Postpartum Fitness: Weeks 1 to 16

Leaving the hospital after giving birth I had two goals:

  1. Keep the tiny human alive and healthy. And somehow be a good parent.
  2. Lose ALL the baby weight ASAP. Bring on the non-maternity clothing!

I’m 17 weeks postpartum and so far I would say goal #1 is going far better than goal #2. I would say that’s a good thing and exactly how it should be. As it stands today I still have 12 pounds to lose to get to my pre-pregnancy weight and 18 to my goal weight. I’m mostly back in my non-maternity clothes but there’s still some things that are a no-go. I’m eager to lose the weight but more eager to get back into my pre-pregnancy shape. I really miss being able to run effortlessly. I also miss feeling firm and strong, although I’m definitely getting there. I’m proud of where I am at. Here’s a look at my first 16 weeks back and how I got to where I am.

run

Week 1-6: Walk, walk, walk. We left the hospital on a Monday and that Thursday we were out for a walk. We walked for maybe 20 minutes and I was exhausted. From there I continued to walk. I increased the frequency per week and the time per week slowly. At 3 weeks in I was walking 2.5 miles. From there I increased the speed and the distance. My goal was to increase my heart rate and break a sweat if I could. I often did. At the 6 week mark Enzo and I were walking everywhere. Errands? We’d walk. Need to go to the post office? Walk. We would walk for about an hour per day.

Week 7: I was cleared for exercise at the end of week 6 and I was EAGER to get out there. I woke up that Saturday and left Enzo with Dad. I laced up my sneakers and tackled my 2.5 mile walk loop. My goal was to run a mile without stopping and that’s what I did. It was HARD on my body. My lungs felt ok, thanks to all that walking. In total I ran almost 2 miles that day. I walked 0.5 miles. This week was also filled with a couple stroller run/walks with more walking than running. And a mom and baby barre class. I learned quickly that I had lost much of my strength and it would take some time to get it back.

circuit 2

Weeks 8-11: I continued my Saturday morning solo runs and my weekday stroller run/walks. By week 12 I could run about 3 miles SLOWLY with the stroller. I really tried to listen to my body and go slow. If I felt tired, I walked. If I felt great, I kept running. I also added in circuit workouts at least 2x a week to build up a lot of the strength I had lost. I focused on full body workouts and hit arms, legs, and abs.  I continued to go to mom and baby barre once a week too.

Weeks 12-14: Michael was traveling and we had a lot of weekend plans during these weeks so I really wasn’t able to keep up my normal routine of Saturday solo runs. Usually once a week I’d get up early and go run before Michael left for work so I could get at least one stroller run in but I’d say that most of my runs were with the stroller. I was really determined to build back up to 5 miles before I went back to work on July 5th. I kept increasing my distance with the stroller by first walking the extra mileage. So let’s say I wanted to get to 4 miles. I’d run up to 3 miles and then I’d walk the last mile. I felt like this was an easier way to get used to going that extra mile. I’d do that a couple of times and then I’d run the extra mile instead of walking it. Often I would have to do this over a couple of days as I could run an extra 0.5 miles but would be too tired to run the full mile. I was really trying to increase slowly and gradually. I was successfully running 5 miles with the stroller before I went back to work on July 5th. I was also doing circuit workouts on my non-run days and pairing that with a walk. So I’d usually do a 30 minute circuit with a 30-45 minute brisk walk. By then my mom and baby barre class had been cancelled for the summer…such a bummer! I was really working out a lot during these two weeks but I felt really good, and was motivated to lose as much weight as I could before I went back to work. I really felt that because I had the time I should take advantage. And that I did.

circuit
Weeks 15-16: Heading back to work was an adjustment to say the least (and still is). In terms of workouts I tried to mix it up to see what would work best. I tried getting up at 4:30am to run solo miles before heading home for a quick ab workout and stretch. Then I’d get myself ready for the day, then get Enzo ready, and would leave for work by 7am. This was great the first few times because I got to enjoy Enzo after work without worrying about a workout. The problem with this was that if Enzo got up for a 3am feeding. I’d often get back to bed at 4am and at that point I wasn’t running at 4:30am. I also found I never really went to bed early enough so after a day or so I was just plain exhausted. I also tried circuit workouts in the living room after Enzo went to bed around 8pm. This actually worked well. I’d talk to Michael while I worked out so I didn’t feel like I was losing time with him. I did sort of feel that I was always tired so it probably wasn’t the best workout. The best solution for me has really been working out after work. Michael gets home just late enough that I have time to squeeze in a sweat before starting dinner. Enzo loves the stroller and staring at me while I run so I felt like I was a win for everyone. Circuits are also ok to fit in. Enzo is pretty stinking happy to sit in his bouncer and laugh at me when I’m out of breath. With both of these scenarios I really tried to keep my workouts to 30 minutes max so we could also snuggle, do tummy time, and relax a little before making dinner and then getting Enzo to bed. These weeks were tough because workouts felt really scattered.

Capture 3

I also felt that during these two weeks I started to decline. My legs were really heavy and tired ALL the time. My runs felt harder than normal and I felt like I was stopping a bit more. I also felt like I was just emotionally exhausted all the time. I gave myself an extra rest day and it really didn’t do the trick. Needless to say, these two weeks were really frustrating. These weeks were also interesting in terms of weight loss. I felt like prior to this I was losing about a pound a week pretty easily. My weight really fluctuated these two weeks and it wasn’t as easy to lose weight. In fact I gained a pound back. To me that’s another sign that my body isn’t really happy!

So what’s the plan going forward?

I’m definitely going to workout AFTER work. I learned during my first two weeks back that afternoon workouts are the best. The downside to this is that some days it just won’t happen, Enzo may not cooperate, we may get home too late, or any number of things and I just need to be OK with that. And you know what? It is OK. Being a mom is #1 on my priority list.  I do work from home on Fridays so I always get a 5am solo run in then. I’m also hoping to use weekends to my advantage more come the fall. We’re so busy now that it’s summer but when we are home more in the fall I’m hoping to get at least one weekend run in or a class like barre or yoga. I’ve found that setting a goal of X number of workouts per  week works well for me. My current goal is 4 workouts a week. It makes me feel good when I hit my goal and it keeps me accountable to fit it in later in the week if I miss it earlier in the week. Right now I feel like the goal is to stay active and make workouts part of our family routine.

Capture 2

The one big thing I’ve realized is that because most of my runs are stroller runs I need to plan out the week’s workouts more. Right now it’s too much to run back to back days of 3-5 mile runs with the stroller and everything else going on in life. I don’t get that much rest and I don’t recover as fast. I find it’s really easy to just lace up and go for a run- that’s what I want to do! But I need to get into a mindset of running every other day so I can recover more. I also need to change-up my runs. I can’t just run 3-4 miles at the same pace, for every run. I need to include an easy day, a distance day, and probably a middle distance day with some speed (especially since I want to drop my pace). I also want to build in circuit workouts for strength and yoga for strength and stretching. I’m working on a little schedule for myself to follow and I’ll share that when it’s complete.

Week 17 has been a rest week for me and it’s been much-needed. Just walking up the stairs to my office has been exhausting! Seeing that it’s been about 10 weeks since I started exercise again it feels like a good time to step back, rest, and recover. Next week I’ll hit the ground running again with a better schedule and renewed enthusiasm.

What has been your experience returning to fitness postpartum?

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