Walk it Off!

Grab your baby, head outside and get back into shape with this easy walk/jog workout. The right gear makes it safe and fun for both of you.

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The right gear can transform working out from an uncomfortable chore to a welcome outing for new moms and their babies. This is the message I heard from countless mothers while doing research for Walking Through Pregnancy and Beyond (Lyons Press, 2004), which I co-wrote with Mark and Lisa Fenton. And it's why this postpartum fitness program is centered on three key pieces of equipment: a front baby carrier, a backpack-style carrier and a jogging stroller. Each accommodates your growing baby at a different developmental stage so that she stays safe and comfortable while you get mobile and get your body back.

Because your strength and stamina will, ideally, increase steadily as you recover from pregnancy and childbirth, this program consists of three progressively more demanding exercise phases: walking, hill climbing and walk/jog workouts.

Months 1-5 Walking A plus: The motion of walking will soothe even the crankiest little one. Note: See "Postpartum Moves" for easy exercises you can do before or after this workout program.

Front Carrier Benefit :Keeps baby close and secure so you can bond and get some exercise. Look for Support for baby's head, neck (it should keep her chin off her chest) and spine. Make sure that the carrier is easy to put on, take off and adjust. A lumbar panel that buckles onto shoulder straps to support your back is a plus. Be sure to carefully check weight requirements for the baby. Our favorites: The BabyBjí¶rn Baby Carrier Active (shown above; $119)

(Month 1) Until you get your doctor's OK to resume exercising (usually at your six-week checkup, later if you've had a C-section), don't do anything more than taking easy walks. If walking causes or exacerbates any bleeding, stop immediately and contact your doctor.

(Month 2) Start off slowly and gradually increase the length of your walks by 5 percent to 15 percent each week, taking several short walks instead of one longer one if you want. From now on, begin and end each workout with 5 minutes of easy walking to warm up and cool down. Note: Also begin a mini-stretching routine after each walk so it's a habit by the time you add speed bursts, longer distances and hill climbs.

Monday | Two walks, 10 minutes eachTuesday | Walk 20 minutesWednesday | OffThursday | Walk 20 minutes

Friday | Walk 15 minutesSaturday | Walk 25 minutesSunday | Off Total: 100 minutes/week

(Month 3) Add speed bursts, which means alternately picking up the pace for roughly a minute, then resuming your normal pace. Note: If 150 minutes per week seems daunting, look at it as five 30-minute walks.

Monday | Walk 25 minutesTuesday | Walk 30 minutes. Include six 1-minute speed bursts with 1 minute of slower-paced walking between each.Wednesday | Two walks, 10 minutes eachThursday | Walk 25 minutesFriday | Walk 15 minutesSaturday | Walk 35 minutesSunday | Off Total: 150 minutes/week

(Month 4) Adding a sixth day to the program allows you to keep workouts relatively short and still make progress. Note: Meet a friend to socialize and walk with at least once a week, and gradually increase the length of your walks.

Monday | Walk 25 minutes Tuesday | Walk 35 minutes. Include speed bursts of 1–3 minutes for a total of 12 minutes. Follow each with at least 1 minute at a slower pace. Wednesday | Two walks, 10 and 15 minutes each Thursday | Walk 30 minutes Friday | Walk 20 minutes Saturday | Walk 45 minutes Sunday | Off Total: 180 minutes/week

(Month 5) Increase your total walking time to 200 minutes a week, and make sure that at least one walk is 45 minutes long. This will continue to build endurance and facilitate weight loss. Note: Reward your progress with snappy new workout clothes that show off your changing body.

Monday | Walk 35 minutes Tuesday | Walk 30 minutes. Include speed bursts of 2–4 minutes, for a total of 18–20 minutes. Wednesday | Two walks, 15 and 20 minutes each Thursday | Walk 35 minutes Friday | Walk 20 minutes Saturday | Walk 45 minutes Sunday | Off Total: 200 minutes/week

Months 6-8 Hill Climbing/Hiking Working against gravity increases the calorie burn without excess stress or pounding. Bonus: more defined legs.Backpack-style Carrier Benefit Goes where rugged strollers can't and keeps your hands free. Look for A smooth, padded frame, five-point harness, adjustable, supportive seat that keeps your baby's legs apart, and her knees below buttocks, and a stable kickstand that won't pinch little fingers. For you: an easily adjustable harness with plenty of padding and an adjustable hip belt with lumbar support. Before buying, try adjusting the harness and getting the baby in and out. Our favorite Kelty Journey ($155)

(Month 6) Take it up a notch with easy climbing on gentle hills 1 day a week. Note: Try to hike with another adult, and bring your cell phone, water and plenty of sunscreen for both you and your baby.

Monday | Walk 35 minutes Tuesday | Walk 25 minutes. Include several gentle hills, shooting for 1–2 minutes of climbing. Wednesday | Walk 40 minutes Thursday | Walk 30 minutes Friday | Walk 25 minutes Saturday | Walk 55 minutes Sunday | Off Total: 210 minutes/week

(Month 7) Escalate to a maximum of 2 hill sessions per week to let your muscles recover. Note: Attach toys to loops on the carrier to keep your baby busy on longer outings.

Monday | Walk 40 minutes Tuesday | Hike 30 minutes on gentle, rolling terrain. Wednesday | Walk 30 minutes Thursday | Walk 35 minutes Friday | Walk briskly 20 minutes Saturday | Hike 45 minutes on gentle hills or rolling terrain. Sunday | Off Total: 200 minutes/week (The extra challenge of working uphill compensates for the slight drop in total time.)

(Month 8) Now you're fit enough to add speed bursts back in. Note: If the backpack routine becomes grueling or uncomfortable, go solo on your long walk each week.

Monday | Walk 45 minutes Tuesday | Walk 35 minutes. Include 5–6 speed bursts. Either pick up the pace, go uphill or do a combination of the two for 20 minutes total in 2- to 5-minute segments. Wednesday | Walk 35 minutes Thursday | Walk 40 minutes Friday | Walk briskly 20 minutes Saturday | Hike 50 minutes or more, taking short breaks as needed. Sunday | Off Total: 225 minutes/week

Months 9+ jog/walk workouts You're fit enough to add jogging intervals, so your body gets challenged by both impact and a faster pace. jogging stroller Benefit: Lightweight, agile, shock-absorbing, fun ride for baby. Look for A fixed front wheel, multiposition canopy, weather cover, supportive padding for baby, padded five-point harness, and foot and hand brakes. Suspension is a plus for trails and bumpy conditions. Our favorite: Dreamer Design Rebound ($300)

(Month 9) Gradually increase jogging time, but avoid the temptation to overdo it: Small increments are key to letting your body adjust. Note: Do straight-knee leg lifts and squats at least twice a week to prepare your quadriceps and knees, and stretch your calf muscles well after each workout.

Monday | Walk briskly 35 minutes Tuesday | Walk 10 minutes. Then jog 1 minute, walk 1 minute and repeat 4 times. Walk 5 minutes (23 minutes total) Wednesday | Walk 30 minutes Thursday | Walk 45 minutes Friday | Walk 10 minutes. Then jog 1 minute, walk 1 minute and repeat 4 times. Walk 5 minutes (23 minutes total) Saturday | Walk 60 minutes Sunday | Off Total jogging: 8 minutes/week Total exercise: 216 minutes/week

(Month 10) Even though jogging boosts intensity, keep one long walk on the calendar each week. Note: If you notice joint pain, particularly in your knees or ankles, reduce jogging time or switch to all walking.

Monday | Walk briskly 35 minutes Tuesday | Walk 10 minutes. Then jog 2 minutes, walk 1 minute and repeat 4 times. Walk 5 minutes (27 minutes total) Wednesday | Walk 30 minutes Thursday | Walk 45 minutesFriday | Walk 10 minutes. Then jog 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes and repeat once. Walk 10 minutes (34 minutes total) Saturday | Walk 60 minutes Sunday | Off Total jogging: 18 minutes/week Total exercise: 231 minutes/week (Month 11 and beyond) Try adding short running intervals. But it's OK to stick with walk/jog or even all-walk workouts. Hills and speed bursts add intensity and fun, so continue to include them. Note: Avoid tough workouts on consecutive days.

Monday | Walk briskly 30 minutes Tuesday | Walk 10 minutes, jog 20 minutes, walk 5 minutes (35 minutes total) Wednesday | Walk 30 minutes Thursday | Walk 45 minutes Friday | Walk 10 minutes. Then walk 1 minute, jog 1 minute, run 1 minute and repeat 6 times. Walk 5 minutes (33 minutes total) Saturday | Walk briskly 60 minutes or hike 90 minutes or more, taking breaks. Sunday | Off Total jogging/running: 32 minutes/week Total exercise: 233 minutes/week

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