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Think outside the box when getting back in shape after baby arrives

As an OB/GYN, I see lots of moms who, at their 6-week postpartum visit, want to know how soon they can start exercising again so they can get back to their pre-baby bodies. Many want to know if diets are safe during breastfeeding and how much weight they can safely lose in a short period of time.

Usually I stop and ask these women to look at the baby their body just miraculously created and is now nourishing. I then remind them that it took about 40 weeks to put their pregnancy pounds on, and they shouldn’t expect it to just disappear overnight. I also mention that celebrity moms should not be considered the norm!

Taking all this into account, I try to give advice that helps them feel empowered to stay healthy and fit, without worrying too much about the end result: what their dress size is, or how they look in the mirror.

Now being a second-time postpartum mom myself, I can totally admit that this is easier said than done. We all naturally want to fit right back into our pre-pregnancy jeans. While we know how awesome it is that we were able to grow and birth a human, it doesn’t make the muffin tops seem any less annoying.

Another aspect of being a new mom is that it can sometimes be socially isolating; you’ve got this new person who is totally dependent on you at all hours of the day, yet doesn’t understand how to read a clock. Getting out of the house can be difficult, so sometimes it can be days before you’ve interacted with another adult or seen the light of day.

Between the sleep deprivation, the lack of adult interaction, and the feeling of not knowing what the heck you are doing, conquering a new exercise program might seem completely impossible and just another source of stress and fatigue.

lincoln hiking baby

Admittedly, I have fallen prey to this way of thinking too many times, despite knowing how good getting outside and getting some fresh air is for my body and my mental health. Then I discovered the wonder of hiking, and more specifically a hiking group just for parents known as Hike it Baby.

I am lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest where we are never short on scenery. It’s also a place where being active and getting outside is a treasured pastime. Started by a mom in Portland, Oregon, this is a group of parents who get together for hikes of varying levels of difficulty, from 10 mile treks with babies in carriers to toddler-led “hikes” that don’t go far but definitely include lots of time for discovering slugs, rocks, and mud. Would it really be fun, or just intimidating? Would I really like getting lost in a forest with mostly strangers — and their kids?

Turns out, it was awesome. I’ve been on a handful of hikes and can feel myself not only getting stronger and fit, but also looking forward to the adult conversations I get to have along the way. I’m with other like-minded moms who understand why I might be a little late and a little tired. And there is always someone willing to hold a baby and an extra pair of helpful hands!

While I might have previously thought of my postpartum exercise including trips to the gym, logging miles on a treadmill while talking to no one, I now get just as good a workout (trust me, going up hills on dirt trails carrying a 14 pound baby makes you break a sweat!) with a side of socializing for free. It feels like cheating.

New moms, if you are trying to find ways — and time — to get back to where you were before baby, go easy on yourself. Think of alternative ways to not only get your heart rate up but also to get to have fun, too. Trust me, it’s much easier to stay motivated when you are having fun and feeling the sun shine on your face!

If you’re interested, Hike it Baby is now offered nationwide with chapters located all over the United States. You can see if you’ve got a local chapter by you by checking here.

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About Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, Bundoo OB/GYN

Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a board-certified generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician in Portland, Oregon. She primarily works on labor and delivery and has recently been certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

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