7 mistakes new moms make trying to get fit after pregnancy

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Once your little miracle has landed in your arms and you've had some time to adjust to your new role as a mother, you probably want to start some kind of exercise regime again. Perhaps to rid yourself of the last baby weight, perhaps to up muscle tone or get your tummy a bit firmer again.

No matter what your goal is you need to approach getting fit after pregnancy a bit different than what you may have done previously to slim down and get bikini ready.

Your body after pregnancy needs something else than endless hours at the gym (thank godness!) or long runs to get its mojo back. Otherwise your efforts are wasted (at best) or can make the road to a fit mom-body even longer.

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Here are the 7 most common mistakes I see new moms make when trying to get fit after pregnancy:

  1. You stress your body by working out too hard during the first weeks

During the first 6 weeks after delivery cortisol levels are higher than normal. Cortisol is the body's stress hormone and plays a role in virtually all body functions – including pregnancy and childbirth.

Cortisol levels rise during pregnancy, peak during childbirth, and drop dramatically after birth. However, it takes about 6 weeks for the body to bring the cortisol levels back to normal.

With cortisol levels already higher than normal, you should be very careful to avoid added stress during this period of time. If not, you may risk overloading your system and, ultimately, experience metabolic or hormonal problems, and, not least, develop postpartum reactions such as depression.

Exercising stimulates – just as stress does – the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands: Your heart beats faster, you breathe more frequently, and your blood flow increases – the "fight or flight" response is activated. The immediate postpartum period should be a time of rest, healing and recovering, not a time of fight or flight.

This does not mean that you should turn into a couch potato during the first 6 weeks and not move at all. In fact, this would induce stress on a healthy and well-functioning body.

As a new mom you should aim for a level of activity/exercising that feels right when healing your postpartum body. Adjust the amount of activity to what feels intuitively right. You can start your postpartum workout the day after delivery with deep breaths, gentle exercises for the core, especially the pelvic floor, and the deep abdominal muscles.

Deep breaths also help lower your body's stress levels and have a calming and grounding effect.
When you are ready, you can add on light stretching, gentle movements, and short walks. Do not do hardcore cardio or weight training during the first 6 weeks after delivery as elevated cortisol levels already keep your body in a state of high alert.

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  1. You forget the first thing: Building a solid foundation

Before embarking on more intense physical activity, you need to get your core in shape. I.e. your deep abdominal and back muscles, your diaphragm, and your pelvic floor.

Start super basic. In the very beginning, you should consider simply taking some nice deep breaths, keep a good posture, and maintain contact with your abdominal muscles as actual exercise for you at this point in time. Begin these exercises on day 1 after delivery or as soon as you feel ready for it. 

Do you need help getting started? Superfit Core works the entire core and is a really good place to begin.

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  1. You plunge into crunches that only make matters worse!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Traditional crunches are NOT the way to develop strong, flat abs after childbirth!

Most women find that their belly looks and feels very different after childbirth. So you do a lot of crunches get their abs back into shape – right? No, this is not the proper approach when you are a new mom!

During pregnancy your abdominal muscles have been stretched and may have separated – this is called Diastasis Recti or, simply, abdominal separation. The connective tissue between your abdominal muscles has been stretched and become thin and fragile. This condition calls for special exercises that do not put additional pressure on the connective tissue and specifically target the right muscles – if you want your belly to be strong and flat again after pregnancy.

Learn more about Diastasis Recti.

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  1. You think you can start where you left off before you got pregnant

In order to succeed with any exercise program after having children, you have to adjust your routine to 1.) fit your "new" postpartum body, 2.) fit your baby's needs and your specific family situation.

As a new mom, you have to go easy on your body for several months after delivery. You have to take a little more care of yourself than usual. This means that there are certain exercises and routines that you should avoid just now.

Fortunately, there are lots of great exercises and workouts that will leave you dripping with sweat that you can do. In fact, you have every chance of getting your pre-baby body back, even now, while your child is still a baby. But you won't be able to pick up where you left off.

Another thing is that hitting the gym 3-4 times a week with or without a baby, is not always going to be that easy. The result is most likely several missed training sessions because your baby is ill or just having an off day.

This is exactly why I love at-home workouts such as Superfit Core: You are ready to work out the minute you get the chance. You do not waste any time on transportation or finding a babysitter.

In fact, you can save the entire gym membership, because working out at home is just as effective, or even more so, because you actually get it done!

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  1. You decide to go running (too long, too soon)

"I can only run 3 kilometers".

I often hear mothers say, defensively, that they cannot run as long/fast/often as they would like to.

But let me ease your guilty conscience here: Getting in shape or losing weight is not about running for as long or as far as possible! Even more so in your postpartum period where you need to pace yourself if you want the best results.

A long run in a leisurely pace does not burn much fat just because it is long. It's all about intensity. If you get the intensity of your workouts up, you can get away with exercising for much shorter periods of time – and still burn off more calories than by the long, boring and exhausting runs.

It is exactly this principle, we utilize in the exercise videoes of Superfit Mom. I know you do not have oceans of time to exercise. And I know that you are eager to see the results! That is why I have compressed the cardio workouts my videos so we burn off lots of calories and tone the entire body in the shortest period of time (about 25 min). 

Even if you've been an experienced runner prior to your pregnancy, it is not wise to simply start where you left off. And even if you did not have noteworthy problems with your pelvis during the pregnancy (in the form of pelvic soreness and/or pelvic girdle pain), the three small joints of your pelvis will have more mobility than usual in the weeks after giving birth. This can easily end up with pain, problems with certain movements or locked joints, if you start jogging too early after delivery. Again the golden rules are "Start gently” and "Listen to your body".

Don’t get me wrong: If you love to run, then by all means tie your running shoes and get going! It is still great to feel the freedom and the wind in your hair. But don’t think that going for a light jog is equally effective when it comes to weight loss and toning your muscles (even though they feel strenuous enough!).

It requires running habituation to run so far and so fast that it really moves something on the form and weight loss scale. Not least because running is a fairly strenuous type of exercise e.g. for your joints. So a more versatile workout, where you alternate between different exercises in different tempos, gives you much more bang for your buck when it comes to improving your overall form.

It is also about moving the limits of what we think we can handle. 99% of us can manage far more than we think we can – also when it comes to more strenuous physical training. So why waste your energy and time on tedious jogging, when you can get much more out of your efforts by shorter, more intense exercise sessions?

Running with a diastasis? Do you have abdominal separation aka Diastasis Recti? Read this, before you start running after having a baby. 

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  1. You forget to shelf the pregnancy- and breastfeeding appetite

During pregnancy your body needed approximately 300 calories more daily than usual, so your baby could grow strong and healthy in your belly. 300 kcal corresponds roughly to a bowl of oatmeal with skim milk.

So in other words, we are not "eating for two", when we are pregnant – sorry. Not without gaining the equivalent in extra baby weight at least.

If you are breastfeeding, it also requires some extra calories to keep lactation going; for approximately 500 kcal per day.

Both during pregnancy and during breastfeeding the body can self-regulate by increasing your appetite a little, so we are not going into deficit.

But when pregnancy and breast-feeding are over, many new moms "forget" to put this increased appetite on the shelf again. It has become a habit that they could eat a little larger portions and, for example. having a few more treats, without it can be seen on the scales.

So take a close look at what you actually eat; how much and how often. And consider whether it is time to return to your normal calorie intake again.

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  1. You are impatient and make unrealistic plans

Let's just admit it: Most of us tired baby mamas would rather grab a nap on the couch than exercise. And there are certainly times when a nap is best for your overall well-being.

But it is important to focus on all the wonderful side effects we get, when we start to exercise: Besides the aesthetics (a slimmer figure), exercise also so boosts our energy levels and mood among many other wonderful things. Believe it or not – Using energy actually produces more energy!

Our bodies will also be much better at coping with all the physical tasks of motherhood, so we can avoid pain and injury. Our digestion and endocrine system work better when we exercise regularly.

Fortunately, most new moms do want to make an effort to replace the couch with her exercise shoes. However, once the decision to get in shape is taken, we often get impatient. We can’t get into those pre-pregnancy jeans fast enough! Suddenly we can’t bear to see ourselves in the mirror anymore. It’s time to turn over a new leaf NOW!

So many new moms through themselves into tough exercise regimes, wild challenges or strict dieting – which most of us can’t keep up for very long. Either because it is simply too hard for the body – we hurt ourselves or simply loose our motivation. Or because a strict diet plan just doesn’t fit into the meals of rest of the family.

The result is almost always a guilty conscience. You hit yourself over the head for giving up and say "I have no spine!" Many new moms even end up abandoning the idea of getting back into shape completely and hides behind the statement (which by the way is totally wrong): "The body will be never the same again after you've had children".

Here is an important point: It's not your fault that you have not been able to follow an exercise program. But it is your responsibility.

Nobody can do the exercises for you. Only you can. But there are plenty of options to exercise in ways that are fun and effective – and that fit into your life as a mother. It is all about finding an exercise program that conveniently fits into your everyday life as the mother of a small baby and which takes into account the state of your body as it is right now.


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