5 Tips For Postpartum Exercise

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Working Out Postpartum | Central Mass MomOne of the hardest parts about being postpartum is finding the time to exercise or move your body with small children around. 

Small babies have unpredictable sleep schedules which can prevent us from finding a good time to do, well, anything. Working out around older kids can sometimes feel like you are constantly being asked to help, get snacks, entertain, etc. Ugh. So how do we work out with a full schedule and managing the kids? 

First things first – let’s establish this before we get any further: working out with kids is HARD. The smaller the baby, the more tricky it will be to fit in movement. Those first few months of trying to figure out a good nap schedule in combination with a kid who is still learning how to sleep through the night are not conducive to finding a great time to move your body. 

Here are some top tips to help get in movement sessions when you are the parent of a small person. 

Tips for Postpartum Exercise

1. Workout in what you are wearing.

Remove that barrier of needing to change your clothes to get movement in. You don’t need to be in leggings, you don’t need to wear shoes, you don’t even need to be wearing a bra to dive into your movement session for the day. Knowing that you can work out in whatever you happen to be wearing right now allows you to just get started right now. And getting started is often the hardest part. 

Although I often live my life in leggings and workout tops, I also work out in my pajamas, and actually prefer to workout barefoot! 

While you are working out in whatever, notice how this feels in your body. Do you feel better or worse while moving barefoot? or in a dress? or in your pajamas? How about after… how does it feel to not have to go change back into “life” clothes? Remove that activewear barrier and just get moving. 

2. Adjust the “good workout” mindset.

Let’s dig into the narrative of what makes a workout “good”? 

What are the narratives that you have written about what a “good” workout looks like? How long? How intense? Where? With who? Do you have to break your workouts up? Are you uninterrupted? What are you wearing? 

We have to shift the narrative and adjust our all or nothing mindset. When we hold onto the narrative of “goodness” and things don’t fit that narrow storyline, we quit. Or move on to another program thinking “this one will be better”. The problem maybe wasn’t the programming, and it definitely wasn’t you… It’s the beliefs you hold about what deems a workout successful, or worth it, or good enough.

What if we decided that those stories don’t serve us anymore, or at least not right now? And if we decided 10 minute pockets are great, and random bands, or rocks, or even kids could serve as weights? What if we were more lenient with our tracking and accepted the snack breaks instead of getting frustrated by them?  

3. Work out while kids are awake.

Real talk– working out with my kids is not fun, it’s not pretty, and honestly, I don’t think that they find it super fun either… BUT I highly recommend working out while your kids are awake because naptime and bedtime are SACRED. 

Naptime and bedtime are when we can relax and recharge. Yes, movement can be a piece of that – BUT if you workout while the kids are awake then at nap time you have all the more time to do something that maybe you can’t do while they are awake like sleep, or watch junky non-kid friendly tv, or have an actual conversation with another adult without children whining and screaming in the background. 

Working out with your kids around models that you value your health – not like the “oh I workout because I want to be healthy and working out is good for me” modeling; it models that you truly believe that your physical, mental and emotional health as a PERSON is important. That you value the importance of doing something for yourself.  This is imperative for your children to see and internalize. So turn on the TV, break out the good snacks and move your body while your kids are awake. 

4. Have a structured plan.

If you are fumbling through Pinterest, Instagram, or finding some random internet workout then you are likely to be much less successful than if you already have a structured plan. Having exactly what you are going to do all prepared and laid out is going to eliminate a major barrier and a major mental load to getting started.

Be sure that when selecting a plan you are using a trainer who has additional trainings and certifications in postpartum fitness. A whiteboard where you can write down your workouts is also super fun – and a good distraction for kids!   

5. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT… Set strong boundaries around workout time.

We have to actually carve out the time we want and need to work out. This time will not just magically show up. Something that can be helpful is to verbally say aloud to your kids and partner is “I am going to go workout at/after _______” This can take a little bit of an adjustment period at first because putting your needs and taking care of yourself can feel like somewhat of an inconvenience for everyone else, and as moms, we typically don’t like inconveniencing people. Your kids will adjust, your partner will adjust. YOUR HEALTH IS IMPORTANT. 

During your workout, it is ok for your kids to have to wait for you to help them. Finish your set, tell them I have 5 more reps. One fun thing that a colleague suggests her moms do is wear a tiara and tell their kids that mommy can’t help anyone during her tiara time. 

It sounds silly but this actually gives kids a concrete visual of when mom is wearing this silly thing on her head I have to practice patience and waiting.

So these are some of my top tips for working out as a mom, with kids around, with a busy schedule! 

Do these feel doable? Anything that hasn’t been suggested to you? Which tip are you going to focus on this week? 

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Kara Coffin
Kara is a Perinatal Fitness Specialist and Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Coach.  A momma of two amazing littles, lover of the beach, former college athlete who has never met a pizza she didn’t like. She lives in Central Massachusetts with her husband, 2 kids, 2 crazy dogs, 5 chickens, and a beta fish named Nemo 2.0. Through her online and one on one coaching, Kara helps women find joy in motherhood through movement using rehabilitative and corrective exercise strategies. She is on a mission to dispel myths that leave women fearful of movement and empower women with knowledge and confidence to help them better navigate their new role as a mother. Kara thinks all problems can be solved with either a chocolate chip cookie or the ocean, and loves checking out local small shops and breweries. Her favorite type of movement right now is hiking with her dogs and is grateful to be surrounded by so much natural beauty here in New England. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Omg, Kara, I LOVE your tips here. They weren’t what I was expecting and that made it that much more meaningful to me. I used to work out daily and now with a one-year-old, I find a gazillion reasons why I can’t. I love the idea of working out while they are awake and adjusting the “good workout” mindset. While I can’t take one-hour quiet yoga classes anymore, I can move 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there… AH, this was super helpful. Thanks a millie!!

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