By: Nancy Gottesman
OK, Heidi Klum gets her runway body back about five seconds after giving birth, and you’re feeling the pressure to squeeze into your size 10s before returning to work. Listen to us: Most moms don’t reach their prepregnancy weight until their babies are 1 year old. Dropping those extra pounds takes time, especially when you’re caring for a new baby and getting adjusted to a new schedule. So don’t be hard on yourself. “Just focus on a healthy lifestyle now,” advises Pamela Berens M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. “Take it one day at a time and become a healthy role model for your child.” Our three-step guide will help you find your waistline again without sacrificing time with your baby — or losing your mind.
Step 1: Move It, Mama
Start exercising now. Decades ago, doctors liked to keep women physically restricted after delivery — no more. Short 10- to 20-minute relaxed strolls once you’re home from the hospital — even for Cesarean-section moms who aren’t on painkillers — are good for you, says Dr. Berens. For more formal workouts, Dr. Berens recommends waiting six weeks. “You’re not going to feel well before then,” she says. “Six weeks gives your body enough time to heal after labor and delivery.”All those diaper changes and midnight feedings are sure to have you frazzled, and stress can actually prevent you from losing weight. Exercise is a tried-and-true stress-buster. “Getting some type of exercise will help you feel alive again,” says Dr. Berens. “You’ll lower your risk for both postpartum depression and obesity.”
How Hard Are You Working?
Use this guide to gauge how much effort to put into your stroller workout. Aim to work out between a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 3 to 7. Remember: When doing the stroller walk, you should be able to speak to your baby without gasping for air.
- No effort
- Light effort
- Very easy/comfortable
- Light to moderate effort
- Moderate to strong effort (you become aware of your breathing)
- Strong effort (you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation
- Very strong effort (you can only talk in short sentences)
- Challenging (you can’t utter more than a phrase at a time)
- Unable to talk (You can only keep up this intensity for very short shuprts)
- Maxed out (lightheaded even)
Stroller Coaster: An Easy 26-Minute Workout (No Babysitter Needed!)
We asked Kristen Horler, the founder of Baby Boot Camp, to design a quick, easy stroller workout for new moms of any shape or size. “With this workout, you can go at your own pace because it doesn’t matter what fitness level you’re starting at,” says Horler, whose popular Baby Boot Camp classes are offered nationwide. “Plus, there’s no guilt about leaving your baby.” In the beginning, do this 26-minute stroller workout three times each week. If you’re breastfeeding, nurse your baby before the workout so you won’t have to stop along the way.
Warm-Up: 5 minutes
Walk at a moderate pace, keeping your shoulders back, your spine long (not rounded) and your stroller 6 to 10 inches from your hips.
The interval walk: 18 minutes
Step One: Walk at a challenging pace for 30 seconds.Your rate of perceived exertion should be a 5 or 6 .
Step Two: Walk for 60 seconds at a slowerpace. Your RPE should be a 4 or 5 . Alternate steps one and two 12 times (18 minutes total).
Cool down: 3 minutes
Slow down and walk at an easy pace. Your RPE should be a 2 .
When you feel like your breathing isn’t challenged anymore (this could take five days or five weeks or longer, depending on your fitness level), increase steps one and two to 45 and 90 seconds each. This will make your workout nine minutes longer. Don’t forget to cool down.
Advanced: Full-On Toddling
After you’re accustomed to your new interval times of 45 and 90 seconds (usually after about four to six weeks for a woman of average-level fitness), boost your intensity to a 6 or 7 on the RPE scale. When you feel like you can handle it, increase the duration and frequency of your stroller workouts: Add minutes to your present workout and then add a fourth, then a fifth day. But never increase the duration, frequency and intensity at the same time, suggests Horler. Choose one, get comfortable with your new level, then boost it with additional minutes, extra days or more RPE intensity when you feel ready.
Stroll Call When using a stroller to work out, just asny old ride won’t do. What you use depends on your baby’s age and physical development. Always check that she’s strapped in propery before hitting the pavement.
0 to 6 months “Infants don’t develop good head and neck control until they’re about 6 months old,” says Alison S. Tothy M.D., medical director of the pediatric emergency department at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. “Before that, use a stroller that reclines fully so your baby can lie flat onher back. You can use a basinet stroller for a walking workout or a leisurely saunter.
6 months plus Medical experts say your infant should be at least 6 months old, able to sit up and have good head/neck control to withstand the potentially bumpy ride of a workout in a jogging stroller.”For a more stable ride, opt for a jogging stroller with three 12- to 16-inch inflatable wheels,” Horler recommends. Keep in mind that just because a stroller has three wheels doesn’t mean it’s safe for running. Check the user’s manual before doing more than walking.
Step 2: Eat Smart
Believe it or not, you’re still eating for two. Even if you’re not nursing, you need energy to care for your baby and yourself. Plus, you probably already know that what a breastfeeding mom eats can affect her baby’s food preferences (eat broccoli and baby is more likely to enjoy it too), but a new study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that when mom ate healthful fare she became a better role model for her children, who were less fussy and picky at mealtime and showed more interest in eating. Food can energize you — or make you feel sluggish. (Rememberhow you felt after that last big bowl of buttery pasta?) Even though a late afternoon candy bar, cookie or caramel frappuccino may revive you at first, steer clear! Refined carbs and sugary foods will make your blood sugar spike, then crash, says Dawn Jackson Blatner R.D., L.D.N., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. That makes you feel hungrier sooner and more likely to reach for another candy bar to quash the pangs. Eat smart by choosing foods packed with nutrients like filling produce, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.
5 Energizing Meals
- A turkey sandwich on a toasted whole-wheat bagel with tomato and onion slices, romaine lettuce and low-fat mayonnaise and mustard, an orange and a glass of low-fat milk.
- A grilled lean hamburger patty on a whole-wheat sesame roll with grilled onions, pickles and lettuce with grilled zucchini wedge stopped with parmesan cheese.
- A whole-grain pita pocket filled with canned white beans (drained and rinsed), arugula, tomatoes and drizzled with prepared pesto sauce and a peach for dessert.
- A bowl of oatmeal (or any whole-grain cereal) topped with berries and low-fat milk.
- A cup of lentil soup, a vegetable salad sprinkled with olive oil and vinegar and topped with a grilled chicken breast and a whole-wheat roll on the side.
10 Super Snacks to Energize You
- 12 to 18 baby carrots and four tablespoons of hummus.
- Two tablespoons each of slivered almonds and raisins mixed with½ cup of Wheaties.
- Five whole-grain crackers topped with natural peanut butter (whichhas no sugar or trans fats) and banana slices.
- A 16-ounce skim, low-fat or soy latte.
- String cheese and a pear or apple.
- A hard-boiled egg on a slice of whole-grain toast and ½ cup of grapes.
- A corn or whole-wheat tortilla and a slice of low-fat cheese with salsa.
- An orange and two or three slices of low-sodium turkey.
- 6 ounces low-fat plain Greek yogurt topped with ½ cup of berries andone tablespoon of sunflower seeds.
- 10 Four celery stalks topped with one teaspoon of natural peanut butter.
Step 3: Free Your Mind
Simply put, you’re probably stressed, and it sucks. Here’s why: When you’re worried or feel like you have no control over what’s happening in your life, your body reacts by releasing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline into your bloodstream. When you’re in physical danger, these hormones give you the strength to run from enemies. But if the stress is in response to frequent emotional demands, as is the case with new moms, these hormones build up and cause fatigue, listlessness, irritability and weight retention or gain (sigh). High levels of cortisol make you crave fatty, sweet, salty, crunchy foods. We know your free time is fleeting, but try a few of these stress-busters and you just might find you have more energy to care foryour baby and feel better emotionally. You might even shed some pounds.
Sleep When Baby Sleeps
That means letting your mom do the laundry (or let it pile up) and your husband do the dishes. The extra sleep will help your body wash out stress hormones. Any missed sleep can induce insulin resistance, a condition that negatively affects your metabolism and ability to burn calories, according to a new study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
The Lowdown on the Rubdown
If you don’t have time or money for a spa visit, ask your partner or a friend to give you a massage. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicinerecently published a study showing that adults who received a deep-tissue massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases in the feel-good hormone called oxytocin.
If weather permits, shift your baby’s playtime to the great outdoors. Here’s why: Spending time active in a green space increase shappiness and decreases your level of stress hormones. Just five minutes spent anywhere outdoors led to improved mood, self-esteem and well-being, according to a new study published in Environmental Science & Technology.
Six Minutes of “Me Time” New research shows that just six minutes of reading can soothe frazzled nerves and reduce stress levels by 68 percent. If books aren’t your thing, turn on your iPod. Music listeners in the same study decreased stress levels by 61 percent. Or simply make a cup of tea, sit by yourself and drink it. That alone will cut your stress in half. Thekey is getting lost in a distraction (whether it be Dostoevsky, Lady Gaga,Earl Grey or this magazine), which will slow your heart rate and breathing— the physiological changes that promote relaxation.