As a new parent, time is your most valuable resource — often stretched beyond what you feel is possible. Juggling taking care of your newborn, your home, your job, and more can be overwhelming. Healthy habits, including staying fit, usually suffer as new moms and dads adjust to their unfamiliar lifestyles. But, remaining active and healthy for your family is the best gift you can give them — and yourself!
Chances are, if you’re like most new parents, you’ve let your exercise routine slip … or have abandoned it all together. The good news is that it’s never too late to get back on track. That said, after any fitness hiatus, you need to approach re-starting with caution to prevent injury.
So how do you safely get back in action?
Follow these 6 key steps to safeguard your return to fitness:
Make sure stretching is a regular part of your fitness routine. According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching may help improve your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury. Here’s a great stretch for you to do before your workout to prevent lower back pain or injury. It’s called, “The Seated Back Twist.”
- Start by sitting on the ground with your legs straight out.
- Proceed by bending your right knee and stepping your right foot over your left leg.
- Place your right hand on the floor with your five fingers spread apart in order to hold up your weight.
- Turn to the right while bending your left elbow.
- Place your left elbow against your bent right knee, and start to inhale as you are sitting completely upright.
- You should feel yourself twisting while you are looking directly over your right shoulder.
- Hold this stretch for five breaths and repeat on the other side.
2. Work Out With a Friend
Working out with a friend can be useful whether she is spotting you on the bench press, or he is motivating you to run that extra half-mile. According to researchers at Brown Medical School and Dartmouth University, people are more successful at losing weight and maintaining fitness activities when they have an exercise buddy. Friends can hold you accountable and keep you honest, may offer advice to address challenges, and encourage you to keep going when you want to throw in the towel.
3. Get Active With All of Your Kids
Have an older child that wants to play, too? Get them involved in the fun! “If you have a new baby or infant, take a jog or walk with the stroller,” said Dean Maddalone, Director of the Professional Athletic Performance Center. “Crawl around the house with your older child. Dance with your kids to videos they like to watch. During commercial breaks while watching TV, do some sort of body weight exercise (a strength training exercise that doesn’t require free weights). Mix it up with standing squats, sit-ups, lunges, jumping jacks, burpees, and push-ups. Playing games with your children not only increases their cardio endurance, but yours, too!”
Although these may not have been part of your normal pre-baby exercise routine, your new life demands new options. And these are more efficient — and more fun — than sitting on the couch!
4. Pace Yourself
It can be dangerous to rush back into your old workouts or overdo it, even if you were once considered a “gym rat.” If your body has taken significant time off, it’s recommended that you gradually ease back into it and pace yourself in order to prevent potential strain or injury. According to Livestrong.com, it’s important to pace yourself when starting out, focus on improving your own personal best, and stop trying to keep up with others.
5. Stay Hydrated
“It’s important to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water every day, and you should definitely drink more if you have a hard workout or exercise outside on a hot day,” says Jaime Quinn, Clinical Director at Professional’s Wall Street location. If you know exactly when you’re going to work out, aim to drink 8 to 16 ounces of water one to two hours before doing so. You can exercise up to 12 minutes longer if you stay hydrated before you exercise. Have a full water bottle with you while you’re working out and take a sip every 20 minutes to remain hydrated.
6. Listen to Your Body
During and after your workout, listen to your body. It’s alright to feel a slight burn, but if you feel pain or soreness, stop immediately. Your body will send you signals while you are working out; make sure to listen to them.
Remaining active as a parent is worthwhile for today and far into the future, and it’s critical to take the proper precautions to ease into your new fitness program safely. Of course, before you begin, check with your doctor to see if you’re fit for physical activity. Then, remember, stretching, hydrating, pacing yourself, listening to your body, getting active with your kids, and working out with a friend will help you prevent injury and lead to a healthy lifestyle. These tips are also great for anyone just looking to get back in shape!
How are YOU staying active as a new parent? What are some of your best tips and anecdotes for safely returning to exercise after time off? We’d love to hear from you, and welcome your comments!