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The first exercises
If you’re feeling up to it and your doctor gives the go-ahead, you can begin these easy exercises just days after giving birth. Start with the first 2 exercises in the first 3 weeks; after that, add exercise 3. These will prepare you for a more rigorous workout by week 6.
1. Belly Breathing Lie in bed or on the floor, knees bent, feet flat. Inhale and expand abdomen; then contract abs as tightly as possible, pulling navel in toward your spine. At the same time, tilt pelvis upward, bringing hips toward lower ribs. Do 5 Kegels, building to 10. Release. Aim for at least 15 reps per day. When you can do 15 reps, begin to lift head, neck and shoulders with each ab contraction. Strengthens abdominals. (see "How to do Kegels" at left)
2. Hamstring Stretch Lying in bed or on the floor, bend one knee in toward your chest and wrap a towel around the arch of your foot. Holding a towel end in each hand, straighten leg in the air, stretching the rear of your thigh. Hold this position for approximately 20–30 seconds; then point and flex your foot 10 times to loosen calves. Stretches hamstrings and calves.
3. Wall Sit Lean your entire back against a wall with feet separated and out in front of you. Bend knees, slowly lowering thighs to a parallel position, knees in line with ankles. Hold this position for 10–15 seconds. You can add Kegel exercises here if you like. Strengthens quadriceps, calves and buttocks.
the total body workout
At six weeks postpartum you’ll probably be ready to resume a strengthening and toning workout. The following exercises can be done with an Xertube (an exercise tube with handles) or fitness band. They were designed by Debi Pillarella, M.Ed., mother of two and director of pre- and postpartum fitness programs at Fitness Points — a medically based fitness and wellness facility in northwestern Indiana. The lower-body moves she’s designed here will help you regain balance; the upper-body moves will help you gain strength for lifting and carrying your ever-growing bundle of love.
About the equipment: Xertubes and fitness bands come in different strengths; choose the resistance that allows you to complete all recommended reps and sets for each exercise. The last 2 reps of each set should challenge you while still allowing you to use good form. (Note: Directions are given here for working out with an Xertube. To purchase an Xertube or a fitness band, call SPRI Products at 800-222-7774; prices for the Xertube range from about $5 to $8; for the fitness band, from about $1.50 to $3. If you use a fitness band for these exercises, wrap one end around each hand.)