Thursday, February 3, 2011

How much exercise is enough?

I'm starting to feel good about SUGARFREEfeb, the first few days have been pretty smooth sailing for me and we now have lot's more mums on board - I'm positive that if you stick to the no sugar plan you will lose that bloat around your tummy, it will flatten and you will feel better.  It's also a great psychological kick to know that you don't need to rely on those quick fixes and that you can do something great for your body and stick to it.

So, now that we have made improvements to your diet let's talk about your movement.  How much exercise should you really be doing?

Because we have a large group of women at different pre and postnatal stages I am going to break it down into what you ideally should be doing in each stage.  I will also comment of the kind of results you can expect to be getting at each stage and with differing volumes of exercise.  You will find that you fit somewhere and your results may depend upon the amount of time and energy you actually WANT to put into your diet and exercise.  What is reasonable for you and what is extreme.

During pregnancy

Ideally you should aim to maintain a moderate amount of exercise.  Again, moderate is relative to what your previous exercise regime has been.  It is not a time for striving to reach new goals but a time of maintenance.  If you have been working with a trainer before there is no reason to stop - just ensure that your trainer has the relevant experience and qualifications and stick to what you have been doing with the correct modifications.

If you re working on your own, aim to get moving for around 30mins most days - this can be in the form of a walk or jog if you are comfortable doing so.  Swimming is a great form of prenatal exercise and resistance training is fantastic, it will make you strong and the stronger and fitter you are during your pregnancy the better equipped you are to deal with labour and the physical demands of having a small baby.

  • Exercise to maintain
  • Listen to your body, some days you may just need to rest
  • In terms of effort don't peak at more than about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is sitting on the couch doing nothing and 10 is working as hard as possible
Postnatal (in the 6-12 weeks after birth) -

Energy levels and post birth recovery vary significantly from mother to mother at this time (which is one of the reasons I kept the time period so broad).  Some women will be itching to get back into their runners and hit the gym asap whereas others won't want to think about anything other than getting through the next few weeks with more than a couple of hours of unbroken sleep.  Neither scenario, or variations of, is right or wrong.  At this time, in the immediate postnatal period, you need to be in tune with your body - listen to what it is telling you.  If getting out of bed and dragging yourself to the shops is tiring enough the last thing your body may need is you dragging it to the gym.  However, you may find yourself in that downward spiral of non exercise where you don't move so you feel even more tired and maybe even depressed - in this situation it is important to recognise that some exercise might actually help you to feel more energised and also that you are doing something good for yourself.

At this time you want to be exercising on MOST days - if you are working with a trainer they should set you some guidelines as to what and how much of it your should be doing.  A combination of core strengthening, cardio and resistance exercise is key.

  • Ease your way back into exercise - if something doesn't feel right it probably isn't
  • Start by re-building from the inside out - if your core strength isn't up to scratch it will lead to injuries down the track
  • Your baby is still very little and your body is recovering so it is OK to give yourself a little break
  • On the other hand if at 4-6 weeks after bub you feel ready to get back to the gym just get a clearance from your doctor and start to ease your way back in - you are keen which is great and with right guidance you will probably see some great results
Post 12 weeks

When do we leave 'postnatal' behind and just become 'normal' again?  Once again this can differ greatly from person to person.  This time around for me (after my 2nd baby) I have only just felt, at 6 months, that I am starting to feel like someone that can run again properly.  I was back in the gym at about 5 weeks and have slowly built my strength back up and although am not quite at my goal weight or strength I am feeling good both inside and out on 'most' days.  When your body is feeling more normal and psychologically you feel you can commit to an exercise regime again this is where the amount of effort you put in becomes related to what you get out.  If you are walking once per week you are going to see much slower results than if you committed to three cardio and three strength sessions per week.

I listen to many mums that say they could not be as fit or look as good as they did before they had a baby - I would like to challenge that and say that yes you can, in fact some women go on to look and feel much better than they did before their pregnancy.  We are often more in tune with your body and have more respect and faith in its ability and if you put in the work in the correct way for you you will get the results you are looking for.

So, how much exercise is enough?  Well, ask yourself how important being 'in your best shape' is to you then you can decide how often is enough.   For me I commit to my exercise regime because it is very important to me to look and feel strong.  I exercise 4-6 days per week depending upon the way the week falls. As mums we must be flexible but we must also put our needs up there with the rest of the family.  You are not going to see amazing results with just one walk a week or even with 5 walks per week, great results take great effort - a combination of cardio and strength training and commitment. You also need to make each and every workout count - there's no point in just cruising through a session when you are 'me' time poor.

  • Figure out what you want to achieve
  • What you  put in you will get out
  • You need to do both strength AND cardiovascular exercise to see the best results
  • You must prioritise time for yourself
  • Get the right guidance and maintain motivation
I challenge you to figure out what you want to achieve and how often you need to workout to achieve it.
I have no doubt that you can all look and feel fantastic - it will take a little work and no one apart can achieve it for you.

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Unknown said...

During my last pregnancy my back got out of wack and has never been the same since.

I love to exercise, but the back pain was too much for me until a friend of mine recommended I try a hang ups inversion table.

It has worked wonders for my back and now I can exercise again.

Unknown said...

Excellent blog and program, really love it.
I discovered exercise after my daughter and ended up in the best shape ( and poitive frame of mind ) in my life! Now with a 3 month old and 5 years older, I am getting back into shape all over again.
Exercising and eating healthier makes such a huge difference to your life, your confidence and while it's hard at first not feel some 'mother guilt' for the me time your actually giving your family the best of yourself and being a great role model by taking it.

Love your blog,
Rebecca x

Jen Dugard said...

Penny, I'm glad you found a fix to your back problems and are back exercising again - I'll check out the inversion table :)

Rebecca, Glad you are enjoying my blog and thank you for your comments. Congratulations on your newest bub and I'd love to hear how you get on getting back into the best shape of your life.... enjoy the journey

Jen x