Can I be honest?
Getting in shape after having a baby is HARD WORK.
I mean, I know there are plenty of women that appear to be totally in shape immediately after having a baby, but really, even those lucky ducks have all the same muscles and tendons and ligaments that have been out of whack for nearly ten months, and it’s likely that they have just as much work to do on the inside as everyone else.
As far as outward appearance, I honestly cannot complain a ton. Don’t get me wrong- there are things going on with my body that I find to be very interesting, but overall, it could be way worse. I wore my pre-pregnancy pants just four days after I had my baby. That doesn’t necessarily mean I liked how they looked- but hey, they buttoned and zipped. Most of the things that I find myself complaining about (regarding my appearance) post-pregnancy, I was already complaining about before I was ever pregnant.
The bigger challenge that I have faced is my fitness level.
To be honest, I have been surprised by this. Whether it was pride (which is totally possible), or just naivety, or maybe even denial, I totally did not expect this at all.
I know a lot of women do expect this, and anticipate the need for recovery time and down time as it relates to physical activity, but I honestly thought I would be right back on my feet.
With the exception of about 4 weeks of being totally and completely bedridden with nausea, I worked out my entire pregnancy. When I say I worked out, I don’t mean that I went on a walk every day. I worked out. I was running, doing pushups, squats, suicide drills, lifting weights, and whatever other random thing you can think of. Seriously, two days before I had my baby I was running thirty-something flights of stairs. I was hardcore. (I mean, not too hardcore, but you get me).
I think because this was my normal, I fully expected it to be my normal immediately after having a baby.
The thing that I didn’t take into consideration, was that during my pregnancy, I continued working out for forty weeks while my body was gradually changing in the process. There was never a drastic moment where everything was different and I had to work with it or work around it.
The moment I gave birth, my entire body changed at once. Nothing was the same.
The pain alone would be enough to make things challenging, but what I experienced was that I suddenly was aware of all the stress I had placed on my body for the last forty weeks. While I did know that my joints were looser because of the many hormones associated with pregnancy, I had no idea that I was wearing on them in the way I was. Because everything was gradual in pregnancy, I just felt like everything was normal.
But suddenly, after having my baby, I could no longer hold a plank or do twenty pushups or run five miles straight.
Just simply put, I was incredibly weak.
At first I was super frustrated by this. I felt like I should have been able to bounce right back. I felt like somehow all the work I put into being healthy during pregnancy wasn’t worth anything. I pretty much felt like a failure.
But here’s the thing, being physically fit is hard work no matter what. It takes a lot of determination and consistency, and a lot of sacrifices.
I realized that being fit after pregnancy is actually no different than any other time (apart from the distractions of a new baby, which obviously aren’t there when you don’t have a new baby).
So here’s what it takes (for me) to find fitness post-pregnancy:
- A LOT of grace. Seriously, I have to have grace for myself. Whether it’s that I am just plain exhausted, or I’m actually super on fire to work out but my baby is just having a super rough day, I have to be flexible and go with the flow. If not, I will go crazy, and always be upset with myself.
- Realistic expectations. My body spent 40 weeks gradually changing to accommodate my baby, and then suddenly the baby said peace out. All that change doesn’t reverse itself in a moment.
- Reasonable goals. This one has been huge for me, because I want to do everything, all at once, exactly how I used to. Setting small goals and increasing them gradually is so helpful for me. For instance, I used to be able to do three sets of thirty pushups, no problem. I currently have a goal of three sets of 15. When I do that with ease, I’ll increase it to three sets of 20.
- Consistency. I think this one could look different for each person, but for me it looks like this: No matter what, even if it’s only ten minutes a day, I have to make time for some sort of workout. I think it’s easy (for me at least) with a baby to just “not have time,” but I just have to create those moments, otherwise, they might never happen.
- Self Control. I still believe that no amount of working out can make up for poor food choices. I’m not saying you can’t ever indulge, but overall, fitness requires self control in your eating habits. This one is big for me because I L O V E S W E E T S.
- Self Love. If I don’t love myself and my body, it’s all for nothing. I just gave birth to the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. That’s something to be proud of. It wasn’t easy, and it’s not going to be easy recovering. Even though it’s hard, if I can remind myself of the victory and give myself a pat on the back, I’ve already found success in my journey.