my first,” she confesses. “I stopped working out and ate everything in sight.” During her second pregnancy, she ate a lot healthier but still didn’t exercise. Her last two pregnancies were a different story. “As I got older, I got wiser,” says Grant, an education specialist for Zumba Fitness. Her body recovered fastest after her fourth—a fact that she attributes to taking Zumba classes throughout her pregnancy.

Now, as a busy mom who travels frequently for work, Grant stays in shape almost exclusively with Zumba sessions. She typically teaches two hourlong classes a week, as well as one or two nine-hour instructor training sessions on weekends. Occasionally, she’ll supplement with push-ups and crunches or strength exercises using a resistance band. And at home, she likes to challenge her teenage sons to push-up competitions. “As my kids have gotten busier with activities, it’s become harder for me to find time to work out,” laments Grant, who stars in the Zumba Fitness 2 video game. “If all else fails, I’ll pop in the 20-minute Zumba Rush DVD when they’re asleep.” (This is one of the seven discs in the Zumba Fitness Exhilarate at-home DVD collection.)

Grant seems to have passed on her passion to her daughters, now ages 8 and 9. They love doing Zumbatomic, a class specifically designed for ages 4 to 12, she says. With her help, they even choreographed a Zumbatomic routine that has become a favorite among instructors. “One day, they were complaining that they were bored,” Grant says. “So I said, ‘Go make up a dance, then come back and show me!’ ” I just modified it a little to make it work.”

If you’re a new mom anxious to get your pre-baby body back, Grant has one warning: Take it slow! “Be sure your body is healed completely before jumping back into an exercise program,” she warns. And remember: It took nine months to gain the weight, so don’t expect it to come off all at once. Just try to stay as consistent as possible with your workouts—and you’ll be back in your skinny jeans before you know it. Cosmo also proves that it’s alright to do exercises while holding the baby.

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Yoga Classes for Moms at Laughing Elephant Yoga

Did you know there are yoga classes for expecting and new moms right here in our own back yard? Laughing Elephant Yoga (LEY), located at 4372 Post Road, East Greenwich, RI, offers both Prenatal and Mommy & Me yoga classes where you can practice yoga with other women in a comfortable and nurturing environment. LEY also offers a variety of other types of yoga classes for students of all levels, from basic, foundational classes, to rigorous vinyasa classes. In addition, the studio hosts yoga workshops and other programs that promote health and wellness. The environment is warm and friendly, and it is certainly a yoga studio where everyone feels at home – from first-time yogis to experienced practitioners. According to Huffpost, there are 3 yoga benefits for expectant moms.

Prenatal and Mommy & Baby yoga classes are taught by Lisa Rae, a registered yoga teacher, who is also certified to teach prenatal yoga. Lisa has over 20 years of experience teaching yoga. Before discovering yoga, Lisa spent many years teaching group fitness classes at local fitness centers in Rhode Island. Once she became pregnant with her first child, she focused on teaching yoga and also discovered the joy of taking prenatal yoga with other expectant mothers. After becoming a new mother, Lisa also participated in mom and baby yoga classes and enjoyed the opportunity to move and share space with other women who were experiencing the joys and challenges of motherhood.

The Prenatal Yoga class meets at LEY on Saturdays from 10:45am to 12:00pm and is designed for all expectant mothers, regardless of prior yoga experience. During this practice, expectant mothers will practice poses and movements that safely prepare them for delivery and motherhood, while also helping them feel comfortable in their changing bodies. The 75-minute practice highlights poses that stretch and strengthen the body, with focus on breathing and mindfulness. The class concludes with a period of restful relaxation.

The Mommy & Me Yoga class meets at LEY on Thursdays from 11:00am to 12:00 pm. This one-hour class is for moms with babies and/or toddlers, and is open to students of all levels of yoga experience. From a physical perspective, the practice is designed to help new moms stay healthy and strong as they recover from childbirth and deal with the stress that often accompanies being a new mother. The other benefit of the class is that it provides a place where new moms can meet and share ideas and experiences. Babies and children may take part in the class, but they often make their own fun while moms are moving and flowing. Each class has a spirit of its own, depending on the children and participants, and Lisa makes sure everyone has the opportunity for movement, fun, and relaxation.

 

Lisa and the welcoming staff at LEY would love to see your shining faces at the yoga studio soon to experience one of these yoga classes!

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The Tale of Onesies: From Churchill to the 21st Century

Believe it or not, the story of the onesie starts with Winston Churchill. This great leader had his own idea of what ideal clothing should be. He called his design the “siren suit.” The original idea behind the onesie was for the soldiers to be able to put it on over their clothes in moments. That way, if there was an attack, they could be battle-ready a lot faster.

 

While it was not necessarily sleepwear, it was, simply put, a onesie. This great politician also had Turnbull & Asser make a pinstripe version of the “siren suit” for himself. Of course, keeping in mind his full figure.

 

His onesie became popular because he wore it when he met with the US President Franklin Roosevelt. He even had a suit onesie (but not a true suitsy just yet) that he wore to meetings.

 

Churchill loved wearing his onesies due to the warmth and comfort they provided. He would just zip the onesie over his pajamas in the case of air raids during the night. Apart from being the first onesie ever, Churchill’s onesie is also the most expensive one. In 2002, it was actually sold for almost 30,000 pounds. And that is impressive, when we adjust it for inflation, it is essentially a $55,000 onesie. And, as we can all see, onesies are still very popular.

 

However, as famous as they are now, they never felt like they were safe from fading away. It just doesn’t seem onesies have ever been a fashion item for the masses. And yet, this hilarious fashion statement is still surviving to this day. For that, we can thank a lot of celebrities who are open about their love of onesies.

 

One of the big modern-day moments for the onesie was given to us by none other than Ryan Gosling. He took his onesie to the Ellen DeGeneres show, and he had a lot of fun. Of course, he was not the only one. The insanely popular band One Direction has a video of themselves playing around in their onesies. And the popularity of the onesies doesn’t affect only celebrities.

 

After all, Sir Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, decided to bring it back to the world of politics following in the footsteps of Winston Churchill.

 

Of course, the onesie is not staying the same throughout the years. Namely, the recent years gave us new designs for this popular trend. Nowadays, you can even buy a onesie for two people. And, of course, we have to mention the suitsy. This type of onesie is something you can wear even to relatively formal events. It combines the serious look of a suit, with the comfort of a onesie. Much like what Churchill did with one of his original onesies, but better.

 

 

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