A Refreshing New Way to Think About Your Postpartum Goals
This Is Nike (M)
No punishments, no guilt, no comparisons — just things that will make you feel good from the inside out.
- Messages from society to “get your body back” or “do it all” are damaging, unrealistic and unfair to new parents.
- Use this time to discover a new relationship with fitness and be kind to your body — which may mean skipping a workout if it’s not serving you.
- When you are ready to train again, the Nike (M)ove Like a Mother program in NTC has workouts designed to meet your body (and energy level) where you are today.
Read on to learn more…
*This content is designed to inform and inspire, but it is not meant to diagnose, treat or give specific medical advice. Always check with your health care provider about how to stay healthy and safe before, during and after pregnancy.
The weeks after delivery can be some of the most exhilarating yet exhausting ones of your life. You know what doesn’t help? Pressure from society (side-eyeing you, social media) to look like you never birthed a baby — or like you don’t struggle with balancing it all.
It’s time to cancel those all-too-pervasive messages we see and hear regularly.
The first to go: “Get your body back,” which is an unhelpful and frankly unrealistic mentality, says Brianna Battles, a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Eagle, Idaho, and the creator of Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism. Hello, you made and housed a human, which wouldn’t have been possible if your body didn’t undergo some serious and indelible changes, she says. The concept also doesn’t honor the fact that your body just did the most amazing thing that’s physiologically possible, adds Jane Wake, a pre- and postnatal exercise specialist in London. (Seriously: Research suggests pregnancy is the energy equivalent of a 40-week marathon. Let that sink in for a sec.)
The second idea to trash? The “no excuses!” attitude. (You know, the “Beyoncé has the same 24 hours in a day” thinking.) This mindset isn’t fair, especially to new parents, who cannot and should not “do it all,” says Battles. Instead, think of movement as a way to celebrate all your body can do as it’s ready for it, not an at-all-costs obligation or punishment, she says.
So what’s a more sustainable way to think about exercise in your postpartum period (once you’ve got that green light to get after it)? It’s all about reframing your intentions to be more in line with your new reality. Start here.
1. Get outside.
The early weeks and months with a new baby can be a lather-rinse-repeat cycle of feeding, diaper changing, and washing everything in sight. So aim to keep your activity simple. For example, just try to walk outside every day. That’s it. The walk can be any length or amount of time, at any speed, says Battles (leave your tracker at home). Any movement is better than none, and spending time in nature can reduce levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, according to research.
P.S. If walking is your go-to (or heck, only) form of activity these days, using a sling or baby carrier can be a refreshing (and cozier) alternative to a stroller, says Amanda Williams, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn in Oakland, California.
2. Be cool with where you are now.
Celebrating what your body can do today is a much stronger place to start than trying to force it back to what it used to do, says Wake. Chasing old strength or cardio PRs too soon might not only push you past your physical limits and lead to injury, it can also put you in a tough place mentally, says Battles, one where you’re discouraged and beating yourself up. No new parent needs that.
That’s not to say you can’t get there again (or surpass where you were), but this is an opportunity to find a new and deeper relationship with your activity of choice. “Does the benefit of running have to be attached to a certain mile time? Or can you just be happy to run again?” asks Battles.
3. Let go of perfectionism.
If you’re an avid exerciser or generally type A, you may have something Battles refers to as “athlete brain,” i.e., you hold yourself to an extremely high standard and are always looking for a harder, better, faster challenge. (This isn’t necessarily a harmful mindset, just one to be aware of.) That might mean you think a “good” workout requires a 30-minute-or-more commitment, so when your baby wakes up screaming before your warm-up is even over, you feel frazzled, if not totally frustrated.
Obviously this won’t happen overnight, but try shifting how you define an effective workout. It’s not about hitting an all-out or continuous effort right now, says Battles: “Are your muscles working? Then that’s a good workout.” You’re doing the best you can — full stop.
Also? Sometimes skipping a session is the right move. If exercise feels more like a challenge than an outlet or opportunity in that moment, don’t do it. Rest and recovery are more important than training in these early months, says Battles, so listen to what your body needs. It’s usually pretty honest.
4. Turn inward every day.
Despite your best intentions, exercise won’t always happen. That’s OK! “But there is something you can always do for your body, even from day one after childbirth,” says Wake: “Focus on your breath.” Connecting to your breath is one of the simplest, most powerful things you can do to feel grounded within your body and find a sense of calm with or without added movement, says Wake. (Deep breathing can also put you in tune with your pelvic floor muscles, and that connection will pay off by better supporting you later on, when you have the energy to do more.)
For at least a few minutes every day, sit still (or lie down if you can), and inhale through your nose for three counts, then exhale through your nose or mouth for four to six counts.
That’s a mind-body “workout” you can do right now. Hey, look at you, meeting your goals already.
Words: Sara Gaynes Levy
Photography: Vivian Kim
CHECK IT OUT
No need to figure out postpartum wellness on your own. Hop into the Nike (M)ove Like a Mother program in the Nike Training Club app for more guidance, a breathwork series that can support your recovery, and efficient workouts for when you’re cleared to exercise. Then treat yourself to some new gear — shopping can be a form of self-care too.