Having a baby is an amazing experience. It also leaves you completely, utterly, bone tired. Nobody talks about that part, really. Movies certainly don’t prepare you for it, and somehow, though friends and relatives will talk with you for hours about labor, and the first few days, weeks, and months with your new arrival, there is surprisingly little talk about what comes afterward in terms of your body.
Celebrities seem to pop back from their pregnancies in record time. For those of us without easy access to a personal trainer and that amazing yoga teacher that everyone is talking about, there are a few simple exercises that can help you look and feel better, post-birth More importantly, they can be done in the comfort of your home, and don’t require you to walk away from your little person, or even wake them up for that matter.
1) Deep Crunches
Unlike traditional crunches, these crunches are very small and require contracting the deep muscles of the abdomen. Rather than doing a short series of intense abdominal exercises, which can be terribly unpleasant after you’ve given birth, these smaller crunches allow you to strengthen muscles that have spent months being continuously stretched, in a far more gradual manner.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Reach forward with your hands and grab your inner thighs. Pull your upper torso up, but allow your head to relax back towards the floor. You’ll look a little like a turtle that has been flipped onto its back. Maintain this position, but tuck your chin into your chest, so that top of your head is now pointing towards your knees. Then bring your arms to the side of your body, so that your palms are facing down, and your arms are running parallel to your sides. In this position, contract your abdominal muscles for a moment and let them go. Your upper torso will respond by curling towards your knees just a little bit. Relax your abdominal muscles, but not the position. Then contract your abdominal muscles again. The series of contractions and relaxations can be done as slowly or as rapidly as you choose. Do 100. Yes, you read that correctly, 100. These are meant to be very small contractions.
Do not use your neck to make your body move. Place all of your attention on the muscles at the center of your body. The only group of muscles that should be working are the deep abdominals. If your neck begins to get tired, relax back to the floor and take a breather. Start the entire exercise from the beginning by reaching for your inner thighs with your hands and curling forward again. Be sure to tuck your chin into your chest. Your neck should not be involved in the exercise at all. Remember to breathe.
2) Leg Pull-Ins
This exercise addresses the both the abdomen and the coastal muscles, helping you get your waist back. It also has the added benefit of reducing cellulite on the upper thighs. Kneel with your right knee bent, and the right foot behind you. Stretch your left leg out to the side, so that the inside of your left foot is against the floor to the side. Place your right hand on the floor directly below your shoulder, with the fingers of your hand facing forward. Raise your left arm and wrap it over the top of your head so that you can rest the weight of your head in the cradle of your left arm. In this position, pull your left leg into your chest by bending your left knee and raising the leg towards your chest in a diagonal. Do twenty pull-ins using the left leg and then change sides and repeat the exercise with the right leg.
Do not allow your torso to “wiggle” around. Keep it stable by engaging your back and abdominal muscles. Exhale as you bring the leg in, and inhale as you stretch it out again. Do not hold tension in your neck. Allow the head to rest in the cradle of the arm that is not supporting your torso, but do not allow the head to drop below the level of your bottom shoulder. The head and neck should remain in line with the torso, supported by the arm.
3) Leg Swings
This exercise will help strengthen both the abdominal wall and your arms. Kneel and lean forward so that your arms are directly below your shoulders, with the elbows straight. Stretch your legs out behind you with the balls of your feet on the floor, and press your knees up off of the floor, so that your weight is supported on your arms and the balls of your feet in “plank” position. In this position, keep your right leg straight and swing it to the right, allowing the ball of the right foot to skim the floor as you move it out to the side in a ¼ moon shape. Repeat this exercise 20 times. Then repeat the same exercise with the left leg.
Again, keep the torso stable, and the scapula down and engaged. Do not allow your shoulders to rise up near your ears or the abdomen to drop to the floor. Keep your torso and legs in one long line. Exhale as you send the leg out, and breathe in as you bring it back in. Keep the foot close to the floor. Do not pick it up and lift it to the side. Instead, allow it to gently swing to the side as far as you can comfortably allow it to go.
These exercises can be performed every other day. Only do them after you have received approval from the person in charge of your pre and post-natal care. Getting back in shape is a nice goal, but you are also allowed to cut yourself some slack. Remember, you just gave birth. It is well within your rights to find one of the recliner sofas in your house and to just sit quietly with the newest member of your family.
*This is a guest post brought to you by Susan @ sofasandsectionals.com