Usually, a woman can return to pre-pregnancy levels of exercise six weeks after delivery. You need not get discouraged if you’ve lost stamina and are left with 55 extra pounds. With the right training, the weight will come off. There’s no excuse for missing gym workouts.
Until that six-week-mark arrives, a woman can still exercise, beginning several days after birth. But these are special post-natal exercises that focus on the pelvic muscles, which have been weakened from pregnancy and also vaginal delivery. It’s very important to retrain these muscles to be strong and supportive.
Pelvic muscles exercise. Lie on back with knees bent and legs slightly apart. Squeeze and draw up the muscles around the vagina, anus and urethra as tightly as possible. Hold the squeeze and lift for two or three seconds. Then completely relax. Repeat 4-5 more times, 5-8 times daily. You should increase pelvic-area muscle strength by maintaining the squeeze and lift for longer durations, up to 10 seconds. This exercise can also be done while seated. Additionally, perform the above exercise with a squeeze/lift of just one second, but quickly. Repeat 5-10 times.
The strength of the “pelvic floor” can be checked by stopping urine flow in midstream; coughing with a full bladder; and jumping with a full bladder. It may take 12 weeks before a woman can perform these tests without urine leakage. When that time comes, she needs to do only one set daily (both 2-3- and 1-second squeezes) for maintenance. If after 12 weeks, she leaks after at least one of the tests, a physician consult is warranted.
Gyms and local recreation centers may offer post-natal exercise classes. The body needs time to readjust; rushing back into strenuous routines is not necessary.
· Most gyms have daycare for babies over six-months-old. Women who feel uncomfortable leaving a baby with gym staff can see if a relative or friend will baby-sit during workout sessions.
· Some recreation centers offer exercise classes that include babies. Check these out.
· Buy a stroller especially designed for being pushed while jogging or briskly walking. Special front-packs (papooses) will hold a baby while a woman walks, hikes or jogs. Backpacks for this purpose are also on the market.
· Exercise can be done while a baby naps. Never mind the laundry pile-up. Set a timer for 20 minutes and just do it: jumping jacks, jump-rope, pushups, sit-ups, dumbbell routines, step routines, the stationary bike or treadmill, squats with a stability ball against a wall, etc. Or exercise to a video.
· As kids get older, a tricycle replaces the stroller. A woman can commit herself to walking/jogging every day alongside her child. Do you have three kids under 5-years-old? Consider a double stroller for a baby and toddler, while a preschooler pedals the tricycle and you walk with a perk.
· Avoid the habit of letting preschoolers wander off by themselves while you sit back and unwind before the TV. Join the kids and see what they’re up to. Run with them. Get a game of tag going. Take them to the park and let them play while you briskly walk or jog laps NEARBY to keep an eye on them. If at a playground, you can do step aerobics on a nearby perch while other mothers sit idly by.
· Building up a lean base of firm, tight muscle is a woman’s guard against fat-gain as she gets older. All women should be encouraged to pick up dumbbells, barbells and other metallic, metabolic-boosting equipment.