The milestones of new motherhood? Your baby's first smile, your first shower. And with our postpartum workout, you'll reach another achievement: a strong, toned body.
From the minute your baby is born, it's a whole new world. Your life will be defined by new landmarks, including the magical first time when your baby's eyes meet yours, and the mundane but still happy occasion of your own first post-delivery shower. Such milestones are so meaningful because they mark moments in your brand-new life as a mother.
One milestone you're probably eager to reach now is getting your body back into prepregnancy shape. To help you get there, exercise physiologist and Reebok master trainer Lenita Anthony of San Diego, Calif., has designed the following routine just for new moms in the first two months postpartum. As soon as you feel ready and get your doctor's go-ahead, begin this workout to regain strength and flexibility. Some tips: Before beginning the workout, do five minutes of walking to limber up. Do some shoulder rolls, arms circles, cat backs and a few easy squats (without the baby) to complete your warm-up. Finish your workout by stretching all of your major muscle groups. For best results, aim to do the workout three to four times a week.
Your baby will grow and change every day, and watching this miraculous development is the great joy of parenthood. But you will change, too, as your body recuperates, your emotions settle and your mind adjusts to the new responsibilities of being a mom. Enjoy your new life!
Mama's First Moves
Try these gentle moves in the first few weeks after giving birth to help you regain strength and flexibility (with your doctor's approval, of course).
Pelvic Tilts: Lie on the floor face up, knees bent and feet flat. Contract your abdominals gently, tilting pelvis upward. Begin with 10 tilts and progress to 25. To progress further, perform the same exercise in a squat position, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, with your back against a wall.
Shoulder Squeeze: Practice squeezing your shoulder blades down and together while sitting and breastfeeding. Hold each squeeze for a few seconds. Begin with 5 squeezes and progress to l0.
Belly Breathing: Lie on the floor face up, knees bent and feet flat. Place hands on lower belly. Inhale, filling belly into hands, then exhale, bringing navel toward spine. Progress by doing the same exercise sitting cross-legged. Begin with 8 breaths and progress to 25.
Kegels: Contract the muscles around the vagina and hold for 10 seconds; then slowly release. Aim for 5 sets of 10 reps at a time. Do 3–4 times a day.
THE NEW-MOM WORKOUT
1. STATIONARY LUNGE: Hold your baby in a front carrier against your chest and take a staggered stance, with 1 foot in front of the other, feet separated hip-width apart, back heel lifted [A]. Contract your abs, keeping your torso straight and upright. Bend both knees, keeping front knee in line with front ankle as back knee approaches the floor [B]. Straighten both legs and return to starting position, but do not lock knees. Do 1 set of 10–12 reps; switch legs and repeat. Strengthens legs, buttocks and calves.
2. SQUAT: Hold your baby against your chest and stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, legs straight but not locked [A]. Keep your lower back in a neutral position and bend knees into a squat, lowering your torso toward the floor. Don't let hips drop below knees [B]. Straighten your legs and repeat. Do 1–2 sets of 12–15 reps. Strengthens legs and buttocks.
3. CAT POSE: Place your baby on the floor and kneel on all fours above her with your hands on either side of her body. Smile at your baby as you bring your navel back toward your spine and round your back as if to pull your abdominals up under your rib cage. Say "ahh" as you contract your abs. Release and repeat for 30 seconds (approximately 12–15 reps). When you finish, add 1 set of Kegel exercises (see "Mama's First Moves" on opposite page). Strengthens abs and pelvic-floor muscles.
4. PLANK POSE: When Exercise 3 no longer feels challenging, try this move: From the same all-fours position, keep hips square and extend 1 leg back behind you, then the other leg, staying balanced on your hands and balls of your feet. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Maintain pose for 30 seconds, interacting with your baby; don't let your belly sag (put 1 knee on the floor, if necessary). Strengthens abs and back.
5. CURL-UPS: Lie on the floor face up, knees bent and in line with hips. Lift up feet so calves are about parallel to the floor. Prop up your baby against your thighs, holding her under her arms. Lift your head and shoulder blades off the floor; then use your abs to lift your hips about 1 or 2 inches off the floor. Do 1 set of 10–12 reps. Strengthens abs.
6. TOE DIPPING: Lie on the floor face up, legs in the same position as Exercise 5. Hold your baby high above your chest. Lower toes of 1 leg slowly toward the floor. Return to starting position; then dip the toes of the other leg. Do 1–2 sets of 10–12 reps (dipping both legs equals 1 rep). Strengthens abs, arms and shoulders.
7. UPPER-BACK SQUEEZES: Hold your baby under her armpits out in front of you and stand with feet about hip-width apart. Contract abs, balancing your body weight over your feet. Squeeze shoulder blades down and together, lifting the baby so your elbows are even with your shoulders. Hold the squeeze for 4 seconds; then release, lower the baby and repeat. Do 1 set of 10–12 reps. Strengthens upper back.
8. BABY ROW: Stand with feet farther than hip-width apart and hold your baby with both hands. Bend knees and lean forward until your back is parallel to the floor and your arms are hanging straight down [A]. Bring baby up to you [B]. Lower the baby and repeat. Do 1 set of 10–12 reps. Strengthens middle back, shoulders and biceps.