Post Natal Pick Me Up

Getting back into exercise after the birth of your baby
 


The baby has arrived. In fact, the baby arrived some time ago and I think my fitness left then too! When, where and how do I start to feel my best again?

I have been inspired by a friend of mine who after six weeks has become very motivated; she has taken action on her goals and with an increased confidence is well on her road to becoming firmer, fitter and stronger. She is on the road to a healthier happier and more fulfilled life.

Several years after having children, she decided that she needed to ‘just do it!’ No more excuses; she set herself goals, wrote a plan to achieve them and found a friend to start exercising with.

She started with “I am going to walk for 30 minutes a day”. Walking is an activity that many people can do. Put on comfortable walking shoes and clothes and carry a water bottle with you. Choose a safe route and exercise in the cooler part of the day.

A motivational tool was to select a picture as inspiration to help with her goals. She put it up on her wardrobe, so that she could see it every day to remind her of her commitment to herself. Making a realistic step by step plan was what really worked for her, making it a priority to stick to this plan. “Life is always going to happen and things will get in the way”, she said. “I need to make exercise a priority now; otherwise I will never do it”. It is always easy to put off getting started but making consistent small goals will help this process.

Music can provide inspiration and as your fitness improves, select powerful music to work out to. Sometimes more ‘chill out’ music can provide more relaxation as it is important to know when to put less intensity into your workout to give your body a break. Listen to your body and if you are feeling particularly tired, decide whether a rest or a day off is needed. Alternatively a relaxing stroll or a less intense exercise session can help maintain regularity of exercise whilst providing your body with needed relaxation.

There are many exercise choices and fitness programs available, but there are some better choices for during and after pregnancy. Your Fitness Professional, Doctor, Midwife, Continence & Women’s Health Physiotherapist or Physiotherapist with a special interest in Women’s Health can advise you about the types of exercises or fitness programs that are suitable for your level of health and fitness.

When getting started with any exercise after a long break, choose something you will enjoy. Enjoying what you do is often the key to keeping motivated.

Start with a time or distance that suits your own fitness level. This may only be 5 minutes to begin with. Work at a pace that feels light to moderate. Gradually build up your distance, time and pace as you adjust to the exercise. Feel your muscles loosen and become more flexible; pay attention to any area that feels uncomfortable.

Sometimes it is a matter of your body adjusting to moving again and other times you may need to stretch those muscles during and at the end of your exercise. If any aches or discomforts continue then stop exercising and seek the advice of a health professional.

If you haven’t exercised for some time it is advised that you seek the advice of your medical practitioner before you start exercising. Getting your blood pressure checked and having an overall fitness and health assessment gives you a baseline measurement and ensures that you get any advice that you specifically need.

An important consideration is your posture, your back and your pelvis position. Muscles weakened during a season of less activity will not 'hold you up' well with a dramatic increase in exercise. Think about gradually lengthening the time that you exercise for, or increasing the intensity a little at a time, to ensure that your core muscles have time to adapt. If your back, pelvis or hips ache after a walk or some other form of exercise, this indicates that the strength and endurance of these muscles need some special attention. Refocus on standing firm, feet forward, looking ahead at the horizon while scanning to watch where you are walking, and if you do experience any pain or discomfort that does not settle after your first two exercise sessions, seek professional advice.

For women incontinence can be an issue and is quite common when recommencing exercise or increasing exercise intensity. To find out more on how to improve your pelvic floor, and what to consider visit the Pelvic Floor First website at www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au

Don't let this area hold you back from restarting your exercise plan. Focus on improving the fitness of your whole body one day at a time. Small improvements in muscle tone, flexibility and endurance will all add up to regaining your fitness and going forward from this day, so today you can make a start.

Most gyms offer pregnancy and post natal fitness assessments for those joining and starting an exercise program. This allows you to get specific advice and exercises tailored to your fitness level, with the help of a qualified fitness instructor. Exercising inside gives options for when the weather or environment is not suitable for exercising regularly outside, and has the added safety and social benefit.

My friend chose an exercise partner who also made a commitment to getting started and together they motivate each other. If you ask a friend to start walking with you, what are the chances that you will quit in the first week? Try it and you will quickly see the instant benefits.

“Exercising gives me time for myself, which means I feel happier with me. You have to look after yourself in order to look after others”.

There is nothing quite like a ‘food incentive’! While a well balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables will suit most people in improving their overall well-being, it is important to remember that healthy food doesn’t need to be boring, so don’t forget to treat yourself after you have exercised with a fruit smoothie or something similar that you will really enjoy. Your doctor or dietician will be happy to provide you with information on any dietary queries or concerns you may have.

Feeling happier from exercise comes from several sources. Endorphins are our bodies natural feel good hormone that are released when we exercise regularly. Getting out and exercising provides a stress release, as does taking time out for yourself.

So, if you think you quite like the idea of beginning a Post Natal Pick-Me-Up, take some advice from my friend and `JUST DO IT’, with guidance from your doctor, health professional or fitness instructor to help you select an approach that is right for you.

Disclaimer: This article provides general advice only. For individual advice on fitness and exercise suitable for your age, current health and fitness level, please consult a health or fitness professional.
 

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