Have Baby, Will Exercise: Starting Exercise After Having A Baby


You just had a baby. You’re finally starting to emerge from the fog that is learning how to care for a teeny human without an instruction manual and you want to start exercising. Traditionally moms were told to wait six weeks before starting to exercise for a vaginal birth and twelve weeks for a c-section, but many doctors are changing those recommendations to take into account how each individual heals after labor. Once you get the green light to resume working out after giving birth, how do you know where to start?

Finding the time to squeeze in a workout once you become a mom is hard, and you want to make that time count. Assuming you aren’t one of those women who managed to keep up with her marathon training while pregnant, knowing where to spend your limited post-baby workout time can be confusing. Should you focus on crunches? Cardio? Does holding the baby all day count as weight-lifting? I asked fitness expert Lindsay BrinC.P.T. & B.S.E. Exercise Science, what forms of exercise are most important for moms starting a workout routine after giving birth. Brin’s advice is to concentrate on core work and building cardiovascular endurance. She recommends progressive core work (you can check out her eight minute post-natal core workout here) that works on restrengthening your core muscles over time and building endurance through movement–  even something as simple as walking.

Getting involved in a local Stroller Strides club, or finding a mom friend to meet up for walks is a great start if the weather is on your side. But if your roads are covered in snow and the thought of leaving your baby while you go to the gym sends you into a panic, you’ve still got options. There are great free workout resources online. I prefer video workouts because I’m more likely to finish the workout when I have someone cheering me on and there’s music. Plus, you can preview them to see if it looks like something you’ll like before you take the time to put on a bra.

The most important thing to look for in an online workout, whether it’s from a website article or a video, is making sure that it’s being presented by someone with proper fitness certifications, so you can avoid getting hurt. Healing from a pulled muscle is always difficult, but as a new parent you have enough going on with your post-baby body, you don’t need one more physical ailment to deal with. It doesn’t matter how pretty that ocean background looks or how thin the host is, doing a workout designed by someone without proper training is dangerous.

Luckily there are some great fitness channels on YouTubePopsugar is a good source with plenty of ten minute workouts. On the days when getting off the couch to workout for an hour is daunting, telling yourself it’s just ten minutes is a good motivator. Then, if you feel good afterwards, you can add another video. BeFit is another fantastic fitness channel with qualified instructors, and they have videos specifically designed for moms beginning exercise after having a baby.

Some people respond really well to a tough love approach when working out, they enjoy feeling pushed beyond their comfort zone and want an instructor that isn’t afraid to yell at them. Before I had children, not only did I love those types of workouts, I was one of those trainers. But when I first started to exercise after having being on bed rest while pregnant with twins, tough videos made me collapse into tears, turn off the video and console myself with my good friends Ben & Jerry.

After pestering my OB at my six week appointment to clear me to workout and begrudgingly waiting the twelve weeks required for having a c-section, I was astonished by just how out of shape I was the first time I tried to exercise postpartum. I couldn’t stand without back pain or even perform a smooth hamstring circle in time with music, it was like my body wasn’t hearing what my brain was asking it to do. Instead of laughing off Jillian Michaels ordering me to “stick it” while doing lunges, I cried and wondered if I had ruined my body forever, not in terms of appearance, but in terms of the ability to walk and sit up without pain.

If you feel the same way, don’t worry. There are effective workouts with nice instructors out there who will build you up and make you good for trying to exercise, even if your can’t complete the entire routine. Linsday Brin’s Post Natal Beginners HIIT Workout for BeFit  that is less than fifteen minutes and a great place to start (HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, which sounds scary but really means combining periods of rest and activity so your body burns more calories than continuous activity at one steady state).

Even though as a fellow mom I’m super envious of her abs, I love Brin because as an instructor she emphasizes the importance of working within your own comfort zone, so every workout feels like an accomplishment, not a failure. I’ve include one of her workouts here for you to try.

When you’re a new mom who has to both push herself to work out even though you’re tired and find the time to dedicate to exercise in between caring for a baby, you’re more likely to stick to a regular workout schedule when you feel like each session was a success and you enjoy it, not that you barely managed to survive it. I asked Brin why she felt this was such an effective mindset for new moms to have when working out:

6 weeks after your baby is born your body is considered “back to normal”.  Say what?!?!  By normal it means that all systems have returned to their pre-pregnancy state, but you are left with loose muscles, loose skin and baby weight.  So I always recommend a new mom takes it SLOW (the all caps means I am screaming so you listen).  That means do not jump right into any ole’ workout.

A Beginner HIIT workout is perfect for this time, but not because of its intensity.  It’s perfect because you can take it at your own pace.  You work to your maximum comfort, which will improve every single week during the postpartum phase.  You will notice in just 2 weeks time that you are doing a lot more repetitions in the same HIIT workout!  That in itself is a little boost to the confidence and a little motivation.

Feeling motivated? You can try Brin’s Post Natal Beginners HIIT Workout right now:

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So if you’re getting back into exercise after giving birth, make sure to take things slowly, listen to your body, give yourself permission to stop if you are uncomfortable and know that every minute you manage to move your body is an accomplishment, especially when you have an infant.

Have Baby,Will Exercise is a column dedicated to fitness and health for moms, by a mom. As a former personal trainer, group fitness instructor and cupcake addict, I hope to encourage and motivate moms who want to make fitness a part of their lives.

(image:Everett Collection/Shutterstock)

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