As a stay at home Mom with two little kids (an almost 2 1/2 year old and a 6 month old), I know just how hard it is make time for yourself. I have a hard time taking showers regularly (so gross, yet so true), so I’ll be the first to admit that finding time for a regular workout routine is HARD. That being said, staying in shape and living a healthy lifestyle have always been top priorities for me.
I grew up playing basketball and soccer so I guess you could say I’ve always been active. As an adult, I found physical activity to be a fantastic stress reliever and a great way to stay in shape. It’s always been an excellent release for me both physically and emotionally.
Before, during, and after both my pregnancies, I’ve found that working out is one of the only things I can count on to make me feel 100% calm. During my workouts, I can zone out, refocus, and breathe.
I can’t say I’m a certified personal trainer or anything like that, but I can say that I have a lot of experience when it comes to both being a Mom and maintaining an active lifestyle. So without further ado, I want to share my 9 Tips for Staying in Shape Before, During, and After Pregnancy.
1. Make it a Priority
Let’s start out with something simple :: staying fit and healthy as a parent is not easy. It takes work. It takes consistency. It takes time. You really have to want it because you’re already juggling a million other things on a daily basis. Is fitness a priority to you? If so, I believe you’ll be able to find time for it.
If you’re ready and willing to make this commitment and you’re excited to incorporate it into your daily life, it will just become part of the routine. Similar to our kids, we also respond well to routines, so make the decision to get (or stay) in shape and figure out how you’re going to do it. Make it a priority.
2. The Pre-Pregnancy Shape Up
Once you get pregnant, the general rule of thumb with working out while pregnant is that you can stay as active as you were before you got pregnant (short of playing contact sports throughout your pregnancy – I was only able to play basketball for the first couple months of both my pregnancies – doctor’s orders). That’s why I suggest that if you are actively planning or trying to become pregnant and you’ve told yourself that you want to stay in the best shape possible during your pregnancy, start working out beforehand. Begin a routine that works well for you and make it something you enjoy. That way, once you get the super exciting news that you’re expecting, you’re prepared to have a healthy and fit pregnancy.
My first baby happened to be a honeymoon baby so I’m lucky that I had been in shape from years of basketball and regular gym visits, but when it came to my second pregnancy I made sure to get in the best shape possible before we tried for baby number two.
For both pregnancies, I was able to maintain a regular fitness schedule up until the week before I gave birth (the day before in my first pregnancy’s case) and I’m 100% certain that I was able to get back in shape quickly because I stayed active throughout.
3. Stay as Active as You Can During Your Pregnancy
Don’t get mad at me for saying this, but if you want to stay in shape while you’re pregnant and regain your pre-baby body, I truly believe that staying active on a regular basis is the most important thing you can do. There’s no magic bullet or secret formula to staying in shape. It simply takes work.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m ALL about taking days off, but being consistent with your fitness is key. I know morning sickness, nausea, and exhaustion can slow you down (trust me, I experienced all of that as well), but I mean it when I say stay as active as you can. If you can run 10 miles, good for you (I’d never be able to do that no matter how in shape I am because I’m not mentally tough enough). If you can manage to hit up the gym for 30 minutes, that’s great. If all you can do is drag yourself around the block because you’re exhausted from nausea and chasing a toddler around (which was my experience during my second pregnancy), I think you deserve a few high fives and some extra gold stars.
My point here is that you need to listen to your body and based on what your body’s telling you, figure out a level of activity that will still work for you. I personally believe that doing something, no matter how small it is, is always better than doing nothing (unless, of course, it’s your day(s) off!).
4. Find a Routine that Works for You
Everyone is different. My husband, for example, loves spin class. I, on the other hand, tend to be more of a “work-out-on-your-own” type of person. I LOVE low impact workouts (my go-to machine is this one) because I have bad knees, and I absolutely cannot stand running. I have some friends who love CrossFit and others who are yoga practitioners through and through.
The greatest thing about fitness these days is that there truly seems to be something for everyone. You can walk, you can run, you can swim…you can lift weights, row boats, or jump rope…there’s pilates, yoga, and aerobics classes…gosh, if you love to dance, you can check out Zumba! Find something that gets you excited to exercise and you’ll be much more likely to stick to it.
For me, I’m pretty boring. Since my time at the gym is limited to ~45 minutes (because I’m always late to drop the kids off at the YMCA kids room), I just hop on the elliptical for 32 minutes (yes, 32) and then I follow that up with some weights and abs (you can find my routine here under Week 8). For me, it works. It’s not the most physically demanding workout, but that’s probably why I love it and why I do it consistently. Plus, I go at 4:00pm so I’m able to workout while watching the Ellen Show (and I’d like to think that the laughing I do during that time burns additional calories!).
My point here is that if you’re going to commit to a workout routine, find something that you enjoy. Try out different things. If you hated the first class you tried, give something else a go. If you can’t stand the idea of going to a gym, get outside and start walking around the block. Just start doing something. I bet you’ll find a groove and a routine that works for you!
5. Play with Your Kids
I don’t always find time for the gym. I also don’t always want to go to the gym. And that’s okay because I know that I’m getting exercise simply by playing with my kids.
Living in San Francisco we tend to walk most places, so that’s a workout in itself. When we go to the park, I’m playing with my kids (not just sitting there watching them play while zoning out on my iPhone). What can I say, I think it’s fun.
I also know that I’m lugging around an almost 20 pound 6 month old, tossing her in the air and watching her smile. That’s probably the best arm workout I could ask for. And not that I recommend living in an apartment building with two little kids, but we get exercise simply by walking up and down the stairs multiple times a day.
My point here is that once I became a parent, I (without even having to try) became more active. By simply engaging with them, you are getting exercise. Play with them more and you’ll be shocked at how tired you can get!
6. Never Underestimate the Power of some Free Weights & a Yoga Mat
On the days you don’t feel like going to the gym or to a class or to a yoga studio, you can still do something active at home. For the first 3 months of my second baby’s life (before I was allowed to drop her off at YKids with Abby), I was forced to find a new routine. I got my exercise in by walking everywhere with the girls and by utilizing my yoga mat and 5 pound weights in my living room.
Don’t underestimate how effective some free weights can be! A solid core workout and free weight routine only takes 15-20 minutes and in that time, you’re slowly but surely working on toning everything back up (and trust me, when I first started working out at home post-baby – both times – I never thought I’d lose the flab…it’s not going to happen over night, but it’s so rewarding when you start noticing a difference in your body).
7. Fuel Your Body with Healthy Foods (and Water!)
This may sound simple, but eating healthy is one of the most important things you can do to take care of yourself (and your baby) before, during, and after pregnancy. I will never conisder myself a health nut (I’m a burger and fries fanatic and I love having a beer with that combo), but I do eat very healthy the majority of the time.
Finding time to cook as a new parent can be daunting, but I promise you can do it. It can be as simple as throwing a colorful salad together and cooking up some fish, or as intricate as making homemade chicken curry (here’s my favorite recipe – it’s not the healthiest thing in the whole world, but it’s homemade, fresh, and DELICIOUS).
My favorite super healthy recipe in the whole world is this one and it makes the perfect side to any fish or meat dish you’re creating. You can also have it stand alone by topping it with a fried egg. It’s so yummy. So satisfying. And SO scrumptious. I’m also proud to say that it’s my two year old’s favorite meal (thanks in part to the goat cheese crumbled on top) so I make it at least once or twice a week.
Fuel your body with healthy, whole foods…drink tons of water…and you’re well on your way to a healthier lifestyle (and a very healthy pregnancy!).
8. Breastfeed, Breastfeed, Breastfeed!!!
This may not be a fitness tip, but it’s something that I believe in wholeheartedly for a variety of reasons. Breastfeeding has SO many benefits, not just for your baby, but for you and your relationship with your baby. As it relates to this particular post, breastfeeding burns a ton of calories so it can help you get back to your pre-baby shape. For more information on that, read this.
More than that, however, I find that breastfeeding is extremely convenient, it’s inexpensive, it’s a great way to bond, and last but definitely not least, it’s SO GOOD for your baby.
I still remember that the thought of breastfeeding was what made me the most nervous before I had my first baby, but now I can’t even imagine not having done it. I’m currently 6+ months into breastfeeding Mackenzie (not that I’ve had much of a choice because she wouldn’t take a bottle until recently) and I could see nursing her longer than I did Abigail (who I stopped nursing at 8 months).
In my opinion, it’s one of the absolute best parts about having a little baby.
9. Give Yourself Time and Don’t be too Hard on Yourself
Last but not least, try really hard to allow yourself time. I may come across as an extreme fitness enthusiast, but I’m really just a Mom who happens to value fitness so I’ve made time in my life for exercise and health.
After giving birth to Abigail (my first baby), I bounced back faster than I ever thought I would.
During that pregnancy, I gained 27 pounds, breezed through every milestone, and when Abigail arrived she was a 7 pound bundle of joy. By the time I left the hospital with her, you would have never known I’d had a baby. My stomach was flat (squishy, but flat) and I had lost all but six of the pounds. It only took one month for me to feel normal again and two months to tone right back up to where I was before I had her. Ridiculous, right?
Then I had another baby.
After giving birth to Mackenzie (my second, adorably chunky, baby), it took longer.
During my pregnancy with her, I gained close to 40 pounds, breezed through most milestones but experienced more nausea and discomfort, and gave birth to an 8 pound 11 ounce beast (and I mean that in the best way possible – she’s perfect). By the time I left the hospital, I looked like I was approximately 5 or 6 months pregnant. Instead of taking a couple weeks to have a flat belly, one month to feel normal again, and two months to tone right back up, it took me two months to have a flat (squishy) belly, four months to feel normal again, and I’m still working on the “toning” part.
It’s been a big adjustment for me and I’ve had to try really, really hard to allow myself time. It takes 9+ months to grow a baby, after all, and the pressure to “bounce back” so quickly is honestly ridiculous (though I know that in my case, I put the pressure on myself).
And even though I’m not in tip top shape quite yet, I couldn’t feel better about myself and about my body. I know I’m healthy, I know I take care of myself, I know that I’m taking care of my girls, and more than anything, I know that I’ve created two beautiful, smart, and funny human beings.
As I said at the beginning, as a Mom with two kids I know just how hard it is to make time for yourself, but I believe with all my heart that it’s important. And if staying fit and active is a priority for you, I promise you can do it.
Good luck, friends…let’s show the world just how strong us Mommies can be!