He was staring directly at my stomach when he said, “So… when can you start exercising again?”
I had tears in my eyes as I turned away. My twins were only 4 weeks old, and I was very aware that I still looked about 20 weeks pregnant.
My husband still maintains his thoughtless mate was just making conversation and that I was being overly sensitive.
But seriously, in what context would you ever really ask that in general conversation?
The pressure for women to regain their pre-baby body is intense. With my Facebook feed full of bikini-body programs and fitness models looking like they had never had a baby just seven days post birth, I found myself more than a little bit pressured to look like I never had a baby, or in my case, two babies.
If we think rationally for a moment, spending nine months growing another human being in your uterus results in progressive stretching of your abdominal muscles, so of course it will take time for those muscles to come back in.
We should not put unnecessary pressure on the new moms in our lives to think that this is anything other than normal.
However, there are some fantastic and perfectly valid reasons to make some time for exercise after childbirth:
1. Less pelvic floor problems, such as incontinence and vaginal prolapse: The thought of being able to prevent my uterus from falling out of my vagina is definitely a bit of an incentive to lose the baby weight, not to mention the benefits of not wetting my pants.
2. Disease prevention: It has been shown to improve cardiovascular health and reduces your risk of diabetes and cancer. It also improves your mental wellbeing and increases your energy levels.
3. Prevention of osteoporosis: Weight bearing exercises assist with bone strength. When you are pregnant and breastfeeding, you can be losing bone density, so this is a big reason to pull out your sneakers.
4. Happy moms: Exercise has been shown to reduce postnatal depression by 50 percent.
5. Better sleep: Ask any new parent about the value of sleep. Research has shown that exercise helps you to sleep better and to feel more awake during the day.
Clearly, there are plenty of reasons to exercise.
The hard part is to find the time. I was so tired in the early post-pregnancy days that I could barely even get a load of clothes washed, let alone find time to get an exercise session in.
After I had my third baby, it was even more difficult to exercise in the more formal sense of the word, but by then, I had things a little more sussed out.
As a physiotherapist who works mostly with postnatal women, these are my top six tips for fitting in a few minutes of exercise per day:
1. Complete short, home-based sessions.
Busy moms need short sessions that can fit in their day-to-day schedules. I started incorporated just a few minutes of easy exercises here and there into my already-busy schedule.
With recent research preaching the benefits of short sessions, especially compared to nothing at all, I did not have to pressure myself to make time for the 60-minute session I previously thought was required.
2. Make it a habit.
I found that if I linked exercise to an activity I was already doing, then I could make it into a habit by repeating it daily.
I started in the kitchen, as it seemed to be where I was most the time anyway.
I don't do anything major: some quick squats while I fill the dishwasher or some wall pushups while I waited for the toast to pop up. Before long, I was doing these automatically whenever I found myself in the kitchen.
3. Involve your kids.
I began to incorporate some exercises into playtime. Since I was on the floor anyway, it wasn't too difficult to do some leg lifts or bridging (lying on your back with your knees bent and lifting your bottom into the air).
4. Include your pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor exercises are known to be incredibly important after childbirth, but they are often overlooked.
I did my pelvic floor exercises while I brushed my teeth. This was ideal for me, because I could put a reminder note on the mirror. Before long, it became habitual every time I reached for my toothbrush.
5. Find opportunities to move as much as you can.
Even as I lay down on the couch, I took the opportunity to do my favourite butt and pelvic floor exercise. Here's one awesome exercise that works both your butt and your pelvic floor.
Other times, I would pop the kids in the stroller and go for a quick walk.
6. Look after your diet.
It's so easy to grab the first thing you see when you open the fridge, especially when you only have a limited amount of time to feed yourself in general. Make sure you fill the refrigerator with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, as this will help you snack light and snack right.
Once you get started, it's easy to add small, healthy choices here and there. You're not trying to move mountains overnight; baby steps are key.
Not only will you start to see your pregnancy weight disappear, but more importantly, you'll feel good, less tired and less stressed. It doesn't take an expensive gym membership or a constant nanny to watch the kids. Anyone can exercise in small doses.
Start slow; every little bit counts. You'll get there.
To download a free cheat sheet on the one thing you need to know to flatten out your mummy tummy, visit www.corefitmama.com.