‘Baby weight’ ‘Mum tum’ and ‘mum bod’ all statements that are thrown around to describe our bodies after having babies. And none of them conjure up particularly positive connotations.
Many mums don’t know where to start when it comes to getting back in shape after having a baby and the thought of spending hours in the gym away from their child is not something that is either appealing or possible for many of us.
This article is the story of my personal postpartum fitness journey, and how I got in shape again entirely through home workouts after having my son in early December 2016.
Firstly I would like to state that I do not have any professional fitness or nutrition qualifications and everything I know I have learned through my own research and personal experiences.
I have also always, for as long as I can remember, made exercise and leading a healthy lifestyle a priority. Before I became pregnant I was a keen runner, I did (light) resistance and kettlebell training and I also walked everywhere so my body was in pretty good shape already.
During pregnancy I took exercise down a notch, stopping the running entirely and only doing very light weights and walking, but I still worked out right up until the day before I gave birth to my son.
Something else that I avoided doing in pregnancy was ‘eating for two.’ Obviously you do need to eat slightly more calories particularly towards the middle and end of pregnancy but you don’t need to eat for two fully grown adults throughout.
Using being pregnant as an excuse to binge and eat whatever you want when you want will only result in unhealthy weight gain which isn’t good for either you or your baby. It will also make the post birth shape up a far more difficult and long process than it needs to be.
I had a natural birth, although unfortunately, I required an episiotomy and an assisted delivery with forceps. My body healed fairly quickly, although for the first two weeks after having my son I didn’t do any exercise at all, I just rested and ate healthily.
I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to breastfeed my son for over a year now and I would say that breastfeeding really aided with my recovery after birth. Breastfeeding helps the uterus contract back to its normal size and for the first few days/weeks after birth you can actually feel this happening as you feed.
This helps you abdomen get back to its regular size a bit faster. A lot of people also say that breastfeeding helps you lose weight.
I wouldn’t say this has been the case for me because although it does burn 200-500 calories per day it also makes me very hungry and it takes a lot of willpower to avoid the sugary and fatty foods that I sometimes crave.
The very first thing that I did immediately after having my baby and before any sort of exercise was an option was make sure I was eating a very nutritionally balanced diet. I was actually dairy free after having my son due because he was intolerant to dairy and I was breastfeeding.
Not being able to consume butter, cheese and milk chocolate definitely helped me stick to cleaner eating. A day of eating basically consisted of; Porridge (oatmeal) with coconut milk and fruit for breakfast, nuts, fruit or vegan pea protein shakes as snacks and I was meal prepping my lunches every day.
These would usually consist of either sweet potato or brown rice with ground turkey cooked with seasonings and then plenty of greens and vegetables like kale and courgette (zucchini). Dinners varied but always involved a source of protein, a source of complex carbohydrate and vegetables.
I was consistently drinking 2-3 litres of water everyday and taking a breastfeeding multivitamin supplement, a probiotic and a fish oil capsule as well. It’s crucial that calorie intake is not too low after having a baby.
Our body has gone through a lot and needs adequate nutrition to recover and heal, especially when it’s unlikely that a lot of sleep will be an option. In addition if you are a breastfeeding mother your body will require the energy to make breastmilk.
Two Weeks Postpartum
At two weeks Postpartum I actually started exercising again. I would definitely not recommend this for everyone but due to my fairly good fitness levels before and during pregnancy, and the fact I had not experienced any complications I felt that I knew my body well enough to make that decision. I began with just short walks and upper body only workouts using light weights.
Five Weeks Postpartum
This photograph was taken five weeks Postpartum. At this point I weighed around 131lbs (I am 5ft 8) so around 6lbs off of my pre-pregnancy weight.
I wasn’t unhappy with my body here and I put that down to working out and eating healthy during pregnancy.
My waist was 3.5inches bigger than its pre-baby size.
Six Weeks Postpartum
At around six weeks Postpartum, after my check up with my doctor had gone well I felt confident that I could increase the intensity of my workouts. The first thing I did was check for Diastasis Recti, this is ab separation that effects a lot of women after having a baby and can cause the abdomen to protrude more than it used to before pregnancy.
Conventional ab exercises like crunches can make the condition worse and you need to do specific exercises to heal it. I would advise women to ask their doctor to examine them for it at their six week check but if you are past that stage then there are tutorials on YouTube on how to check for it yourself.
I had mild separation so began the ab workouts to correct it, Diastasis recti repair workouts can also be found on YouTube for anybody wondering. I also began Kettlebell training again using a combination of 8kg and 10kg Kettlebells. This is lighter than what I would have used previously but I wanted to start gently.
We have to be careful with our ligaments after pregnancy as everything can be a bit softer due to Relaxin, making us prone to injuries, especially when breastfeeding. So with any exercise it’s important to start light and really focus on having good form and technique to avoid injuries.
I personally used an exercise DVD that I purchased from Amazon called ‘Kettlercise just for women, By Guy Noble. This consists of two DVD’s, the first is purely instructional and focuses on safety and correct form, very important, especially Postpartum and if you are new to kettlebell training.
The second DVD contains two workouts, a 20 minute ‘express’ workout and a longer workout of around 50 minutes. There are ab exercises at the end of both of these workouts and I just replaced this part with the diastasis recti repair work I was already doing until I felt my abs had healed enough, this probably took a couple of months for me personally.
I did these Kettlebell workouts around three or four times a week depending on how I felt (and how much sleep I had got!) Kettlebell workouts are quite intensive and might not be the best Postpartum exercise for everyone. They worked well for me because I already had some experience using them. At that stage I also preferred to do low impact exercise that didn’t involve too much running and jumping.
Kettlebell workouts are generally low impact but also provide a good cardio workout which means they burn a lot of calories but also help you tone up and increase strength within a fairly short workout.
Being a mother means that time effective workouts are essential, especially when you are fitting them into your babies naptime.
I also used ‘Bodyfit by Amys’ YouTube channel which has some really good Postpartum suitable workouts on it.
11 Weeks Postpartum
This photograph is me at 11 weeks Postpartum. By this point I was doing my own workouts with resistance bands and weights to target specific ‘problem’ areas, combined with the Kettlercise DVD workouts.
I had increased my workouts to five-six times a week by now but only 25-45 minutes of exercise so it was easy to fit into the day.
I was still eating very clean here with the occasional tub of dairy free ice cream! My waist was an inch off its pre-baby size but I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight although I had less muscle tone.
This photograph is me at 5 weeks Postpartum on the left compared to 5 months Postpartum on the right hand side.
I was still working out around six times a week here, using heavier weights and kettlebells. I had also started doing The Bodycoach HIIT workouts a few times a week.
I felt adding the HIIT helped my body look leaner and improved my overall fitness. This was also my first step into introducing higher impact exercise again.
I was also going for regular walks here with my son in his baby carrier for a bit of added resistance! I think taking ‘progress photos’ of your body is a great way to see the changes that may not show on the scales.
If you are doing resistance training and building muscle you actual weight may not reduce and it could actually increase. This doesn’t mean you are not making progress, muscle is denser than fat so by losing fat or replacing it with muscle you will look leaner and more toned.
Measurements and pictures will show these changes better than focusing on the number on the scale.
8 Months Postpartum
This progress picture is almost eight months Postpartum and taken at the end of July. I was at the end of week 6 of Kayla Itsines BBG 1.0 here. My body really shaped up doing the programme.
I found it very challenging but in a good way and I found that it had a massive effect on how my body looked particularly in my abs and arms.
The resistance workouts are definitely hard work but that’s what makes them so effective. One of the key things with exercise is to ensure that you keep mixing things up and making things harder as you get fitter. That’s when you start noticing real changes in your body.
My Post Baby Body Today
It’s almost 13 months since I had my son. I have now completed Kayla It sines BBG 1.0 twice through and I am currently on BBG 2.0. I feel that my body is stronger and more toned than it was before I had my son.
Some things are different, pregnancy did leave me with a few stretch marks and some looser skin than I previously had but all in all I am happier with my body now than I have ever been.
Plus it has given me the most amazing gift for all a happy, healthy baby. No woman should feel disheartened with their body after having a baby, it’s absolutely possible to get back the body you once had or even create a fitter and more toned one.
Commit to exercise and healthy eating, start gently and keep your goals in the back of your mind at all times and you will get where you want to be.
Feature Image Credit: Shutterstock.com
In Post Image Credit: Shutterstock.com & Images given by author