I am 32 weeks pregnant and now that I can see the end in sight, I am starting to think about what my post-pregnancy workout routine could and should look like. Prior to becoming pregnant, and up until about 8 weeks ago, I was still doing Revolt fitness classes, running, hiking and walking. I started to notice my muscles and ligaments becoming more achy and agitated, not being able to maintain a normal energy level, and increased shortness of breath with even a moderate workout. So, for the rest of my pregnancy, I've modified my routine to include more low-impact exercise, like long, hilly walks (5-6 miles) and regular Pilates sessions.
I totally realize that my body won't just "bounce back" after baby, and that I'll need to work hard to achieve the body I had before, or better. Do you have any advice about how to scale up a post-pregnancy workout? I don't want to run headlong into an overly-ambitious routine and hurt myself in ways that I don't anticipate. What types and frequency of activities do you suggest for post-baby weight loss and general fitness?
Sounds like you have followed the perfect prenatal fitness program and you’re headed towards being a mom with the right attitude. You, and your body, will be very out of sorts once the baby arrives. Your sleep habits will be all over the map, as will your meals (and don’t forget about your emotions), so the first couple of weeks will just be spent getting used to this journey in life. However, when things settle and life starts to feel “normal” again here is what I advise you do:
Start back easy and with zero expectations. Get out for some light walks with you and baby, and once your lochia has stopped (if you deliver through caesarian then you will need to wait at least 6 weeks) you can begin some gentle Kegel exercises to start to strengthen your pelvic floor. If that feels good, then add some very basic lower core exercises, such as heel raises and toe taps and pick up the pace of your walks.
After a couple of weeks, and if everything is feeling good (postpartum recovery is different for everyone) then get back into your Pilates classes. I wouldn’t suggest jumping right back into where you left off so take a few easier classes before you start to ask too much of your core muscles. You can also start to add some more intensity in your cardio workouts, but stay away from running for some time. When you are ready to start running, start with a walk/run program as it may take some time to get your running strength and fitness back.
Again, you and your body will know when it feels good to add more intensity but it is important to do so gradually. When you go back to your fitness classes make sure that you let the instructor know how far postpartum you are, and ask your instructor for a few modifications that you can do during the class when the rest of the class is performing something that you are not quite ready for, such as anything high impact. I just had a client come back after 3 weeks and I made sure that any time the rest of the class was doing something that I felt wasn’t suited for her I gave her a modification. Ultimately it was her choice what she pushed herself to do, but I wanted to make sure she had an exercise that was safe.
Don’t fret about the weight loss. It will come off. As long as you are drinking plenty of water and fueling yourself with energy rich, clean foods. You are no longer eating for two, remember that! Take these first few months and get back into it slowly. Take small steps and each day push a little bit harder. Pay attention to what doesn’t feel good and understand that it may be scary and your body is going to feel different than it did before. Be kind to it and yourself. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get in all of your workouts because you are about to head into uncharted territory and you will need time to strategize how to fit in workouts while being a mom. However, something is always better than nothing so even if you can’t fit in an entire workout one day, find some time throughout your day to do a few core exercises, squats, lunges and pushups, all of which can be done with baby in tow. Eventually your body is going to feel as good as new and you can push yourself as hard as you were before your pregnancy.
Attached - Hilary Duff having lunch with a friend after a workout in Hollywood.