As a new mother, you may be experiencing any number of postpartum bodily changes, from pelvic pain to diastasis recti. There are a lot of conditions women naturally go through that often affect their ability to get back to optimal health.
The good news is that engaging in healthy habits like the ones below can help alleviate discomfort and, in many cases, reverse some of those conditions.
Here are 5 healthy habits to keep after your pregnancy.
#1 Set Realistic Goals
The most important thing to ask yourself postpartum is: What makes sense for my body?
If you’ve never done a race before, making your goal to run a marathon in X months might not be the best choice, and ultimately sets you up for disappointment if you can’t achieve it.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be ambitious, just try to imagine what level of fitness you were at pre-pregnancy, and set a goal that reflects how your needs have changed since then.
See also: Your Post Pregnancy Body
#2 Don’t Rush Things
There’s a ton of pressure to get right back in the gym and “snap back”, but it’s crucial to listen to your body and go at your own pace.
Too many women, driven by their “fitspiration” on social media or societal pressure, are trying to hit the gym far too early, and injuring themselves in the process. Your body needs time to heal postpartum, especially if the birth was a difficult one, and no woman is ready within the same set timeframe.
A good rule of thumb is to always confer with a physician or personal trainer in order to set healthy boundaries.
Depending on what conditions you’re experiencing, you may want to focus on certain muscle groups or exercise types. For example, trying targeted core exercises for pelvic pain, and to make sure you aren’t overtraining.
The last thing a new mother should be doing is worrying so much about fitness that she forgets to worry about her health!
#3 Enlist Mommy Friends
Working out with other new moms keeps you accountable, and also provides a support network of people who share your experiences and have similar goals.
Think about it: who else can relate to the late nights, spilled milk, and loving frustration?
It helps to have an outlet like fitness to balance out your life, but sharing that outlet with people who are intimately familiar with the experience of being a mother just elevates the process.
#4 Stick to a Schedule
Being busy makes it tough to work out consistently, but there are a few tried and true methods for a new mom to maximize her time and make her health a priority.
Try blocking off a set time each day devoted to fitness and wellness practices. By setting this time aside, you’re effectively making it part of your everyday schedule, and are more likely to stick to it.
It can be understandably hard for a new mom to imagine what time she’s got in the day to devote to health, so it’s that much more important to carve out time within the daily routine that already exists in order to feel like you aren’t neglecting your responsibilities.
Take advantage of naptime to squeeze in a quick bodyweight circuit at home, or enlist your spouse or relative as a babysitter to hit the gym a few times a week. If your child is old enough, some gyms even have on-site daycare facilities.
Also, on days when you just feel like collapsing in front of the TV with your hubby after a long day, you can squeeze in exercises like squats in between commercial breaks.
At the end of the day, it’s not so much about intensity as it is consistency.
If you can create a schedule that works with your existing obligations as a parent, you reinforce the concept that your health is a priority.
#5 Eat a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet takes into account the right amounts of whole grains, water, lean protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals for your age, gender and activity level.
Often, people trying to get back into shape rely too heavily on fitness alone to achieve their goals, when in reality proper nutrition is an equal partner in the journey.
Even more important to take into account is proper nutrition for mothers who are breastfeeding– a balance of the right minerals and nutrients is key to your baby’s growth as much as yours.
Since correct portion size is something many people struggle with, a good tip is to double check the individual serving size of the food in your pantry, and prep meals in appropriately-sized containers.
New mothers have an incredible set of responsibilities in caring for a newborn, but the most overlooked is their responsibility to care for themselves.
This article was contributed by Lindsay Dolak, editor of Aaptiv.
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