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There are tons of health benefits that come from postpartum exercise — it can boost energy, promote better sleep, relieve stress, strengthen muscles, and may even help prevent postpartum depression.
However, jumping right back into exercise after having a baby isn’t easy — it’s brand new, unexplored territory for moms. Although you may want to, you can’t expect to get right back into the same workout routine you had pre-baby. It’s important to recognize that your body is different now, and in a very vulnerable state.
Here are a few postpartum exercise tips from two CrossTown Fitness trainers and moms who have been through the process themselves:
You may know someone who got right back into working out after having a child, or someone who was able to pick up where they left off before giving birth. While this might be the case for some, it doesn’t always work that way for everyone. Comparing your journey to someone else’s won’t help you progress, and isn’t ideal for a positive mental state.
Take it from CrossTown’s Fitness Director, Stacy Bradley, who is a mom and certified in postpartum corrective exercise. “Every woman’s body is different before and after having a baby,” said Stacy. “Even if you receive clearance from your doctor to exercise after six weeks, you may not feel ready, and that’s normal.”
While social media can be great for connecting with other moms and getting workout inspiration, sometimes it’s easy to compare yourself to where they’re at, but that can be discouraging. Instead, focus on your own postpartum journey because it’s unique to you!
Your body has been through a lot, and it’s OK if you’re not where you’d like to be physically six weeks, six months, even a year — the key is to remain patient. “Patience is so important,” advises Stacy. “Give yourself grace because some days will be easier than others.” Understandably, sleep or rest in general may trump exercise. You may be only feeling up to a few minutes of movement some days, and that’s a great place to start. Starting small doesn’t mean you’re failing — it just means that it’ll take some time to get to where you’d like to be.
After giving birth, you’re left with this new, unfamiliar body, and there’s no step-by-step instruction manual you’re given on how to navigate postpartum exercise. A pelvic floor specialist can help you better understand and learn how your new body functions. “I truly believe everyone should make it a priority to go see a pelvic floor specialist at least once,” said Stacy. “I was personally shocked after getting the OK to exercise walking out of my six week appointment. ‘Bouncing back’ is not a thing, and it’s not realistic.” Speaking with a pelvic floor specialist can be vital in helping you understand how to safely and effectively take care of yourself postpartum.
Breathing may be second nature, but it’s something you really have to pay close attention to during postpartum exercise. Alysha Bazan, mother, and Fitness Director at CrossTownFitness emphasizes the importance of staying in tune with your body: “Making sure your form is correct, engaging your core, and focusing on your breath work is key.”
As a new mom, your number one priority is your little one. Therefore, you often put yourself and your own needs, wants and feelings on the backburner. When it comes to exercise, however, that can’t be the case.
You have to be your number one focus when working out postpartum. “It’s most important to really listen to your body and start out slow when coming back from having a baby,” said Alysha. Pushing yourself too hard can take away from the healing process — always consult with your doctor before starting a postpartum exercise regimen, and know your limits.
Expecting to resume the same high-intensity workouts you were doing pre-baby is a lot of pressure to put on yourself, and can be dangerous if your body isn’t healed yet. “You have to exercise with a different mindset than you did pre-baby,” advises Alysha, “It will take time to rebuild your strength, and you may have to modify movements to help your body build strength at a slower, more sustainable pace.” For example, instead of regular push-ups, you may need to try elevated push-ups, or complete the exercise from your knees. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, yoga, swimming, or even stretching, can also be a good place to start.
Looking for some more postpartum exercise guidance? CrossTown Fitness has trainers on staff who are certified in postpartum exercise and can help guide you through this uncharted territory and get safely back into working out. Plus, we offer child care services at each of our three locations where children from six weeks to 11 years-old are welcome so you can focus on a worry-free workout.