That six-week postpartum doctor appointment usually means three things: the end of going to the doctor all the damn time, the green light to resume sex, and the OK to start working out again. After months of having someone else literally share your body, it can be liberating and important to do something just for yourself. And, honestly, a lot of people want to be more proactive about losing weight. Still, there are things I'd rather feel after a postpartum workout besides "skinny," and that hasn't changed as my children have grown old and I've evolved as a woman and a mother. After all, when it comes to working out to get "thinner," it's a process and results may vary. I know it's important to look at the big picture.
The truth is, working out (even in conjunction with a healthy diet) may never be enough to get you to your "goal weight," but that's not to say you shouldn't do either. Regular exercise (the Department of Health and Human Services recommends about 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per day for the average healthy adult) is a good idea regardless of whether you are trying to get into a Size Whatever or not. From mood, to sleep, to warding off heart disease and postpartum depression, exercise has a load of benefits for new moms (and everyone else) that have nothing to do with getting thin or staying thin or fitting some predetermined, arbitrary, and not to mention unrealistic (and often unhealthy) societal standard of beauty. And even if you want to or do lose weight in the process, it's not going to happen all at once, so focusing on the other good things exercise can make you feel is a good way to keep yourself on track.
I remind myself of the aforementioned anytime I go on a run or hit the gym or consider any other physical activity. I know that "thinness" is not synonymous with "goodness," and a number on a scale is not indicitive of a successful workout. So, yeah, instead of feeling "skinny" after a post-baby workout, I would rather feel this:
Because look at me! I did it!
Whether you're six weeks, months, or years postpartum, that you were able to fit a workout in there is pretty remarkable. Children are demanding little creatures and it can be hard to slip past their wants and needs to attend to your own. Yet here you stand, fresh from your work-out, all sweaty with your elevated heart-rate and endorphins. Go you!
Not In Pain
Even if you were active before you had your baby, it's unlikely that you can (or should) get back into your normal routine right away. It's important to ease back into things, working your way up to where you were.
If you weren't active before you had your baby, well, welcome to work-outs and definitely don't try to take on too much at once. That is a surefire way to ensure that you either hurt yourself and/or do not make a habit of exercise moving forward.
Guys, I know, but it is actually possible (after you find the right workout) for you to not only get used to it, but feel energized by it. Of course you might be tired immediately after, but overall you're really going to feel perkier and better equipped to deal with your day. Eating the right foods (at the right times), continuing some movement throughout the day, and, yeah, maintaining a positive attitude in conjunction with regular exercise can make you energized.
That said, you don't want to make things too easy on yourself for too long if you want to glean all you can from exercise. Once you find your groove and figure out where you're comfortable in your physical fitness routine, go ahead and keep building on what you have.
My own personal mantra (and full disclosure, I am no fitness expert) is to ask myself, "Is this hard or does it hurt?" If it hurts, I don't push myself to keep doing it or go beyond it. If it's just a matter of it being hard I (carefully!) give it a try.
You definitely don't have to go nuts with water, but you want to make sure you have water with you when you go to your work-out because it'll creep up on you. (This will be especially true if you're also nursing because OMG will you need all the damn water then.)
Applicable only to Jazzercise workouts. I cannot speak to the jazziness of yoga, Pilates, or weight-training.
Because no, seriously, how did you find the time? Above and beyond that, be impressed that you chose to use this time for something that's good for you.
Like I Had Fun
Take it from someone who loathed exercise for 31 years: there is something out there for everyone, you just have to find it. Even if you tried something once and didn't like it, go ahead and try again. This time might be different. And if it's not, move on to something else. Ask your friends, especially those who aren't fitness buffs. And for those among us who are insecure working out in front of other people (and so the idea of going to a gym is a literal nightmare come true), remember that exercise can be done just about anywhere with enough creativity.
For example, I run in the woods like a damn werewolf to avoid being seen. It's actually pretty nice and just requires the right shoes (because #roots) and sufficient bug repellent (because #NewEnglandSummers).
Because, honestly, that's the only thing exercise can ever guarantee you. It can't ensure weight loss, skinniness, or that you're going to look hot (whatever the hell that actually means) but it is unequivocally good for you, and you deserve to be healthy, both for yourself and your baby.
Like A Badass
Even if you just slowly jogged a half a mile or did 10 sit-ups, go ahead and embrace your badassery. If exercise isn't 95 percent pretending you are way fitter and more graceful than you actually are as you do it while hard rock montage music plays loudly in the back of your mind, then I guess I don't know all that much about exercise.
You've proven to yourself that you can do this and it's possible. You're starting a good habit (or restarting a good habit that you had to give up for a little while there). You should leave a work-out feeling like this is something you can (and want to) do again.
OK, maybe you won't feel like that right away or ever, but the point is to have a workout that you don't resent before, during, and after it's completed.
Like A Pony
Applicable only to Prancercising work-outs, for no other form of exercise can instill in your the carefree majesty of running free like a wild pony.
Like I Have All The Muscles
'Cuz you're swole as hell now, biatch!