On Postpartum Bodies + My PP Exercise Plan


I think it's wonderful that these days there are so many positive messages about the postpartum body. I totally agree that we should be proud of our bodies for carrying and birthing a child, and we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves about recovery and feeling pressure to immediately bounce back into shape.

But I think we can all agree that it's one thing to say you are going to be proud of your postpartum body and entirely another to try on your shorts and not be even close to able to button them. I can tell myself I'm only a few days or a couple of weeks or months pp, but I don't think there's anyone out there who isn't at least just a little discouraged to find that they can't immediately put away their maternity clothes after coming home from the hospital. Although maybe we should all lobby for pants with elastic waists anyway, am I right?

It's a weird place to be, because on one hand it's so amazing the way God made our bodies to grow a human. Our organs shift and expand and contract to make room for that tiny speck on the ultrasound screen, which has its own heartbeat and fingernails and a brain and a tongue and tiny eyelashes, for crying out loud. It's a privilege and a blessing to be able to carry a child.

My skin stretched and stretched, and then the baby comes out and of course there's going to be stomach flab. My hips shifted, and so why wouldn't my pants fit differently? I know this in my head, but it's still hard to look four months pregnant and have the scale tell you that after it's all said and done, you're up five, ten, fifteen, twenty pounds from what you were before you got pregnant.

It's good to be proud of our bodies for doing this amazing thing, but I think it's okay to feel frustrated that our clothes fit differently. They may never (probably won't) fit the same way ever again, and it's okay to feel sad to say goodbye our pre-baby bodies. But we also need to be sure and give ourselves grace. We need to not just say that we are okay with our postpartum body and actually believe it.

And we need to be patient.

I'm very much looking forward to getting back in the habit of working out and exercising, but I am going to take a different approach to it this time than I did after R. The main thing I'm going to do is be more patient. The day I received the okay from my doctor to start running again, I laced up my shoes. Over the following weeks, I tried to continue to push myself to get back into shape, and looking back I feel that personally for me, I wish I would have taken more time to ease into it more slowly. Again, that's just me.

This is obvious but worth repeating: you cannot compare your recovery timeline to anyone else's. We all have different body types, different genetics, different ways of carrying a child, different delivery stories, different ability and time and desire to exercise. You do you and forget about anyone else.

I am not a personal trainer or a coach, so the following is not advice, and of course you should listen to your own body (and your doctor) and decide what is comfortable for you, but here are a few things on my postpartum exercise plan this time around:

-Run 1-3 miles only, focusing on getting faster and stronger at that short distance.
Last time, I tried to add miles too quickly, and this time I want to focus on increasing my speed and endurance for a short distance. I am going to sign up for the OKC half marathon, which is in April, but I won't start training for it or running longer distances until I've spent quality time with the introductory miles.

-Do exercises focusing on healing diastasis recti (abdominal separation). 
Thankfully, I only have 1-2 fingers of separation, so it's not bad, but I really want to work on specific exercises to target this area of my body and avoid the things that will make it worse. I didn't do this at all with R, and I probably did some harm to myself with planks and things that I should have waited longer to add back into my routine.

-Do more weights/strength training
I am more of a cardio person than a weight person, but I want to build back muscle that was lost while I was pregnant, and I'd like to incorporate more strength training into my routine this time. 

-Remember that something is better than nothing.
I tend to expect the best out of myself, and when it comes to exercise I often feel like if I don't have time or energy to do a long workout or go for a long run, it's not even worth it to do anything at all. But every little bit helps, and something is always better than nothing. Even if it's slow, even if it isn't very long. I want to keep this in mind and not be so hard on myself and expect to be able to consistently fit long workouts into my schedule, because realistically that isn't going to happen any time soon.

Those are a few thoughts I've had recently, and I'm interested to hear your thoughts about this topic, whether you are newly postpartum, have been in the past, or will be in the future!

Related: Postpartum Weight and Recovery after R

What plans do you have for your postpartum recovery? Do you find it hard not to compare your timeline to those of other moms? What tips or advice do you have to share for good exercises or workouts to do to get back into shape after having a baby?
Torrie said...

I agree with this so much. It's so easy for me to remind myself that I should embrace all that my body just went through (carrying and delivering another human being), but it took me a really, really long time to be okay with my pp self (and there are STILL days even now, over two years later), that I struggle with aspects of it that just don't look like they're ever going to go away). My journey was different than most just because of my AI disease diagnosis, which was super hard, but also had some silver lining because it absolutely FORCED me to take my recovery slow and forced me to accept that while I could control some things at the time (like my diet), I could not control others (like the fact that my medication wreaked havoc with my metabolism and made me puff up and gain weight and that I was severely limited exercise-wise).

In the end, what's helped most of all is looking back at pictures from that pp period now, with a lot of time in between. Now, I can more easily give myself that grace and realize that I really didn't look as terrible as I always felt I did, and that I'm SO GLAD that I forced myself to actually be in some of the pictures with newborn Raven because I'm so glad I have those, even if my body wasn't what I was used to.

Anyway, thanks for your honesty as always :) Good luck with your pp recovery this second time around!

Rachel Emily said...

One year (well 14 months but who's counting?!) and I'm still trying to figure out the right balance! I worked out HARD for an hour+ DAILY before having Cam and now, that just not really an option if I want to have the energy to hang with him and my husband at the end of the day. I do miss long, leisurely, mind clearing runs though! If that's your PP bod up in that pic, you are looking faaaab girl! Enjoy that time with your babies!!

Nadine said...

I one million percent have the hardest time not comparing myself to other moms. I was working out 5 days a week for years up until my 7th month of pregnancy. And for whatever reason, I have had the hardest time finding the motivation and time to make myself work out. I kept making excuses and letting other things be a priority and I am just now this week getting back to a regular routine. The abs thing is no joke!!! My abs are so weak still, almost 8 months later. The c section doesn't help. I love that you have a plan to keep yourself in check.

Amy @ A Desert Girl said...

You are so right on the money with this. Your plan sounds like an awesome one! Keep that focus. I think it's great that you are approaching your postpartum fitness with such a positive and healthy and LIFESTYLE attitude. It sets a great example for your daughter too, who it totally picking up on your good example.

Unknown said...

Love your goals! I'm working on just 2-3 miles right now actually too. It's hard to not compare to others but I'm just doing what I can daily. Some days it's nothing and just staying alive, ha. I love your attitude! Easy to say you're okay with a changed body but it's really hard to actually believe. We'll get there :) You look great!

Courtney said...

Great, great, great, GREAT thoughts. I think my favorite is "something is better than nothing" because it's definitely easy to think that if you can't do xyz you might as well not do anything- but that isn't true. Same goes for food. Every small healthy choice, TOTALLY adds up. So yes! Something is for sure better than nothing.

Laura Morgan said...

I love your point about each recovery being different!
You looked great, btw, the other day. I wouldn't have guessed you just grew and pushed out a person.

Kaity B. said...

I think you articulated the postpartum body acceptance struggle really well. I never felt better about my body's abilities on the one hand, but on the other hand, when your body changes so drastically that it becomes unrecognizable to you, I think it's a natural feeling to not be comfortable in your own skin.

Jenny Evans said...

I'm always amazed at the amount my hips widen after I have a child! When you can barely pull your shorts 4 inches above your knees and you think "Oh my goodness, how did this body ever fit into these and how will it ever again?" I have a few pairs of shorts that I've gotten rid of (and my oldest is old enough now that I just gave them to her!) but on the whole my hips have mostly gone back to where they were before. It's a miracle every time.

Anonymous said...

Getting my body back to a place that feels familiar once my baby is here is something im really worried about so thank you so much for sharing your experience <3

Jen said...

I think this is awesome. Before I had my daughter I was in incredible shape due to running and I continued to run while pregnant but I knew that I had to give myself time after she was born. I struggled for a long time after because I saw others drop the weight and be back to normal in no time. Like you said every one is different and not everyone will bounce back as quickly. We just need to be patient and give ourselves some grace.

Katie @ Live Half Full said...

For me I think the hardest thing is comparing myself to my former self. Your perspective is amazing and this post inspired me to change my thoughts.

Also, you should check out the Fourth Trimester workouts- I loved them!

Angi said...

Love this whole post. It's so true that every body is different. I know people whose weight basically melted off due to breastfeeding, and I was so hoping that would be me but so far it hasn't been. I have to remind myself it's ONLY been 3.5 weeks and it's going to take time for my body to get back to what it was (or somewhat close). I haven't even bothered trying on my pre-pregnancy pants and probably won't until at least 6 weeks, I don't need that aggravation yet. My biggest struggle is not being able to jump back into hardcore workouts yet but I just remind myself that I won't be tied to a two-hour (or less) feeding schedule forever, and the gym will still be there when I'm ready for it.

Callie said...

I agree with everything you said! For me personally, I don't struggle as much comparing my postpartum body to other women as I do comparing my postpartum body with Baby #1 vs. Baby #4. It'll probably be even worse with Baby#5. I bounced back SO quickly with 1&2, but it turns out a lot of things change between early 20's and late 20's. 😬 We'll see how it goes this time!

Shoe Girl said...

Love the bag! What style is it? Thank you for sharing the reality of postpartum bodies. I have a 5 month old baby girl and the struggle is real when it comes to workouts.

The Lady Okie said...

It's a Vera Bradley diaper bag :)

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

Not even a Mom over here and all I own now are spandex waisted jeans! They are the best ever and I love Old Navy for selling them. I'm glad you are giving yourself grace. I think society is so hard on women's bodies and recovery after birth or any major surgery takes time.

Anonymous said...

I lost the baby weight quickly after my daughter was born 20 months ago, but I've had a terrible time losing the saggy stomach. I wasn't ever the epitome of fitness, but it's a little discouraging when the scale shows you what you want to see and the mirror says something completely different. Recently I've realized that God didn't design my body to look good. He gave it to me to use for His glory - as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister. I can give hugs and read stories and wash dishes and serve others without visible abs. :)
Love your honesty and writing style. Thank you for sharing your journey!

The Girl who Loved to Write said...

I'm JUST NOW getting into a groove, and as much as I hate that I didn't start sooner, I can look back on the last year and a half and see how it just didn't happen. The biggest thing for me has been to remember that anything is better than nothing! I'll sometimes get down on myself and if I wasn't able to go for a five mile run then might as well just eat pizza and do nothing, and I've had to change that mindset!

Kristen @ See You In A Porridge said...

love this post! i can definitely see how it's easy to say we should be proud blah blah and actually being proud when your pants don't fit. and i feel like, obviously i could be wrong as i've never been pregnant, but if you're not pregnant and your normal clothes don't fit, doesn't that mean maternity clothes also don't fit properly? and that's just not a fun place to be for anyone. so i think slow and steady & something is better than nothing are both super important and hopefully i'll remember it when it's my turn lol. i have had ups and downs with running for years and whenever i get back into it, i try to do too much too soon, and crash and burn. so i like what you said about spending quality time with those introductory miles. it was like a light bulb in my head lol. also, can i just say, diastasis recti terrifies more than a little bit? is it something that happens to everyone?