Being a new mom means falling in love with a tiny human, trying to figure out how to survive on just a few hours of sleep a night, and doing more diaper changes in a 24-hour period than you thought were possible. So working out after pregnancy isn't necessarily going to be that high on your list of priorities. But, as Khloé Kardashian is finding out, even when you reach a point mentally where you're ready to get back to your exercise routine, your body may not be.
Kardashian, who had her daughter True a month ago, just started working out again and shared an update with her fans on Snapchat on Thursday. Kardashian said, as reported by People, that she was “exhausted” after the workout, but that it “feels so good to finally sweat again and feel like I’m evolving and doing something progressive for my body and my mind.”
However, Kardashian said it’s been hard to get back into the “groove” of working out. “Mentally, I’m strong, but physically it’s just not the same,” she said. “My body is not doing what I feel like my mind is telling it to do. So that’s a struggle, but it’s only day one. I need to motivate myself.”
Working out after you have a baby is usually a little more challenging than it was before you got pregnant—and not just for the obvious reasons.
There are many factors at play here, Jim Pivarnik, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University who studies the effects of exercise on pregnancy, tells SELF. A big one is that you probably haven’t worked out for a while, and it’s tough to jump back in after a break under any circumstance—let alone after you just had a baby.
Your body also went through a lot of changes. For instance, during pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin that relaxes the ligaments in your pelvis. And it takes time for everything, including hormones, to return to its pre-pregnancy state, Jessica Shepherd, M.D., a minimally-invasive gynecologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, tells SELF.
If you’re breastfeeding, it’s pretty likely that your boobs have grown, Melissa Goist, M.D., an ob/gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. It's also common to have some bladder leakage after giving birth, she says, which can possibly happen in the middle of a workout.
Your center of gravity had also changed, Dr. Pivarnik points out. It slowly shifts during pregnancy as your belly grows, and then changes again once the baby vacates the premises—so don't be shocked if your balance is off. And then there’s the fact that you lost a bunch of weight at once when you had your baby. “You maybe lost 15 pounds in one day,” Dr. Pivarnik says. “That’s a big change, and your body has to adjust to that.”
Add it all up and it's not surprising that your body might feel a little off when you're trying to get back into your workouts.
You don’t need to wait that long to work out after you give birth, as long as you’re up for it and your delivery was uncomplicated.
Although many people are told to wait a few weeks before working out again, if your pregnancy was healthy and you had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it's fine to start exercising again a few days after you give birth, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Of course, that’s provided you actually feel up for it, and it’s completely understandable if you don’t at that point.
People who had a C-section or complications should talk to their doctor about when it’s safe to work out again, ACOG says.
Take it slow when you start exercising again—and don't get discouraged if you're not where you want to be.
You may have to start by adjusting your expectations. Doing something intense (like Murph challenge at CrossFit) is just not realistic right after you just had a baby. But there’s also a higher-than-usual risk that you’ll injure yourself due to your relaxed postpartum ligaments, Dr. Goist says. ”The body is not back to normal until six to 10 weeks post-delivery,” she says, which is why you really should ease into it.
When you do start exercising, ACOG recommends aiming to stay active for 20 to 30 minutes a day and doing simple exercises that strengthen major muscle groups, like your abs and back muscles, before ramping up to more intense exercises. If you went pretty hard at the gym before your pregnancy or you’re a competitive athlete, ACOG still recommends working up to more intense exercises versus going all-in at once.
The Mayo Clinic recommends starting slowly and increasing your pace gradually (it can be as low impact as walking), making sure to take time for warm ups and cool downs. Take a break if you feel any pain. It's also crucial to make sure you get enough water and to wear supportive clothing to stay comfortable. Yes, these are good tips for working out at any point in your life, but they are especially important when starting or returning to your workouts after giving birth.
If you love working out and can’t wait to dive back in (carefully!), go for it. “The mental break and the physical exertion for many moms is welcome and exhilarating,” Dr. Goist says. Just be kind to yourself, take it gradually, and understand that it’s probably going to take some time to get back to where you were, Dr. Shepherd says. And, if you can't even think about exercising at this point, that's fine, too.
As with everything else in regards to your pregnancy, do what makes the most sense for you.