On Wednesday Rafe was a whole six months old! A lot of people say the time flies by when they have a baby…I wouldn’t exactly say that myself! It’s been the best, but most challenging six months of my life that’s for sure. I thought I would do an update on where I am on my post baby fitness journey, how I am feeling about my body at the moment and what my new goals are going forward.
In terms of weight loss I am now lighter than I was before pregnancy. I previously weighed 123lbs and my current weight fluctuates anywhere between 120lb and 123lbs, depending on how many stress induced biscuit binges have occurred. I only gained around 23lbs during my pregnancy and I exercised throughout so I didn’t have loads of baby weight to lose. Weight loss definitely isn’t a goal for me anymore, in fact I wouldn’t mind gaining some weight as long as it is muscle gain. I feel that I am stronger than I was pre-pregnancy. I used to only use an 8kg kettlebell for upper body work and a 10kg for lower body. Now I use between 10kg-12kg for upper body and either the 12kg or a 16kg for lower body. This is by no means excessively heavy and I have a long way to go before I am lifting the kinds of weight range that I want to be, but to know that it is very possible to regain the muscle I naturally would have lost during pregnancy and actually gain more is very encouraging. Also if you are lifting weights and your goal is muscle gain (which is so important for looking lean and toned) the number on the scale is pretty irrelevant. Muscle does not actually weigh more than fat, BUT muscle is denser than fat. So if you are lifting weights regularly but not noticing the number on the scale go down do not be disheartened. If you have replaced a few pounds of fat with a few pounds of muscle you will still weigh the same but you will look considerably leaner and just generally have a better shape. Going by the fit of your clothes or by measurements is a far better way to gage your progress. I will be doing a post about the benefits of resistance training and why women should not be scared to lift and build muscle in a later post.
I have been working out consistently since my six week post partum checkup (I did actually start some gentle exercise before then, but that isn’t something I would recommend). I was pretty gentle with myself in terms of the intensity of my workouts and what I was lifting until I was around three months post partum. It’s always important to listen to your body but it’s especially necessary when you have just had a baby. In addition how quickly you go back to exercise and how hard you train really does depend on your fitness and health before and during pregnancy and what sort of birth you had. I would strongly recommend speaking to your doctor at your six week checkup to ask what exercises are safe for you and then start of with more gentle ones. Things like walking, swimming and Diastasis recti repair ab workouts are a good starting point. There are also plenty of post partum safe workout routines on YouTube if you search for them.
At around three months post partum, after doing a lot of walking, ab separation repairing workouts and light weights I felt ready to start kettlebell training. Kettlebell training is pretty intense and not something I would recommend anyone who has had a C- section that soon after birth. And it’s important to start with a light bell (4kg-6kg). I used the ‘Kettlercise Just for women’ DVD which is great for beginners as it consists of two DVD’s one instructional and the other with a full workout, an express workout and an ab specific workout. I did this paired with walking and a lot of ab work for a while before purchasing the Kettlercise Ignite DVD which has three short, but intense kettlebell workouts. This DVD would probably not be suitable for a beginner and I would recommend working up to it once you have good form and are used to using kettlebells. The reason I chose kettlebell training is that it combines both cardio and resistance training but in a low impact way. I didn’t want to be doing any really high intensity (jumping, skipping etc) so soon after having a baby so this was great. Kettlebell exercise also really works the core.
I also started using resistance bands and I would probably recommend using these instead of kettlebells if you are very new to exercise as they provide resistance training in a more gentle way. Do not be fooled though, I genuinely thought that resistance band training would be ‘too easy’ for me! How wrong was I! Resistance bands my look easy but they burn your muscles and are another great way to tone up gently. Again you can search for workouts on YouTube, there is a few good ones on ‘Gymra’s’ channel. In addition to kettlebell training and resistance bands I have always written out my own workouts for when I want to target specific areas so I did these aswell. ‘Fitness blender’ is another great YouTube channel if you are looking to find a workout to target a specific problem area, but it’s unlikely they will be designed for women post partum so ensure you modify the moves accordingly.
My current workout regime includes kettlebells, HIIT, walking and my own personal made-up workouts. I feel like it has taken some time and a lot of hard work but that my body is pretty much entirely recovered from pregnancy. I still have some loose skin on my stomach and when I sit down there are a few more rolls than there used to be but that’s fine. As far as I am concerned I am still a work in progress and I am enjoying experimenting with different workout styles and seeing what they do to my body shape. Looking forward my goals are to clean up my diet, because when it comes to health and fitness my diet is the area that lets me down. Unfortunately it’s true what they say (for me anyway), ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’ and although I do eat healthily most of the time I also slip up with a fair few takeaways and biscuits along the way aswell. I am always pretty consistent with my workouts, partly because I genuinely love exercise and partly because it’s the only way I stay moderately sane on barely any sleep. But no matter how hard I workout my ab area definitely shows the effects if my diet hasn’t been up to scratch. I am also intrigued to see how my body reacts when I eventually stop breastfeeding (if that day ever comes!) I can currently eat around 2300kcals per day and my weight will either stay the same or go down. This is more than I would have eaten pre-pregnancy but as I mentioned earlier I have also built some muscle (muscle requires more calories than fat to sustain itself. So by building muscle you can effectively eat more without gaining weight. WINNER!) so it’s probably a combination of muscle gain and the production of breastmilk. My waist is exactly the same size as it was pre-pregnancy, it took around four months for it to get there though. I think my hips are probably a bit wider which actually isn’t something that I mind at all, in fact I would quite like wider hips and a bigger bum. Building my glutes is definitely another goal and I have been adding more weighted squats to my workouts.
Everybody’s fitness journey is unique and very personal especially a post partum fitness journey and it is so important not to compare to other people. We all start with different goals and at different weights and levels of fitness so don’t feel disheartened if someone looks like they have made more progress than you, or that they have got back in shape after having a baby quicker. We are all on a journey and some people are just further along it than others, it’s so important to support and encourage each other. I know that social media has a really bad reputation for making people anti-social and giving people unrealistic, filtered ideals of body image. But I find following other peoples fitness accounts and fitness journeys really inspirational and it’s really nice to reach out and connect to others. And it doesn’t matter whether you had a baby five years ago or five months ago it’s never too late to make a change and improve your health and fitness.