Photo by Tim Gouw
If you are someone who has always been committed to exercising regularly, then pregnancy probably hasn't slowed you down much. You know how vital exercise is to your well-being. So I’m sure that during your pregnancy you were already planning your postpartum return to exercise. Like many parts of motherhood, returning to exercise after having a baby can throw you some curveballs. It will take some planning and adjusting of your expectations.
What may come as a surprise and be more challenging is adjusting your expectations for your exercise routine or competitive sport. Depending on how often you are able to train, it’s going to take some time to get back to your personal best. Add into the mix that you are going to be more tired these days, and your performance can vary from one day to the next.
For some, this can be a frustrating time. You may be surprised that one day you are able to achieve your goal and the next day you are struggling to get there. You may find that you are achieving some consistency only to have life interfere with your training and once again affect your progress.
If you’re feeling frustrated with your progress, what can help is changing your expectations. Instead of striving for your pre-bably best, set a new goal. It may be as simple as being able to maintain some consistency with training a certain number of days each week. Or being content with whatever you are feeling up to each day. You could decide that day, based on how rested you feel, what your goal should be.
My competitive sport is running. I love it. I love running just to run and also competing in races. When I was ready to return to running postpartum, I was in for a rude awakening. I was tired and couldn’t run as fast as I expected to now that this little baby was outside of me. I would get frustrated if I could only go for a short run and thought what’s the point of that?
Over time, I came to realize and appreciate that even short or slow runs are worthwhile. If that’s all time would allow, then that was better than no run at all. And I wasn’t going to build on any progress if I only ran when time would allow for my ideal run.
If you’re postpartum and struggling to find your exercise groove, know that you’re not alone. Motherhood is a 24/7 job, regardless of whether you’re with your child or not at any given time. Cut yourself some slack and adjust your expectations. Your body just went through some major changes with no restful time to recover. Be gentle with yourself.
Laura Winters, LCSW is a therapist specializing in infertility and prenatal/postpartum stress. Laura's practice is located in Chatham and Mountain Lakes, NJ.