Fitness Programs For New
Moms By Mariko Thompson -
Angeles Daily News
Be sure to also read
Exercise And Pregnancy - Staying in Shape During and After
For the new mother, looking in the mirror is
a reminder of the old body. The body that ran and jumped and swam without
effort. The body that belonged to a favorite pair of skinny jeans in the
closet. The one that would have laughed when former swinging single Miranda on
Sex and the City renamed her postpartum self "Baby Weight".
With all the demands of new motherhood,
regaining that pre-pregnancy body can be a tough task. But the benefits of a
postnatal fitness routine go beyond shedding pounds.
Strength conditioning equips mothers to
handle lifting and carrying babies and gear. Above all, exercise promotes
"Physical exertion releases endorphins that
make new mothers feel better," said Becky de Leon, a registered nurse and
director of PregnaGym at West Hills Hospital near Los Angeles. "It boosts
esteem. Fifteen or 20 minutes is all you need to get your heart rate up."
Once a new mother gets clearance from her
doctor, she can begin exercising. Women who worked out before and during their
pregnancy tend to return to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly, fitness
In general, women should expect the recovery
process to take as long as the pregnancy did about 40 weeks.
Fitness professionals also say new mothers
should set realistic goals so they don't get discouraged. Try to exercise two
or three times a week. Even 15 minutes daily will make a difference. For best
results, create a routine that includes cardiovascular exercise as well as
strength and flexibility training.
Motherhood has prompted many fitness experts
to design classes, videos and books for the postnatal mom. From the camaraderie
of a class to the efficiency of working out at home, new mothers have more
options than ever to make "Baby Weight" refer to their babies and not to their
Hit the gym
At PregnaGym in West Hills, one of about 26
franchises in the country, de Leon is proud that the aerobics and yoga classes
never start on time. De Leon knows how tough it is for mothers with children to
get out the door. So the instructors expect late arrivals.
PregnaGym caters to prenatal and postnatal
fitness. The center provides day care for a small fee. Weight machines and
stationary bikes were designed with the pregnant woman in mind. Mothers often
take breaks during classes to breast-feed.
Classes run 90 minutes, with a segment
devoted to strengthening the abdominals. On a recent day, women participating
in an aerobics class tightened their abs by balancing on a fitness ball while
doing curls and flies with small dumbbells.
Christin Webb, 31, attends yoga twice a week
and brings 9-month-old Natalie along. Webb, a resident of Woodland Hills,
gained 40 pounds during pregnancy and has lost all but 10. Though she could go
to a regular gym, she enjoys the comfort of being around other mothers and
"You don't have worry about dressing up and
putting on Spandex," she said. "It's so inspiring to see other healthy, fit
Aileen Sheron, an award-winning and
nationally recognized aerobics instructor based in Orange County, Calif.,
created a fitness video for new mothers called "Positive Postnatal Fitness
A Complete Post Pregnancy Workout."
While popping a video into the VCR is one
way for new moms to get into shape, Sheron offered some tips to achieve the
Cardiovascular: Take a fast-paced stroller
walk before the baby's nap time. Or walk up and down stairs in the house. Even
if there are only one or two steps in the house, the repeated motion will
increase the heart rate.
Strength training: For lower body, do a set
of 20 leg lunges, keeping the knee in line with the ankle. For upper body, do
10 push-ups. Start with a modified push-up, knees to the ground, if necessary.
Bicep curls and tricep extensions with hand-held weights also build upper-body
Abdominals: Don't push too hard too soon.
Start by tightening and relaxing the ab muscles while lying on the floor, knees
bent and shoulders' width apart. As the abs become stronger, move to
New mothers who want to exercise with their
babies can set them on their stomachs and play peek-a-boo while doing sit-ups,
hold them as they do lunges, or lift them overhead to work the arms.
"You can make it fun," Sheron said. "Every
time I turned on music to move around, I'd carry my son in a sling. He'd get
De-stress with yoga
Seinfeld and Sports Night fans
will recognize Brenda Strong from her recurring roles as bra-less wonder Sue
Ellen Mishkie and producer Sally Sasser, respectively. In the yoga community,
Strong, who lives in North Hollywood, is known for specializing in fertility,
prenatal and postnatal workouts.
"After you have a child, your body feels
fragile and sore," said Strong, who developed the "Yoga 4 Fertility" video
series. "You feel like you've been hit by a truck. Yoga really allows you to
have strength from an internal source."
Strong focuses on three areas: the upper
body, abdomen and lower back. The upper body can become tight from nursing and
carrying the baby. From pregnancy, abdominal muscles have stretched and
loosened. And the low back often feels sensitive from the weight of the baby
Some simple stretches include:
"Cow and cat": Get down on hands and knees,
wrists below shoulders and knees below hips. On the inhale, stretch the spine
in both directions, lifting the head and the sitting bones. On the exhale, tuck
the tailbone and head under and lift the belly toward the spine.
Arm and leg extensions: Start on hands and
knees. On the inhale, stretch the right arm straight ahead and the left leg
straight behind. On the exhale, draw in the navel and bring the elbow and
forehead toward the knee. Continue, then switch to the left arm and right
Chest opener: Kneel with toes curled under,
stretching the arches in the feet. Clasp hands behind the back, palms facing
each other. Lift the chest while squeezing the shoulder blades back and
Ballet on wheels
Not long after her first child was born,
Elizabeth Trindade discovered the stroller made an effective ballet barre. A
personal trainer and dancer in New York City, Trindade created a series of
exercises using the stroller as a resistance tool. She launched Strollercize in
Today, Strollercize classes are held indoors
and outdoors in four cities in New York and Virginia. Her book, "Strollercize:
The Workout for New Mothers," and tapes make the fitness routine available to
The 50-minute workout incorporates fast
walking, dance moves, strength training and stretching. Trindade says she
targets every part of the body except for the biceps "That's about the
only thing that is strong on a new mom," she joked.
Before Strollercizing, mothers should choose
the proper stroller. The elbow should bend at a 115-degree angle when holding
the handle. The front wheels should be stable. The basket area should be roomy,
offer sun protection and a secure buckle for the baby.
"I'm making the moms dance and prance and
stay perky," Trindade said.
For the ultimate low-impact workout, check
with local fitness centers with swimming pools for an aquatic exercise program.
Don't confuse aquatic exercise with swimming, said Carol Argo, the 2002 Aquatic
Exercise Association instructor of the year.
In swimming, the body aims to move
horizontally through the water with speed and efficiency. In aquatic exercise,
the body stays vertical and uses the water's resistance to build strength.
Exercising in chest-deep water reduces
impact and stress on the body and is particularly beneficial for pregnant and
postnatal women, said Argo, a Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., resident who has
created video workouts on water yoga, water Pilates and water tai chi.
A typical aqua aerobics class might start
with jogging in the pool to warm up. The cardio segment would work the hip and
shoulder joints with cross-country ski motions, jumping jack, side stepping and
hopping movements. The session might end with toning and strengthening
exercises, including leg lifts.
Best of all, the abdominals get a workout
the entire time.
"By simply moving in water and remaining
vertical, you're working the core," Argo said. "It takes strength to propel the
body through the water."