Postpartum Fitness: The Myth of Bouncing Back
Moms everywhere are under so much pressure to “get their body back” after having a baby that they can’t enjoy their lives or embrace their new body the way it is now. Yet, there are a lot of ways to be a “fit mom” and take care of our bodies in a healthy way. We just have to redefine for ourselves what it means to be a fit, healthy, and happy mom.
Before I gave birth, I had no idea about the pressure that new moms feel to “bounce back.” The mom comeback, as I call it, puts immense pressure on women who’ve just given birth to get back to their flat-tummied, pre-baby bodies as soon as possible.
Shame-inducing social pressures
The message conveyed to women is a dangerous one. On one hand, we are supposed to be thrilled to see our bellies swell and our bodies gain weight as our baby grows. Yet, the moment the baby is out wham! We’re expected to look thin and refreshed straight away. This shame-inducing mindset puts way too much pressure on moms who are just trying to get through the day. The general message is: You aren’t good enough unless you are thin, toned, fit, and adore every aspect of being a new mom within weeks after birth.
Learning the hard way
I fell for this message as hard as any new mom would. At six months postpartum I became obsessed with my body changes and hyper-focused on how I could get a lean, toned, and tight body so I could put an image out in the world that I was happy and thriving in my new life. At times I became so obsessed with “getting my body back” and being a “fit mom” that I couldn’t enjoy my life or my child.
I wanted to jump back into the advanced yoga classes that I did before baby. However, I’d often end up with some type of pain or injury that required physical therapy. I learned the hard way that I had to do things differently to accommodate my changed body. In hindsight, it makes complete sense to me now that our bodies need just as much time to heal and recover from pregnancy and birth as it took to experience it.
Adjusting your routine and expectations
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated trying to be that “perfect, fit mom,” here are a few things I recommend:
Shift your approach to working out
Now that I have a child, my time, energy, and lifestyle is very different. First, I no longer have the time to go to a yoga class for 60–90 minutes three to five times per week like I used to, so now I try to get to yoga once per week and then I do daily, 15 minute workouts at home (many times with my baby crawling all over me).
The type of exercise my body can handle has also changed. Some days I can do the advanced high-impact workouts I used to be able to do, but many days I prefer to do low-impact workouts, and I’ve had to spend a lot of time doing pelvic floor physical therapy and stabilization exercises so that I don’t feel pain after I work out.
Accept and appreciate that your body is different now
At a time when we should be allowed to heal, rest, recover, and adjust to a new body and new life we feel pressure to get back to where we were before we became mothers. Though I understand this desire, it’s okay for us to never “get our body back.” Some things may never be the same and that’s OK.
I’ve learned that it’s best to give your body at least two years to feel normal again. I say this, as at 18 months postpartum, I am still rehabilitating my pelvic floor and figuring out what movements and exercises work best for my body.
Still beautiful but different
Though I look similar as I used to, I have new aches and pains, my tummy is a bit softer now, and the skin around my breasts and tummy is different- still beautiful, but different. All these body changes are disorienting, yet I’ve learned to focus on what my body is capable of instead of what may be different than it used to be. I have a new (and long) list of what my body is able to overcome and do than I ever thought possible.
All this being said, I still consider myself to be a “fit mom,” I’ve just shifted my perception. No longer is a “fit mom” only the mom on the cover of Parents magazine with the six pack abs and toned body, but rather any mom who moves her body regularly and tries her very best to take care of herself in a more holistic way. There are lots of ways to be healthy and fit, and I’m finding my way one day at a time.