The second biggest question you will ask yourself as a new mom is, "Will I be able to get back into shape after I give birth?" (The first, of course, is, "Will I be a good mother?") The truth is, yes, you can get back into pre-pregnancy shape and, if you desire, you can get yourself into even better shape than you were in before your pregnancy.
One of the biggest myths you must get past is the classic, "The doctor said I have to wait six weeks before I do any kind of exercise." Under certain circumstances this is a valid rule. For instance, your pregnancy may have occurred later in life or you experienced complications during your pregnancy and/or the actual birth of your baby.
If you fall into this category you should communicate with you doctor regarding your desire to exercise and abide by her recommendations.
But, if you had an uncomplicated, normal pregnancy there should be no reason why you can't start working out twenty four hours after you give birth. So as not to mislead you, let's define working out as it applies to you at this stage of the game.
You are clearly not ready to jump into a full scale fitness program one day after giving birth. But you can and should begin doing gentle isometrics (contract a muscle, hold it for a few seconds & then release it) and Kegels. Of course, you should consult with your doctor before starting just so she is aware of what you are doing. She may also have some valuable input.
Before you leave the hospital ask the doctor about the condition of your rectus abdominus. These are the two muscles that run parallel to each other from the pubic area up to the diaphragm. During some pregnancies the connective tissue between these two muscles tears and separates. If this is your case ask your doctor how you can help them reconnect and heal faster. This will be necessary in order for you to add the next few exercises to your routine.
If your abdominal muscles did not separate, which should be confirmed by your doctor, then you can add the tried and true pelvic tilt to your new exercise program. This is one of the most basic exercises for the "core muscles". At this time it should also be safe to add a modified abdominal crunch. This is best achieved by starting with a pelvic tilt and then lifting the head and top of the shoulder blades by curling forward slightly as you breathe out. Then return to neutral as you breathe in.
It is generally safe to add several modified leg exercises at this point. Of course, you will want to run these by your doctor before trying them out.
Lying on your back, on any comfortable surface, keep one leg bent with your foot on the floor while the other leg is flat on the ground. Bring the knee of the leg that is flat toward you by bending it and then proceed to lift that same foot off the ground and toward the ceiling. Then bring it back down by retracing the moves in reverse.
Your second leg exercise is known as "the square". Starting in the same position as the first leg exercise, lift the straight leg off the ground by about a foot or so. Then slowly draw a square in the air with your big toe. Keep the square small at first. With time, as you get stronger, you can increase the size of the square.
You should be able to start a walking program several weeks, if not sooner, after you give birth. There is usually no good reason (unless you had a complicated pregnancy) to wait six weeks after birth to start a consistent walking program. Of course, you should discuss this with your doctor before getting started.
At six weeks post delivery you can start to push your fitness program to a higher level by incorporating cardiovascular work, such as light jogging, and some strength training with a combination of body weight exercises and dumbbell exercises. Also, remember to include stretching exercises for optimal flexibility.
The point of this article is to help you understand that most doctors are conservative when it comes to answering a new mom's questions about exercise. It is easy for the doctor to "play it safe", and advise you to wait six weeks before starting your fitness program. However, if you show your doctor the exact exercises that you wish to do, she will most likely realize that you have done your homework and should give you the green light regarding the start of your "new mom" exercise program.
And about the first question you asked your self, "Will I be a good mother?" Exercising after you give birth will automatically make you a better mother for two significant reasons:
1) You will be setting a priceless example for your baby that is highly likely to rub off on him and have a powerful impact on how he chooses to live his life.
2) You will be stronger, healthier and more energetic. These are three valuable elements for any new mother.
New mom and former physical fitness coordinator for the US NAVY, Jeri-Jo Gennusa, advises, "Avoid using your new baby as an excuse for not exercising. Allow your baby to help motivate you to take better care of yourself by following a simple and progressive post-pregnancy fitness program."
Copyright 2005 Joey Atlas
Joey Atlas, MS - Exercise Physiology, is considered one of the top personal trainers in the US. He is the author of the best selling audio CD "Controversial Secrets of a Personal Trainer", http://www.ControversialSecrets.com. Joey is a co-owner of GAC Personal Training, http://www.GACtraining.com, where he continues to guide people toward a better quality of life through proper exercise programming and nutritional guidance.