There’s no denying that the 9 months of any pregnancy can wreak havoc on your physique, so having a plan of action once the baby has arrived is essential for continued progress.
While many people simply jump back into exercising and dieting, there are some important things to keep in mind so that you regain previous fitness levels in a safe and effective way.
In this article, I’ll touch on some important ways to get back into your fitness lifestyle after having a baby.
Avoid Shame Over Your Figure And Body Weight
First and foremost, the moment that your baby comes into this world is not an opportunity for you to shame yourself for how you look.
The pregnancy will almost certainly have taken a toll on a woman’s body, both physically and mentally. Further, the fact that you’ve been eating for two, while exercising in a lesser capacity, or certainly with less intensity than before, means that there are going to be some inevitable changes to your body.
Rest assured, the media images and videos of mothers with six-pack abs a week after birth, do not represent the norm and you shouldn’t compare yourself to that type of physique.
Additionally, it’s important to realize that, in addition to feeling larger, chances are that you’ve actually gained weight. Again however, this is nothing to be concerned about as the health of the developing child in your womb is far more important than restricting calories.
While it’s okay to appreciate health and have a desire to get in better shape, appreciating that pregnancy can be tough helps with accepting the resultant changes to your body, knowing they were necessary. Avoid shaming yourself and understand that, within a few months’ time, you can be back to normal, or possibly even fitter (we all know that young children keep us on our toes!).
Adjust Your Eating First
While many people take the first step by exercising, I’m actually in favor of first getting your eating habits back on track.
Chances are, you radically changed your eating style once the pregnancy began. Things like increasing calories and paying a bit less attention to the types of foods you’re eating are all par for the course when going through pregnancy. And it’s fairly normal!
Just understand that now the baby is born, it’s time to get back on track, starting with your nutrition.
But keep in mind, this isn’t a suggestion to begin intense restriction, it is rather one to simply recognize that for some time you’ve been eating more than usual. Further, it’s likely that many of those calories came from high-calorie food options.
During pregnancy this may not be an issue but if this eating style continues, it could make reaching your postpartum fitness goals quite difficult. This is simply a suggestion to get back into normal eating habits.
Also, use discretion when adjusting food intake if you’re breastfeeding. If you are, it’s not suggested to restrict calories, at least not intensely since breastfeeding can require up to 500 calories per day. If you are still breastfeeding, I suggest avoiding calorie restriction until your baby is weaned.
If you aren’t breastfeeding or have since stopped, you’ll first need to make sure that you curtail your calorie intake a bit to recognize that you’re no longer eating for a second person. Not to mention, doing so will probably result in a bit of weight loss.
Second, the days of eating high calorie foods like ice cream and Oreos all the time aren’t necessarily over, but do need to be reduced a bit. During pregnancy, the effects that these high calorie foods can have on your physique may go unnoticed to some extent, since you’ll get a bit bigger anyways.
However, once the baby is born, it’s the continuation of these habits that can really put you in a bad position.
As a first step, I suggest attempting to curtail your food consumption slightly, while increasing the quality of the food that you do eat.
Start Small With Your Training
A big mistake that many people make when getting back into exercise is assuming that they’ll be able to start back where they left off. I’m here to tell you unfortunately, that’s not the case.
When you go for months at a time without exercise or at least exercising at a much lower level, you’ll not only begin to lose strength and ability of your muscles, but you’ll also probably have a reduction of muscle size.
Further, many people underestimate the importance of actually having muscle memory, and the ability to use exercises like the bench press, squat or deadlift. These exercises do take quite a bit of skill, which, if left unpracticed for months, can fade.
Lastly, many people jump into crazy intense workouts without realizing that fitness has likely declined considerably. All together, this is a recipe for immense soreness and possibly even injury.
I suggest starting small with 1-3 workouts per week. In addition, keep the sets and weight you’re using fairly low until you get back into the swing of things. At that point, you can begin progressing as you were before your pregnancy.
Consider Using Periodization
Periodization is a method that many athletes use to get bigger and stronger. Fortunately for us, periodization is just a fancy term for having a long-term structure to your exercise routine.
I suggest using a method known as linear periodization. In simple terms, this means that you’ll adjust reps, sets and the weight you use in a linear fashion where you’ll increase weight and decrease reps sequentially over time. Here’s a basic rundown of how this works out.
When exercising, work in a range of 15-20 repetitions per set, per exercise. This will improve your conditioning, enabling you to get back into exercising, while also using weight that is light enough to avoid injury.
Once you get to this timeframe, decrease the repetitions you’re completing while also increasing weight to improve strength and potentially increase muscle. Sticking with rep ranges from 8-12 is best here.
Once here, decrease repetitions further and increase the weight you’re using, staying in the 4-8-rep range. Just be sure to pay close attention to your form, avoiding form decreases due to the heavier weights being used.
- Weeks 1-4
- Sets: 2-4
- Reps: 15-20
- Weeks 5-8
- Sets 3+
- Reps: 8-12
- Weeks 9-12
- Sets 3+
- Reps: 4-8
Certainly you don’t need to follow this exactly but this method will enable you to sequentially increase training volume, allowing you to further improve muscle definition, while improving strength.
Getting Back Into Fitness After Having A Baby
There’s no denying that a pregnancy isn’t exactly conducive to a great physique. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get there after having a baby.
By using these methods and techniques, you can get back into your fitness lifestyle in both a safe and effective manner.