Junior's Here... Now, What About My Body?by Lisa Stone, ACE
The benefits of exercise
One of the most frequently asked questions on my online bulletin board and in my classes is, "How soon after my baby is born can I start exercising again?" The answer is, "IMMEDIATELY!"
Now, that doesn't mean you can push out Junior and hop right up for a jog around L&D. What is does mean is that there are several exercises that you can do to help retrain your pregnancy-strained muscles while the hospital staff does your lower body clean-up.
You may not be able to feel much "down there" right after birth, but by visualizing your pelvic floor contracting as you exhale, you will make some progress. Your uterus will begin contracting and returning to its normal size, and your vaginal wall will tighten.
How To: You can find your pelvic floor muscles by stopping and starting the flow of urine when you go to the bathroom. The squeezing that stops the flow of urine is the pelvic floor muscles contracting. Start by doing one set of 8 Kegels and work up to three sets of 15 over the next week.
The next muscle group to target is your abdominals. Right after birth, you'll probably have a major case of "jelly belly," but don't despair. By doing some isometric contractions, you'll soon begin to regain your muscle tone.
How To: While laying on your back, take a deep breath in. As you exhale, think about pulling your belly button in toward your backbone, tightening the muscles in your abdomen. Hold the contraction for a count of 4 and inhale as you release the muscles. Start by doing 8 repetitions and work up to three sets of 12-15 over the next 2 weeks. After the 2nd week (vaginal delivery) or 4th week (c-section), you can begin to do modified situps.
Your rear view may be a little wider as a result of pregnancy, but you can retrain those buttocks muscles to tighten back up with a few simple exercises.
How To: Again, while laying on your back, take a deep breath in. As you exhale, squeeze the two sides of your buttocks together as hard as you can. Hold the contraction for a count of 4 and inhale as you slowly release the muscles. Start by doing 8 repetitions and work up to three sets of 12-15 over the next two weeks. After the 2nd week, you can begin doing modified squats and lunges to further strengthen the gluteals.
The benefits All of the above exercises are meant to be done immediately postpartum. As your strength returns and you feel ready, you can add more strenuous exercises to speed up the return of your pre-baby body. Start slowly and build the intensity of each workout gradually. Remember: it took your body 9 months to get to its present condition (with the reward of a beautiful baby at the end!), and it will probably take 9-12 months to regain your muscle tone and strength. The sooner you start working those muscles, though, the sooner you'll bounce back.
Lisa Stone is the creator and president of Fit For 2. She is a recognized spokesperson on pre- and post-natal fitness issues and is a certified fitness instructor through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) with specialty certification in pre- & post-natal fitness. She has written articles for local and national publications on the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and the post-partum period. Visit Lisa's website
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