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6 Postpartum Fitness Tips That Won't Scare the Life Out of You

When she's not writing, Claire Gillespie can most often be found wiping snotty noses, picking up Lego, taking photos of her cat or doing headstands.

When you're ready to get back to exercise after childbirth, here's what to do

Ok, first of all — one postpartum fitness tip is more important than all others. If you only remenber one thing, remember this: do not compare yourself to other women, whether they’re moms or not, whether they’ve just given birth or not. (And especially if they photoshop their gym selfies before they put them on Instagram — in fact, we suggest unfollowing those people for the foreseeable future.) 

More: 10 Postpartum Tips That Will Save Your Sanity

Your body is amazing just the way it is — stretch marks, saggy skin, droopy boobs and all. Deadlifting 1.5 times your body weight, cranking out 20 push-ups, running a marathon in less than four hours — none of these things compare to giving birth to a child (whatever way it happened).

And ignore all that "bounce back after baby," "get your pre-pregnancy body" and "it took nine months to put the weight on; it'll take nine months to take it off" crap. It might take you a lot longer than nine months to lose your "baby weight" — and that's absolutely fine. If you're breastfeeding, the Office on Women's Health says gradual weight loss over several months is the safest way, especially if you are breastfeeding, and this will not affect your milk supply or the baby's growth. But besides making sure you don't lose too much weight too quickly, we suggest you don't think about weight at all. Ditch the scales and focus on how you feel instead. Plus, your body might not ever look like it did before you got pregnant. Pregnancy and childbirth do all sorts of weird and wonderful things to your body that go far beyond weight gain.

Having said that, getting back into fitness after having a baby can have huge benefits. It’s no secret that working out raises endorphins, which boosts mood and helps to reduce the risk of depression. Exercise is a vital part of any lifestyle — with the benefits too numerous to list. Heart health, strong bones, increased energy and better sleep patterns are just a few.

We’re totally giving you permission to spend most of your postpartum time sitting on the sofa, snuggling your newborn and marveling at how amazing you are for having brought a whole new person into the world. If you had a cesarean delivery, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that your return to exercise may be longer.

So when you’re ready, follow these tips from Lisa Druxman, mom, entrepreneur and founder of FIT4MOM and author of the upcoming, The Empowered Mama: How to Reclaim Your Time and Yourself While Raising a Happy, Healthy Family, and Dempsey Marks, fitness expert and creator of the PreGame Fit fitness and lifestyle program. These ladies know what they’re talking about.

More: 7 Things You Won't Learn About Postpartum Recovery in Birthing Class

1. Start slowly

Marks' first tip is to start any exercise program slowly. "Your body has gone through a tremendous transformation in the time leading up to giving birth," she says. "Your body has prepared for birth for more than nine months. So be gentle, start sensibly and build gradually. Always consult your doctor about how soon you can start your exercise program."

Marks recommends walking as the best first postpartum exercise because it's easy on your body and you can do it with your baby in tow — either strapped on in a snuggly or pushed in a pram. Start with 30 minutes and add five-minute increments until you are up to an hour per walk.

2. Work on your posture

Some of the changes your body went through during pregnancy result in the head jutting forward, the shoulders rounding and the hips tilting forward, reveals Druxman. She recommends regular posture checks: bring your head back, shoulders back, stand or sit tall and bring your hips to a neutral position. And if you feel that things aren't quite right down there, consider visiting a pelvic health physiotherapist, who can check out your pelvic floor as well as give recommendations on diastasis recti (when the abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy, resulting in a bulge).

3. Join a mommy and me class

Why not have fun and make new friends at the same time as getting fit? Druxman recommends classes like Stroller Strides, which are run by certified instructors to help ensure you are restoring your body in the right way.

More: A Fitness Studio Saved My Postpartum Mental Health

4. Give your abs some attention

New moms want to focus on their abdominals, says Marks, who recommends starting with a plank — her personal favorite. "It is the single best core conditioning exercise, but it also works your glutes and hamstrings, supports proper posture, and improves balance," she reveals. "Begin by holding your elbows directly under your shoulders with wrists in line with your elbows. Push your body up, head tucked in and legs together as if you are doing a push-up, and hold for ten seconds. You can gradually increase the holding time as you grow stronger."

Another great ab exercise is the pelvic tilt, which targets the lower abdominals and also benefits the entire lower pelvic area. "You will be amazed how powerful and effective this easy little exercise is!" insists Marks. "You will also notice a change quickly,  especially if you work up to two to three sets per day. Lay flat on your with your knees bent, feet flat and arms at your sides. Begin by drawing in and tightening your tummy, tilting your pelvis while pressing your back to the floor and squeezing your buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds."

5. Nourish your body

Your postpartum diet is just as important as your postpartum fitness. The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals advises eating at least 1,800 calories per day with well-balanced, healthy food choices that include foods rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and folate. And don't forget to hydrate! Druxman recommends keeping a water bottle by the nursing station, in your stroller, and around the house.

6. Keep your mind healthy

Physical exercise is great for the mind, but there are many other ways to strengthen your postpartum mental health. This is a great time to learn meditation, says Druxman. She suggests using nursing and napping times to try breathing exercises and trying guided meditation apps like Calm or Expectful.

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