Seven Tips To Help New Moms Get Fit
Since giving birth two-and-a-half years ago, a few things about my personal appearance have gone by the wayside: My makeup regime (down to a slick of lip balm), my high-maintenance hair (how I miss you, cherry red!) and most significantly, my belly.
While my experience with twin pregnancy was quite manageable, even pleasant, the physical after-effects have been much less enjoyable. My post-baby body never "bounced back" the way some of my friends' physiques did. Not that I'm pointing a finger at genetics -- I'm well aware that most of the reason I'm carrying some extra weight is because I've done absolutely nothing to prevent it. Mind you, I was hardly a fitness freak before having kids, but I did take tap dancing lessons and frequently took the one-hour walk from my workplace to my home (not to mention nights out dancing well into the wee hours). These days, I get no exercise other than pushing Sadie and Bridget in their stroller or playing with them at the indoor playground. And I feel like I have a great excuse: Between full-time caregiving, freelance writing and attempting to get some laundry/dishes/dusting done, I don't feel I have the time, energy or extra cash to invest in any kind of exercise program.
On the other hand, excuses don't change the fact that I'm dissatisfied with the state of my shape, and I know that my lack of exercise will negatively affect my general health. I want to be around for a long time to enjoy my little girls, and I know that being more physically active will improve my cardiovascular health, as well as my waistline. I know I'll never be the trim size 8 I was in university, but I'm perfectly okay with that. I just want to gain strength, energy and feel more satisfied with how I look in my clothes.
Even still, I whine: I'm so tired! I hate exercising! I have no time to work out! Is there hope for flabby moms like me?
Lhara Eben is a Toronto-based personal trainer who knows the challenges of mixing motherhood and fitness -- She's also a mom to toddler Oliver. Eben acknowledges that it's tough to make time for yourself when you are a busy parent, but says that exercise is an essential part of maintaining a well-balanced life.
"The main reasons for letting fitness fall by the wayside are no time, no energy, lack of knowledge about what kind of exercise to do, and guilt," says Eben. "Moms say, 'I can't take an hour for myself. I should be playing with my child, or tackling another chore, or trying to get some work done so my career does not disappear like my waistline'. But those excuses mean that more than half our population is overweight. There are so many ways to fit physical activity into your life."
Eben also points out that it's as important for your kids as it is for you. "You will feel better and you will be a better mother because you are healthy," she says. "And childhood obesity is tragically on the rise, so we need to lead by example. No more excuses, moms. Your reasons may seem unconquerable, but they are not as important as reclaiming your life".
Here are Lhara Eben's seven tips to help new moms make time for fitness:
1. Work it out on the go
"Exercise is cumulative. If you absolutely do not have 60 minutes to devote to breaking a sweat, try 10 minute bursts throughout the day. Brush your teeth, then do 20 push-ups and 20 squat jumps and the plank for one minute. Put your little one down for a nap, and put off the laundry until you have done 10 burpees (yes, like Grade 9 gym class), 10 lower back extension supermans and the wonderful plank again. Our abs have been put through hell after pregnancy and delivery, we need to reclaim them! If the weather is nice, hit the park. While your little one is enjoying the sandbox, try some tricep dips -- The box is the perfect height. Then, some step-ups to work that butt. Add all that up and you have put together a pretty decent workout. You haven't neglected anyone or anything, and it hasn't cost a cent."
2. Enlist a partner in crime
"Make a date with a friend to go to a class once a week. Put your partner or other trusted babysitter on childcare duty, and then box, spin, dance or downward dog for the evening. Committing to a friend will make it that much harder to cancel. And you will learn from an expert and not have to do all the motivating yourself. Plus, you get out of the house for the night."
3. Spend your money wisely
"If money is a concern, there are many exercise DVDs (from pilates to "shredding" to yoga), online programs or podcasts available. With a little research, you can find something that suits your style. It may also be worth investing in a few sessions with a personal trainer to make sure you learn the moves correctly if you plan to work out on your own. Any good trainer can design a program suited specifically to your physical needs and your personal schedule."
4. Exercise with your baby
"Try a 'mom and baby' fitness class. That way, you can meet other moms and suffer those squats together. Or you can do it on your own at home. If your baby is still pretty immobile, plop them on a mat and work out. Babies love it when mom does push-ups over top of them and sneaks in kisses. Or throw baby into the Bjorn and lunge and squat her into sleepyland bliss. If you are in the toddler phase, attention spans become more limited, and this is where shorter bursts of exercise come into play. You just have to get a bit more creative. My 17-month-old knows how to squat and does a pretty impressive push-up! Whatever mommy does, baby likes to try."
5. Plan healthy snacks ahead of time
"The biggest issue is moms not planning ahead for themselves. They always remember to pack healthy snacks for their kids but neglect their own needs. Mom must eat frequently (every 2-3 hrs) in order to keep up their energy. Not big meals, but fruit, veggies, hummus and pita, almond butter and apple slices. These snacks are appropriate for kids too. If you are breastfeeding, you need to be even more conscious of bringing food for yourself because the baby will deplete your energy. We burn anywhere from 500-750 extra calories when nursing full time, so it's best to eat high-energy, dense foods. Nuts, yogurt, complex carbs, mozzarella cheese - protein, protein, protein! Don't grab a cookie or granola bar."
6. Drink Up
"To keep hydrated, always carry around your water bottle. Often we feel lethargic due to dehydration, not hunger. Skip the juice, it has too much sugar. And avoid too much caffeine, it's only a quick fix. One cup of coffee is fine, but then go for green tea. It has great antioxidant properties and it will give you a little boost too. But mostly, drink lots of water."
7. Earlier to bed = More energy
"Once your little one is in bed, it's tempting to finish up all the things you had planned to get done that day. But prioritize! Going through your closet and purging your clothing is not a necessity. If you are feeling exhausted, adjust your bedtime. If you go to bed earlier and get a good sleep, you'll have the energy to exercise. And then you'll fit in to all the cute outfits you were planning to give away!"
Have a post-baby fitness success story? We'd love to hear it! Feel free to share your secrets for getting in shape in the comments below...