Most of us know that exercise of any kind during pregnancy is extremely good for mother and baby. Regardless of our prenatal activities, post baby, we want to regain control of our lives and bodies and yet we often put this on hold. As a new mom, our babies (and partners, careers…) tend to take precedence before ourselves. We are the giver of life–and yet as new mothers we rarely focus on our own well being–emotional, mental, and physical health.
As a runner and pre and post natal fitness coach, I was active throughout both of my pregnancies and in a lot of ways was able to “bounce back” to exercise soon after delivering both of my boys. But it took a lot of work. While I was fortunate not to have any complications with both pregnancies and labors, I was able to get back to exercise and run full marathons less than 5 months postpartum. Not every mother can, should, or want to do exactly this, but for me it was important to get back to something that made me happy. While I wouldn’t advise most postpartum women to go out and run a marathon, integrating something that makes one feel good about themselves as a person is important. It’s about making space for yourself.
Running was part of my life before I got pregnant and being active is now literally my job. Postpartum I had to build myself back up physically. In doing so–even if it meant going for a walk or a yoga routine–I realized it was critical for my overall mental stability. For me, it’s less about how my body looks but how it feels. Physically and emotionally. Yes, I’m tired a lot (what new mother isn’t?!) but being able to fit in a run, teach a class or coach others is incredibly fulfilling and leaves me feeling stimulated and ‘good tired’ vs drained and exhausted.
Having a routine for yourself is crucial, even when your baby doesn’t yet have one. Babies are unpredictable in their feeding and sleeping habits, which makes integrating a daily activity for yourself challenging. Regaining control of one aspect of one’s life when the rest of it can feel (or is!) upended is essential. After I gave birth, the first few weeks postpartum were a blur and a whirlwind. It was incredibly stressful trying to figure out how to care for a newborn, learning to breastfeed and figuring out supply vs demand, and allowing time for my body to heal. Once I was able to master the art of getting out of the house, I made it my mission to talk a walk every single day. Gradually this turned into running as I got stronger physically. There were setbacks, but overall being able to do something for myself was hugely important.
As my children grow, it’s still not easy. Even though being active is also part of my career, it’s still challenging to find balance. Just as I think naps/sleeping/eating schedules are down, there is a growth spurt or regression and everything is thrown off. But I get myself back on track. I know that exercise postpartum helps me grow not only my physical strength, but it allows me to reclaim my body that changed during pregnancy and the birthing process. As a fitness coach it’s incredibly rewarding knowing I can make a difference by helping others build their strength and confidence. Equally important is knowing–and doing–something for ourselves that allows us to build our sense of self and reestablishing our identity as a mother.