Why postpartum fitness classes are important for new mothers
Congratulations!! You had a baby and you have been cleared at your postpartum check-up to return to or begin your fitness routine! There are so many aspects of postpartum exercise to consider like what types of exercise are safe for a vaginal delivery versus a cesarean birth, how often you should be exercising, how to identify if you have pushed too hard, and the list goes on. These are all important and valid questions and need to be addressed, however this article is going to focus on why fitness classes specifically are important for new moms like you.
Exercise is so good for you!
I know you have heard this and it is not a revolutionary fact. Regular exercise is recommended by Health Canada not only to help decrease the risk of 25 chronic conditions, but also as a way to improve mental health. The new Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (2016) state that we should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recommends exercise in the postnatal time, after being cleared by your health care provider, as a way to decrease symptoms of mild postpartum depression (2017).
Your mind and body went through amazing feats throughout pregnancy and birth. Be so proud of that! Now, that same mind and body are continually expending energy and love to nurture a tiny human. Exercise is one of the best ways to refill this cup! The endorphin rush that can come from a great sweat is like no other!
Okay, so now you know that exercise is important and recommended by your health care provider. Now what? Where do you even start with knowing what to do and how to incorporate your sweet babe into this attempt at a fitness routine?
Why a fitness class?
As the owner of a prenatal and postpartum group fitness company, I know that I am biased. That being said, I think one of the best ways to combine all of the benefits listed above is to attend fitness classes tailored to new moms and their babies. What could be better than a play date and sweat date combined? Best yet, everyone is a new mom. They have been there and I would wager if you have had a rough night, you’re not the only one in the room. You can talk about it! If you had the best night of your mom life, you can talk about it! These mamas want to hear your story and share theirs! The other fun part about exercising in this supportive atmosphere: no judgments. If your greatest accomplishment during the class is that you showed up, then all else is bonus! If your greatest accomplishment is performing 10 full triceps dips with your legs extended in perfect form, amazing!!! Each milestone should be celebrated and those mom-friends you meet become your cheerleading squad.
Find the right postpartum fitness class for YOU!
You got it; this might take a few 2am-feed Instgram scrolls, plus a little bit of reading websites to try to find the right fit for you. What are some important aspects to consider when deciding which classes to try first?
- Research the instructor’s background. The fitness industry is not regulated, which means that there are no minimum requirements for anyone offering fitness classes. Look for classes that are lead by instructors with further prenatal and postpartum education and training. They will be your best resources for offering safe and effective variations of exercise as you move through the stages of post-birth and progress along your fitness journey.
- Respect the nap! If your baby is on a nice routine, find classes that work with it. This might mean booking a class while they are going to be awake, like in between naps. Or it might mean that they have a nap in the carrier or car seat while you exercise. Find what works for both of you!
- Type of workout. Find something that you think will align with your ideal sweat session. From “baby wearing” barre to outdoor “boot camp” style classes, there are a variety of mom and me classes to choose from in Edmonton! If you enjoy something, you are more likely to stick with it.
Registered! Now, I have to leave the house?
Perfect! You found a class that makes you excited and you registered! Good for you! Gearing ourselves up mentally is one thing, now how do we physically get out the door?
There is so much to learn as a new mother and so many considerations to accomplish what used to be simple daily tasks. We must learn how to care for and continue to nurture this little human at the same time as we learn to care for our changing post-birth body and mind. If you were an avid exerciser prior to being a mother, you likely have already asked the question “when can I get back to my routine?” before even thinking about what this might look like with your little one in tow. If you did not have a regular fitness regime prior to your baby’s arrival, then the thought of leaving the house and attending a fitness class might seem all too daunting. Truth be told, leaving the house for anything can feel like a huge task. Although getting loaded up and out of the house takes way longer now than it ever did before, you will get quicker, it will get easier, and those #momwin moments will occur more often! Leaving our homes for walks, play dates, grocery shopping, or whatever is also great for our mental health. Getting out of the house is also good for our babies. Breathing in fresh air, experiencing new sights and sounds, and meeting new people helps their little minds develop.
Feeling excited, nervous, and ready to roll!
I am so proud of you! You should be proud of yourself. You have selected a class, registered, packed the diaper bag, and are ready to smile and sweat!
Here are a few more tips for attending a postpartum fitness class:
- Hydrate!! Especially if breastfeeding, but even if you are not, make sure you are drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workout! Dietitians of Canada recommend drinking at least 3.1L of water per day when breastfeeding (2014) and if you feel signs of thirst, please drink more!
- Talk to someone. The introvert in me has a difficult time even having this tip in here because talking to someone new can be hard. Do it anyways.
- You do you. I love this saying always, but especially when it comes to fitness classes. We are all on our own journey and are present for different reasons. Do not concern yourself with which version of exercise another mom is doing. Please do not compare yourself to her. You are there making yourself stronger! You do you.
- Baby is your number one priority! If you ever feel that this isn’t the case, I would reconsider that specific class. Yes, you are there to workout, but also there as a mother with her baby. Take a break to change, feed, cuddle, and then jump back in when you can.
- Have fun and enjoy the journey!! A high-five if you arrive early and a bigger high-five if you arrive 10 minutes after class starts, but you go in anyways! You earned that sweat and all the smiles that will come along with one of your best #momwins yet!!
Part of a bigger picture
You have now attended a few fitness classes and found one (or many!) that work with your schedule, make you smile, help you move your body, and that baby seems to agree with. Awesome! Now, what is even more important than committing to attending class once, twice, or three times a week is the understanding that the physical changes take time. You have likely heard the phrase “it took ten months to grow your baby…” Well, it is true. Health Canada suggests that healthy postpartum weight loss for breastfeeding mothers is no more than 0.5lbs/week and for non-breastfeeding mothers no more than 1lbs/week. Because of this, we need to find other motivators to keep us going! Whether you choose to check-in with the scale is completely up to you, however what I encourage you to do is to check-in with how you feel.
How do you feel when leaving the class? This includes how we feel physically and emotionally after the sweat is over. I would hope you feel stronger, inspired, and connected! Stronger mentally and physically because you showed up, you gave it all you had, and you took care of your little one while taking care of yourself. I hope you feel inspired by the mothers around you who are going through their own daily struggles of this amazing roller coaster of motherhood. You should also be an inspiration to yourself. On days where you would rather stay at home, remind yourself why you started this fitness journey. Connected: I hope you feel more connected to yourself, your tiny human, and at least one other human in the room.
These are all parts of the bigger picture. We move our bodies to be healthy for life! We sweat so that we can be strong to lift our babies when they don’t want to be called babies anymore. We attend these classes to make friends, to laugh, to share, and to get ourselves out of the house
As for your new “mom bod”, rock it!!
You just grew, birthed, and are now nurturing a beautiful human being. Being surrounded by others on various stages of this journey will help you embrace what your body has done and how it continues to serve you. Learning how to safely and effectively move that gorgeous body of yours in a motivating environment can do amazing things for your body and mind!
Check out the Fit Your Life class schedule for both prenatal and postpartum exercise and connect with them on Facebook and Instagram!
Bump and Baby is a resource to connect new moms in Edmonton, Alberta and surrounding areas (including, but not limited to, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, Leduc and Beaumont) with local fitness specialists offering classes and exercise programs for prenatal and postpartum mamas.
Images provided by: Fit Your Life