Overcome These Common Mental Blocks to Post-partum Training
This is Nike (M)
No time, no motivation, no progress … These things will cross your mind. Here's how to reframe them and get back on track.
- There's no hard-and-fast timeline for getting back into movement post-partum. Once you get your doc's green light, trust yourself to know when and how to dive back in.
- If you start to get in your head about your progress, mindset adjustments—like reframing how you think about self-care—can make a huge difference to your momentum.
- When inspo strikes, the Nike (M)ove Like a Mother programme in NTC has everything you need to get moving.
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.
If getting permission from your doc to start exercising again after having a baby has you more "Ugh, already?!" than "Hell, yeah!", listen up: don't stress about it. "Your body just did an unbelievably beautiful thing that is the very definition of strength", says New York City-based psychiatrist Lucy Hutner, MD, the lead editor of the Textbook of Women's Reproductive Mental Health. "And because pregnancy and childbirth took so much out of you, it's going to take some time" to feel psyched to work out.
So yes, it's cool to chill for a bit. When you're ready to move, though, scroll through these tips from experts to get your mindset on your side. Here's what to do if ...
... You don't have the motivation to exercise.
Between sleepless nights, establishing a new routine and giving your body time to heal, it's perfectly normal to not feel energised to exercise right now. The key to overcoming this feeling: just do it (wink, wink). "The truth is that you're probably not going to feel motivated and then want to exercise", says mum-of-two Jessie Mundell, a certified personal trainer and kinesiologist who specialises in pre- and post-natal fitness in Kingston, Ontario. "The motivation is more likely to come from doing the workout, then noticing how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally". In other words, start moving and that MIA motivation may just show up after all.
Try this: "I coach all my clients who are in this spot to get in the habit of exercising when their energy feels a bit low, because this is probably how it's going to be for some time", says Mundell. Even a few minutes of movement can inspire a craving for more.
... You feel like there are more important things to do.
It's natural to back-burner your needs when caring for a newborn. After all, it can feel tough to prioritise yourself when there's a tiny being right there who relies on you for everything. But don't let guilt overwhelm you, says Mundell. You deserve time to take care of yourself.
Try this: Reframe how you feel about self-care, says Mundell. No, it's not selfish, and it can be the start of setting a healthy model for your child. "I'm committed to setting an example for my children of a mother who deeply cares for herself", she says. "I want them to see a mum who actively cares for her body".
... You can't find time for a "good" workout—so why bother?
If you used to put in an hour hiking with your dog or sweating it out in a cycling/yoga/barre class, not being able to dedicate the same amount of time may be a little frustrating at first. And you may be wondering, does this even count? The answer: yes! "You may only have time for 15 or 20 minutes of exercise total. That's still effective, but you'll have to do some mindset work to feel successful about that", says Mundell.
Try this: Toss your old definition of a "good" workout in the bin. Aim for shorter workouts or split sessions into smaller chunks throughout the day, says Mundell. Also try not to wait for your baby to sleep to exercise, she adds, since that time should ideally be a precious break for you too. Instead, squeeze in a quick workout or a few reps while you're supervising tummy time.
... You want your old body back. Now.
Thanks to "snapback" culture (cue eye roll here), it's natural to want to return to how you looked before. But don't let unrealistic images online pressure you to overtrain in ways that aren't safe or leave you feeling defeated when you aren't seeing progress as quickly as you did pre-baby. Finding your rhythm post-partum requires you to give yourself grace. A lot of grace. "It's useful to remind yourself that your body has gone through a profound change—there are physical, logistical and mental changes going on", says Hutner. "This period is often the most transformative time of anyone's life and perhaps the most vulnerable. Getting back to yourself is going to be a process".
Try this: Give yourself more time to recover and rebuild your strength. "People used to describe the post-partum period as three months long, but I think that's a wild underestimation", says Hutner. "We cannot go through the biggest physiological challenge of our life and only have a few weeks to recover. Trust yourself and your capacity to understand what's going on with your body, but release self-judgement at the same time".
And when you do start working out again, it can be helpful to tap into your "why", suggests Nike athlete Angela Manuel-Davis. "After having my baby, I felt like my body was completely foreign to me", she says. "It was so overwhelming. What allowed me to mentally shift was attaching to my purpose. I reminded myself of who I was and the things I had overcome, and that I still had the same strength. For me, partnering with purpose allowed me to proceed in a more peaceful way in my post-partum journey".
If you're having trouble connecting with your old purpose (totally fair in this new life of yours), maybe, just maybe, that cute new person wriggling around next to you will inspire a new one.
Words: Jihan Myers
Photography: Vivian Kim