Like a lot of new parents, I was (am) not happy with my post-partum body. Being a new parent is busy and going to the gym isn’t on everyone’s radar. I wanted to be able to build up my strength while not sacrificing time with my baby. Here are some exercises you can do with baby to help feel fit while enjoying some bonding time.
Full Disclosure: It is important that you speak to a healthcare professional about starting a workout routine. Your body may still be healing, and you don’t want to injure yourself! (Trust me, I had to have a physiotherapist okay this workout!)
Warm-Up Options (5-10 minutes)
For me, the warm-up is light cardio. I’ve never loved running and I’m not ready for it!
Walking with baby. It’s important to vary which arm you hold baby in (and how you hold them). A few laps in, I will hold them with one arm while rotating the other in a circle.
Stairs. Feeling super strong? Go up and down the stairs a few times as part of the warm-up! (Still holding baby if able.)
Squats. Towards the end of the warm-up, instead of a normal walk, take two steps and sumo squat while holding baby straight in front of you. (My son loves this. And honestly, that giggle makes me do even more than I would normally.)
Shoulder Press. Pick up baby under the arms. Lift them up above your head. Fully extend your arms then bring down to eye level. If you want, give them a little kiss! Repeat. If baby is too heavy, consider using weights. Don’t have weights? Try cans of soup or filled water bottles! Even just imaging weight and tightening your muscles as if something is there will help.
Rows. Stand up. Bend your knees (about 45 degrees) and lean over slightly. Raise baby to your chest and back towards the floor. Repeat.
Lateral Raise. Stand legs shoulder width apart. Hold baby straight out in front of you. Keeping arms straight, bring them up and down. If doing this with weights instead, keep palms towards the ground.
Planks. These can again be done over baby. Lay on the ground. Get into push-up position, on either your hands or elbows. (If your back is really bothering you, you can go onto your knees.) Hold this position, keeping your back straight. DO NOT raise your butt. This will help strengthen your core. See if you can hold for 15 seconds to start and challenge yourself to build up to a minute over time!
Scissor Kicks. This can be done laying next to baby. Lay on your back, legs fully straight. Raise your legs up, never letting them touch the ground. Lift one leg at a time going as quickly as you please. The lower you hold your legs, the harder it is. You should feel the burn in your abs.
Donkey Kicks or Superman Stretches. Start on all fours, kneeling over baby. For donkey kicks, raise alternating legs while keeping your knee bent to a 90-degree angle. For Superman stretches, alternate reaching your opposite arm and leg straight out. While doing either, engage baby by tickling in between stretches.
Always make sure to “cool down” after a workout with some walking and stretches!
Not everyone has time to do a full 60-minute workout. (To be honest, if I can get one full workout a week, it’s a miracle.) So here are some tweaks I made to my lifestyle to incorporate just a little more activity.
Stairmaster – I live in military housing which means it’s not the most modern set-up. There are two sets of stairs in my house: one to the basement where I frequently find myself in my office or doing laundry. (And with cloth diapers, there’s a fair amount of laundry.) The second is up to the bedrooms. I moved my change table to be completely upstairs so that I am going up and down stairs many times a day. The first week was rough. Then it got a little better. Now I can run up and down stairs a few dozen times a day without being winded!
20-minute rule – every 20 minutes, get up. Move around. Stretch. Even though it seems like a little thing, it adds up!
Do the hard thing – if something is hard, the only way to make it easier is to practice. I hated lifting heavy things. When I was pregnant, I would get my husband to take the laundry to the basement for me to wash because it was so exhausting going up and down all those stairs. Again, it was hard for the first few weeks, but it gets better. Reminding myself “this is how I get stronger” helps.
The hardest thing I’ve had to learn is that this is going to take time – and it has to. I may not love seeing that little bit of extra weight around my middle, but my physiotherapist assures me it needs to be there. My trainer reminds me that this isn’t about “getting swole” but helping my body heal. Remind yourself that your body made a human not that long ago and while it might appear healed on the outside, it’s still working on things on the inside.
Want more fitness for busy parents? Check out more on how to get in your exercise and self-care as a busy parent here.
About the Author
Grace is a Lil Helper Ambassador, a mom of one and a high school teacher on mat leave. She loves board games, reading, and has a mini-zoo.