Postpartum Weight Loss: 5 Realistic Tips for Mums Wanting to get back in Shape
If I could go back in time before having kids, it would be to appreciate the freedom and energy to train and exercise. Despite being a trainer and director of my own female only strength training facility, adjusting to life while caring for a growing family has meant that there have been plenty of times where my own goals have needed to take a back seat.
But 8 months on, despite numerous, fairly average, rushed and half hearted workouts, I am very proud of my postpartum progress; my growing strength, my fitness and how my body is feeling. Training and exercise are crucial elements in my life that make me feel whole; from stress relief, to boosting my mood and energy… I am simply a better person when I prioritise my own training.
In this article, I want to offer some insights on my journey. I have received so many lovely comments lately about how my body is looking that I felt almost compelled to write this piece. While my response is always a beaming ‘oh thank-you’, I also want to be fully transparent over what I actually do to get results. Like A LOT of things, my training looks very different now I am a mum. While before babies, I had time to train everyday, stay on top of my recovery and get quality sleep, I am way more conscious to work with what time I do have, to be realistic to protect my finite energy and acknowledge ‘the less is sometimes more’ when talking about training.
I am also more realistic to set long term goals and be generous in the time frame I am giving myself. While my 8 month results may not look that impressive to a seasoned bodybuilder, I am proud of what I have accomplished by aiming just to be 1% better in a few key areas.
Side note: below launching into my 5 commandments, I want to put out a reminder that EVERY postpartum body is different. If you have an niggles or areas of concern, make sure you activity seek expert opinion and recommendation. I am still rehabilitating a 1-2 finger diastasis rectic and following a specific program to help restore it. If you are not sure who to see, simply book in a time to chat with me and I am most happy to point your in the right direction.
1. Self love and appreciation ALWAYS. Less is sometimes more.
Did you know that research suggests 30 minutes can be as effective as 60 minutes when it comes to weight loss?
One of the biggest changes I have made to my own mindset is centred around giving myself permission to be less hard on myself. Sometimes the ‘less is more approach’ to exercise means that a missed workout gives me a little more time to recover so that when I return to training I am more focused and train at a higher intensity.
Stress in itself is a major contributor to weight gain, ensure that you are taking steps to manage your cortisol and take time out for yourself.
2. Move with baby in tow
As much as we would love to have unlimited time to train ‘by ourselves’ the reality is that finding time to slip away between feeds and naps, is super hard.
Finding time to move or train with your little one, is likely to be more sustainable in the long run. We love that 23W gives an option for mums to exercise while having our shared care nanny on site and without having your baby ‘on you’. The physical distance is close enough to be able to dart out if needed and far enough to be able to focus on the exercise itself.
Even I go into 23W on my days off, drop my kids off with Jenny and get in a workout. It would be madness not to!
Some other great options are as simple as putting your baby in the pram or carrier and going for a walk. When your baby is at least 6 months old, they can go in a jogging stroller and you can pick up the pace. Or alternatively, find a great online program you can do at home, like our workouts from our safe return to exercise guide, which is available for download in our shop.
3. Compound lifts above all else
Our 23W programs are built around our big lifts. And for good reason. They are the most efficient use of your time. With a limited time to train myself (4-ish hours per week- broken into 4-5 sessions of 40-60 minute duration) I spend 50% of my workouts focusing on my compound exercises. This is because compound exercises, like deadlifts, back squats, bench press, chin ups and oly lifts are excellent for increasing overall muscle mass and increase daily energy expenditure. They involve more muscle groups and joints and also allow me to move the most amount of load.
See below for an example of my current program. As you can see I have days with higher intensity (heavier loads for less reps) and days with more volume. This undulating style of training gives my nervous system a little more time to recover between heavy exercises.
4. Work with the time your DO have
Fact is: Any time you go to the gym is better than not going. If I had a dollar every time I had someone ask if they could get results off training 1-2 times per week, I would be rich. What someone is really asking is, ‘is my time and money worth the investment?’
If all you have is two days a week… do it!
It will make a difference. You will get stronger and in better shape if you also dial in some lifestyle factors too. But most importantly, it is a starting place. If you start with a manageable training frequency, you will build the skills and habits to be able t0 accomplish more later on down the track.
It is important not to listen to that ‘inner critic’ who tells you not to do ‘hard’ things. Be rational, self aware and intelligent to remind yourself of the benefits rather than talking yourself out of getting started (even if this seems too slow at start with).
If you are on a mission to drop post baby body fat, resistance training a couple of times per week, coupled with an active lifestyle (around 8,000 steps/day) should be enough. Don’t overlook the importance of a well-balanced diet and building an understanding on how to put your nutrition in a slight deficit to support weight loss.
Further to this, it is quite common that sometimes I am only left with 20-30 minutes to train. On these days I just prioritise my big lifts.
5. Rest and sleep are so important
As new parents or parents of toddlers, there is a good chance you just might not be sleeping very well (both in quantity and quality). It is so important to make sleep a priority and to do what you can to get it. Poor sleep may lead to weight gain through the activation of hormonal responses leading to an increase in appetite and caloric intake. It will also affect the quality of your muscle recovery post workout. Studies show that at 6 months after giving birth, moms who got less than six hours of sleep per night had more difficulty losing weight than moms who slept more than 6 hours.
Obviously there are some things that are beyond your control, but be reflective. Could you go to bed earlier, implement a better wind down schedule or cut back on caffeine earlier in the day?
It really is profound the difference in progress I can make in a few weeks more restful sleep. I have recently cut back on my afternoon coffee ‘pick me up’ which has made a huge difference in how deeply I am sleeping.
Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.
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