Hiking is a great way for new moms to get exercise. Not only does it help build strength, but it’s a wonderful way to spend time with friends and other new moms. You can carry your baby in a front carrier or an all-terrain stroller on tougher trails.
Marietta Gilman, 43, of San Rafael, Calif., is a hiking advocate for new parents. A former champion white-water kayaker, she now organizes hikes designed specifically for new moms and dads. “Parents with kids, infants and toddlers are sometimes timid about getting out,” says Gilman, herself a mother of a 3-year-old. “I’m trying to show that you can get out into the world with your kid and have a wonderful time before he’s 4 years old.” Her popular hikes, called Roo Walkabouts, are held three times a week in the Marin County area of Northern California.
But how do you start when you can barely find time to brush your hair? Gilman suggests first finding a few hiking partners. Check out new-mom or parenting groups, or check with your gym, church, other members of your childbirth-education class or local Sierra Club. Then buy a guidebook to your area, plot your paths and, as time goes on, add new places to your repertoire to keep hiking interesting. When hiking with others regularly, assign an organizer each month to take care of the logistics.
The following get-your-body-back hiking program is adapted from Gilman’s new video, “Hiking With Baby” ($13, Roo Views; call Blackboard Entertainment at 800-968-2261). It is a progressive program that even brand-new moms can begin. After your fourth week home, and with your doctor’s approval, you can add some strength exercises.
Hiking: Day 1-14
With your doctor’s approval, begin by walking about 2 blocks to 1/4 mile twice a week, depending on your strength, with baby in a front carrier. Stay on flat ground as you regain strength and balance, and wear well-cushioned shoes and thick cotton socks. (If you’ve had a Cesarean section and a front carrier is uncomfortable, use a stroller instead.)
Hiking: Day 15-28
After 2 weeks on flat terrain, add short staircases or small hills (they will help build your butt and calf muscles). Increase distance as you get stronger. To build strength, increase hiking to 4 times a week, 30 minutes per hike.