The Second Month: I’m more fatigued than ever. On a good day, I jog a few miles. Then I lift light weights at home for an upper-body workout. But I pay for those spurts with renewed exhaustion and do nothing for the next three days. I decide not to worry.
The Third Month: What was I, crazy? Lifting weights? Why, my baby is an ever-increasing resistance workout all by herself! In the crib, out of the crib, on the changing table, down the stairs, in the bath — my back aches. My arms ache. My wrists have developed alarming electrical-shock sensations. I peek ahead in my child-care book: She won’t start walking until when?!
The calorie demands of nursing are not to be denied. By now, I’ve found out that all those friends-of-friends who commenced working out immediately after giving birth — surprise! — were not breastfeeding.
At last, the experience every new mother awaits — my little angel sleeps through the night! I feel as though a shroud has been lifted. On my run this first miraculous day, there is renewed spring in my step. I feel so good, I play with the idea of setting a long-term goal for myself: to run the local mile race next summer. Oh, I know it’s just a fleeting idea right now; I’ve learned enough in three months to know that my priorities are forever changed.
But still, it feels good.
First Steps: An Exercise Program for New Moms
The following “First Steps” routine, designed by pre- and postnatal fitness instructor Bonnie Rote, R.N., will help you regain strength and flexibility. Begin as soon as your doctor gives you the go-ahead.
Days 1–14 After Giving Birth
Kegels (not shown): Contract the vaginal muscles, hold
for l0 seconds, and slowly release. Do this 8–10 times, building to 20–25 reps. Strengthens pelvic-floor muscles.
1. Belly Breathing: Lie faceup with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Inhale; then exhale, pulling your abdominal muscles inward. Hold this contraction for 5 seconds, breathing normally; then relax. To progress: As you contract your abdominals, rotate your pelvis upward, keeping your buttocks and lower back on the floor. Release. Do 8–10 reps, building to 20–25. Strengthens abdominal muscles.
2. Upper-Back Press: Kneel on the floor. Lean forward and rest your forehead on a yoga block or rolled towel, arms relaxed by your sides, palms up, head and neck aligned with your spine. Maintain this position and squeeze shoulder blades together, lifting arms up behind you. Hold for 2 seconds; then release to starting position. Do 5–8 reps, building to 12. When you can do 12 reps with ease, add 1¼2- to 2-pound weights in each hand and progress to 2 sets of 12 reps; rest 30 seconds between sets. Strengthens upper back and rear shoulder muscles.