Pre-pregnancy I always did my best to stay active. I’m not the fittest person out there but I made sure that I avoided a sedentary lifestyle outside of my 9-5 desk job.
I was taking swimming classes. I was in lunch-hour yoga classes with some of the ladies at work. I was going to hot yoga classes after work. I was going to the gym to do some circuit training with my husband who is a certified fitness trainer (@vic.b.fit on Instagram). I was going for runs/walks around the neighbourhood with my husband. I was lifting weights at the small gym in our apartment building where my husband and I used to live. I was in a ball hockey league with some friends from work and joined in on some softball charity tournaments. At times my husband and I would go to parks and I’d join him to shoot some hoops as well.
During my pregnancy, I had to slow down a little bit but I kept training with my husband (went with lighter weights) and I kept doing yoga. I walked a lot and ran on a treadmill some days. I also focused on pelvic floor exercises to prepare for childbirth. Towards the end of my pregnancy, it got really hard to move around so I just stuck with certain stretching exercises and a little bit of yoga.
After giving birth, I was in a tug of war with myself. On one end, I really wanted to get back to working out again. On the other end, my exhausted and sore body just couldn’t get off the couch. Though my husband was a big advocate of fitness and healthy lifestyle, he never pressured me one way or another.
I remember one day I asked him if he thought I’ll be able to go back to working out again. To me, it seemed really impossible at that time because I wasn’t eating healthy — I was still craving all kinds of chocolates in the first few weeks postpartum — and I really didn’t feel like getting off my butt. I mean when you have a second degree tear from childbirth, even walking requires a lot of effort.
My lovely husband never doubted I can get back. He kept motivating me and telling me whatever I’m feeling at the time was temporary. When my wounds healed, I felt like I can start doing some physical activity. It was a slow and steady start but I’m glad I found the motivation to do so because now, I am back to a great fitness routine.
In a nutshell, here’s how I worked my way back into a fitness routine after I gave birth to my little nugget.
1) Start with body weight exercises with few reps and 1-2 sets each.
My husband told me that he was talking to one of his colleagues who’s a mom of 3. Her advice was to simply start slow whenever my body feels good to go. She said it’s best to slowly and gradually get back to working out.
At 8 weeks postpartum, my wounds healed. I started following this advice. I started with 10 bodyweight squats per day. Then added some jumping jacks a couple days after. The day I was able to do 2 sets of 10 squats and 10 jumping jacks in one day, I felt really happy.
While I was still suffering from a bit of baby blues and postpartum anxiety at the time, the physical exercise took my mind off these things. When I felt good about bodyweight exercises, I started working out to improve my cardio.
2) Increase cardio strength by doing 15-20 minute HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts.
I followed MadFit on YouTube for this. When I was able to do 20-minute exercises without taking a break, I moved on to 30-minute long workouts. Then I combined 2 30-minute long workouts to get a full hour of exercise. I focused on full-body HIIT workouts rather than targeted ones because my goal was to improve my cardiovascular strength.
When I was able to do hour-long HIIT workouts without taking a break, I moved on to a more challenging routine.
3) Incorporate light weights and endurance exercises.
I found pilates was really good for this. This time, I followed Bailey Brown’s 5-minute workouts on YouTube. These are great because the workouts are targeted to specific muscle groups. This allowed me to do 5-6 workouts per day targeting my lower body muscle group. The next day, I’d work on upper body. Sometimes I’d do ab workouts although I’m really not a big fan of ab workouts ever since!
This was when I could really feel the change in my fitness strength. While the 5-minute workouts seem short, they were really challenging to do especially in the beginning.
I didn’t use any weights initially because I just couldn’t last. One day my husband suggested I start using light weights. I then tried the workouts using 1-lb ankle weights and 2.5-lb dumbbells. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get through the workouts. Then gradually I went up to using 5-lb to 7-lb dumbbells, and from 1-lb ankle weights to 1.5lbs to 2.5lbs.
When I got to 7-lb dumbbells and 3-lb ankle weights with endurance exercises, I knew I was ready to take it up a notch.
4) Get back to strength training.
Once I reached this point, I really took advantage of my husband’s expertise. We designed a program so I can get back to a great strength training routine again. He tracked my progress and added challenges as needed.
I am now doing a 2-day split program with one day focusing on improving my upper body strength and the second day on lower body strength. Here’s a quick snapshot of where I’m at now at 6 months postpartum:
- 45-lb barbell row
- 35-lb overhead press
- 45-lb bench press
- 35-lb bicep curls
- 10-lb tricep extensions
- 10-lb rear delt flys
- 55-lb squat
- 55-lb deadlift
- 25-lb goblet squat
- 20-lb stationary lunges
- 10-lb ball hold
I can also do a bunch of 5×10 exercises using resistance bands and 5-lb ankle weights. This includes things like hip thrusts/glute bridge, leg lifts, squat jacks, off-the-couch push-ups, crunches, among others. I can now do 1-minute full body plank and wall sit, which really took time and a lot of practice to get back to.
My goal here isn’t to lose weight or to look like a fitness model or a body builder. Nothing wrong with that but it’s just not what I’m trying to achieve.
Honestly, I don’t even know how much I weigh right now, or how many lbs I lost since my pregnancy. In fact, we don’t have a weighing scale in the house. I don’t know my waist measurement. Honestly, I still got that mommy pouch. A lot of trainers would probably raise their eyebrows and say what the hell is my hubby doing and not tracking all these? But it’s my call. I don’t care too much about the numbers.
I don’t care too much about how my outer self looks. I don’t strive to look like how I was pre-pregnancy because that body is gone. I now have stretch marks, breasts full of milk, and a tummy that reminds me of the 9 (or 10) beautiful months that my body nurtured my son. But with keeping up with my workouts, I get this bonus of physical transformation because I’m working on feeling stronger.
What’s important to me is how I feel.
I’m focused on becoming stronger and staying active. I want to be able to lift my now 20-lb baby and not complain about a sore back or weak arms. I want to be able to play with my baby, chase him around when he’s able to crawl/walk/run/ride a bike, and not complain about being out of breath. I want to keep up with his energy because I know once he figures out he can run around the house or the park, he will! That time is coming. So I want to build strength and endurance, and really feel good about myself so that I can enjoy life and what it has to offer with my little chunky nugget!
I mean look how active he is already… lol!