Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mama Fitness: Stage One

Making time...for exercise, for your partner, for pure pleasure. This new series of articles is a how-to guide and recorder of anecdotes on re-sculpting, as it were, one's body after childbirth, a busy career or life just happening way too fast. Things happen, despite great resolutions, here is how to get back the mojo once you've fallen off the wagon. As I begin this series, I am in need of dropping the 25 or more pounds that have snuck up on me over the past three years. I am determined to do so in a way healthy for both body and mind. So, grab a cup of tea and your motivation and let's take a look at the stages of exercise after baby.
Getting Some/Any Exercise at any time postpartum; a timeline according to number of progeny you have at any given moment.

Stage One: baby in carrier or stroller; easy and efficient. This is the fun stage at which one can walk and talk to a friend, because the baby is mostly a sleepy slug, especially when you are moving about. It is the early stage, before they are talking or grunting, asking for things or swiping the croissant of the child ahead of them in the line at the store, causing a Big, Fat Incident you will remember forever. In my life, this stage was quickly followed by two babies in a double-stroller, not quite as easy, but burning twice the calories. Major part of Stage One: school was a 25-minute walk and I had no car. Man, did I complain about it then, especially on the rainy Atlantic coast of France, (and have my very first fantasies of home education,) but I was in great shape!

Notes on Stage One: Sister, get out there and move! It doesn't matter what time of day or night you have a few free minutes; use them.  A fussy baby is an excellent excuse for a walk with their sweet little body in a sling/wrap/stroller, whatever works best for you.
Get a baby carrier of some sort and learn how to use it. You will both be the happier for it.

Abs; recover them. Kegels: do them. I've heard and had it all; c-section with my first, ligaments stretched beyond all recognition with number 4 and 5, serious lower back issues, especially with number 3. There are ways to do very gentle ab work as soon as you have given birth. Begin by tightening and releasing the muscles of your abdomen. You can do this until the post-partum visit at 6-8 weeks, when your doctor gives you the OK for further exercise. Then you can begin gentle crunches, "cycling" abs and flat-on-your-back, legs straight up, drawing letters with each foot abs. Work up to a hundred a day and you will soon be stronger and slimmer.

Other tips for interesting walks; write a letter home inside your head as you walk, or a novel. I found many stories I could tell or make up about the dogs, landscapes and people I met as I walked alone with my baby buggy. 

You can also, now, listen to a book on an mp3 player, if you are short on stories just now, or music to make you walk/jog with more rhythm. Don't forget to talk and coo to baby about what you are seeing; you can say anything and pretend you are talking to him/her. Nowadays in the grocery store, I look like a madwoman. I got so used to shopping with company and yakking at them that I still find myself talking...and no one is there! 

Don't give up hope, if you are in this stage and feeling tired, down and fat. Those reserves were meant for baby, but the exercise is for you, you owe it to yourself to feel better. The extra pounds may or may not melt off, but keep with it, every step makes a difference. (And this from a lazy choco-holic sitting with her feet up, thinking about a stroll with the dog.) It's true!

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