7 Postpartum Exercise Mistakes Moms Don’t Know They’re Making

7 Exercise Mistakes Moms Don't Know They're Making

I’m a social-worker-turned-photography-and-social-media-freelancer. I am not a personal trainer or registered dietitian. In fact, the only weight loss expertise I do seem to possess is learning the hard way by making a lot of mistakes. This post isn’t about eating half a bag of Doritos instead of carrot sticks, or how ANY exercise is better than sitting on your couch binge-watching Pretty Little Liars…those are mistakes we KNOW we are making. This post is about the faux pas I made while trying to lose 50 post-baby pounds – and why, despite the sweat and tears, they didn’t work! If you’re struggling to lose fat, despite your best efforts,  you might be making one of these postpartum exercise mistakes with the very best of intentions:

Mistake #1: The White Rabbit {thinking you didn’t have time to do a “real” workout}

Moms are BUSY. Sometimes it means putting the kids in the jogging stroller (no small feat for a work-at-home, homeschooling mom of 2) and showing up to our park play date 30 minutes early for a run (did you know there are GROUPS of moms that meet up with their kids & strollers to work out together? No sitter required!). Sometimes it means multi-tasking during nap time, as I’m doing now, writing this post between sets of squats and shoulder presses while my little guy sleeps. I truly don’t have time to go to the gym (get dressed, load kids, drive to gym, drop off kids, take class, pick up kids, drive home, etc.), but I have enough time to do something. Try a 30-minute workout DVD or do some fat-torching HIIT (high-intensity interval training) at home! Use an interval timer (online or download an app) and do ANY heart-pumping exercise (burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc.) at your highest intensity possible for 60 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. Do 10 rounds, and you’ll be drenched in sweat & finished with your workout in under 13 minutes!

Mistake #2: The Bird {eating too few calories}

When my first baby was 10 months old, I weighed exactly 7 pounds less than I did the day she was born. I was eating 1200 calories per day and walking/jogging 2-3 miles 6 days a week. While my first few weeks gave me results eating a banana for breakfast and a lettuce wrap for lunch, soon I started gaining weight, because I wasn’t giving my tank enough gas for the drive! Once I figured out that my hormones and metabolism were wrecked (likely from 8 years of disordered eating in high school and college), I cut back on the exercise and increased my caloric intake to 1500-1800 calories per day. When the weight was coming off steadily, I stopped counting calories altogether, instead focusing on whole, clean, nutrient-dense foods.

Mistake #3: The Camel {ignoring your ideal water intake}

It’s easy to under-hydrate. Water isn’t as sexy as wine or as useful as coffee! But it’s also easy to OVER-hydrate, which isn’t healthy, either. To keep myself from drinking too much (yeah, I’m one of those), I like to fill a large Camelbak and refill it with iced tea or water once or twice per day. It’s simpler than counting ounces and cups and is portable when we leave the house. If you’re breastfeeding or out in the heat, be sure to drink more!

Mistake #4: The Flamingo {doing static stretches pre-workout}

This is a fast-track to pulled muscles and other injuries that will only delay getting into shape! Truly warm your muscles up by doing dynamic movements that cause them to fire while in motion (windmills, jumping jacks), rather than pulling them while they’re “cold” (reaching for your toes and holding for 30 seconds). Static stretches post-workout are good for cooling down and increasing flexibility, so don’t toss them entirely! Just push them to the end of your sweat session.

Mistake #5: The Tortoise {going too slow (and too long!)}

While training for my half marathon I didn’t lose a single pound, and I could run 6 miles without breaking a sweat, literally. Going slow has it’s place! Especially if you’re distance training (as I was) or just beginning to exercise. But if you do 8 miles on the elliptical at the same speed, 3 days a week for 6 months, and you’re not seeing results? Your body has adapted, and you’re putting in a lot of time for little results. Push yourself to do a shorter distance at a faster pace and increase your distance and pace over time, or incorporate a HIIT routine on the bike, treadmill, or elliptical. Steady state cardio is better than no exercise, yes – but if you want to reap the benefits of all the effort you’re putting in, mix it up and give ALL of your muscles a workout – including your heart.

Mistake #6: The Walrus {training abs to blast belly fat}

Pinterest and Facebook are replete with these cuh-razy ab challenges. But if you’ve still got your mummy tummy (as I admit I do!), these moves won’t melt fat and tighten skin…they’ll just build muscles under the flab. Use the time you would have spent doing 500 reverse crunches to do high intensity intervals instead. Or body weight exercises. Or to go drink 20 ounces of water. Or find a few exercises for the transverse abs that will help tone up the muscles your uterus weakened for 10 months.

Mistake #7: The Gazelle {skipping strength training for cardio. Again.}

I love cardio, I do. Especially running and dancing. They are fun and easy, and boy do I feel those endorphins afterward! What I don’t get from them is a change in body composition. For that I rely on Pilates, body weight exercises, and free weights/barbells. Strength training is necessary for bone health as well as getting that “toned” look everyone wants. I now do 3 days of strength training and 1-2 cardio sessions (20-30 minutes) each week. And while I haven’t seen the scale move in a couple of months? I’m down a whole dress size! So I know it’s working.

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