As stated in the first part of this series, the postpartum snapback varies by individual, but is never easy. The truth is some women may bounce back right away, but many struggle to get back into shape. These are the continued stories of how athletic women coped with getting back into shape after giving birth and how they approached postpartum fitness realistically.
Tiffany Millar, mom of a 2-year-old
Occupation: Business Operations and Workplace Strategist, Brooklyn, NY
Pre-pregnancy Fitness Activities: Bikini Fitness Pro, pole dancing, weightlifting, and boxing
Breastfeeding made me super hungry and tired and working out was the last thing on my mind after being approved to workout. Then the reality hit when I would work out that my milk supply seemed to dip the next day so I decided to choose my goal of breastfeeding over my goal of a snapping back. The slow clap back is my journey.
My hubby bought me a Peloton bike for spinning at home and I do boot camp when I can fit it in. Pre-baby my fitness level was 8/9. Post baby it’s 4/5.
I have not snapped back to anything of my former self. I am trying to snap forward, create something and improve on things that I never had to worry about pre-baby. First is my mental health. That allows me to be the mom I need to be and the wife I need to be. Now that I have snapped forward and my mental health is stable, 2019 is all about getting physically healthy. I have hired a babysitter to help with my toddler so I can spend time in the gym and create a game plan for the food and getting the whole family involved in eating better.
Postpartum is no joke and putting more pressure on yourself to “Snapback” can make it worse. Take your time. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Take care of your baby, and take care of your mental health first!
Karen Washington, mom of a 2-year-old
Occupation: Program Director, New York, NY
Pre-pregnancy Fitness Activities: Pole dancing 2-3 times a week.
At this point, I’m more or less back around to what I would consider “normal.” The main changes I still experience are just that everything has expanded a little more, like my rib cage for example, and I don’t think that’s ever going back.
Pre-pregnancy I was probably about a seven fitness wise. Immediately after pregnancy, I was a two. Two years later I feel like a nine.
Despite being pretty fit and strong prior to pregnancy due to pole dancing, I lost most of my strength while pregnant. Some of it was probably just natural, hormonal stuff, but a lot was due to being too nauseous and heartburn-ridden to actually pole dance and keep up with exercise. I couldn’t even watch a video of someone pole dancing without wanting to vomit! I tried prenatal yoga and pilates, but I found it too boring and also the teachers kept the room too damn hot for my pregnant body, so I gave myself permission to quit exercising while pregnant.
I was 150 before I had the baby. I’m about 5’4. I was pretty muscular, but also had a butt and thighs and stuff. I gained nearly 50 lbs during pregnancy, which my doctors were not happy about, but I soon realized I had no control over it, despite my best efforts to eat well and walk a lot so I just rolled with it, thinking it would come off after I had the baby. Some of it did—about 20 lbs in the first two weeks. I lost another 10 lbs the first five months of breastfeeding, but then my weight slowly started creeping up again because breastfeeding makes you f-cking hungry! At a certain point, probably when my baby started eating solid, I wasn’t burning enough calories to offset what I was consuming.
After I had the baby I took my time before trying to exercise again. I started first with some pelvic floor physical therapy to get everything right in that region again. In addition to strengthening my pelvic muscles, I had a bit of separation between my abs (diastasis recti) from the pregnancy, so we worked on that in physical therapy. I was back on the pole about 10 weeks after I gave birth. I did get back a little bit of my strength at the beginning, and the diastasis recti actually closed up within a few weeks of me starting pole again. However, I was pretty sad because I had lost my ability to do a lot of the things I could before pregnancy, including inversions. I was bummed about all the progress I had lost. I had little time to take classes with a newborn, so it was hard to make any kind of progress at all.
Thankfully, I ended up meeting someone who would end up changing my whole situation. She’s a pole instructor who I reached out to on Instagram after seeing that she was accepting clients for private pole instruction at her home, which just so happened to be in my neighborhood. I DM’ed her, telling her all I wanted was to get my invert back and she told me she could make my dreams come true, and she did! I was inverting again less than two months after meeting her—a little over a year after having my baby.
She pushed me to practice more, do conditioning work at home, and try to get to at least one class a week in addition to seeing her. The gains have been huge, and I’ve kept it up over the last year. Now I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in my whole life. I am also at an excellent weight now, about five lbs less than I was before I had the baby with a lot more muscle. However, I still don’t fit into a lot of my pre-pregnancy clothes, so not sure how all that works.
When I met the pole instructor I was 168 lbs and very much finished with breastfeeding, so I was ready to change my eating habits a bit in addition to exercising more. I hit my pre-pregnancy weight of 150 last summer, about a year-and-a-half after giving birth. This was in part due to my pole training, and in part, because I was laid off from my job in the spring and wasn’t able to eat a lot due to the stress of being unemployed. I also poled a lot while I wasn’t working. I even put a pole in my apartment as a severance gift to myself. I’m employed again and have managed to keep the weight off, and then some. Today, I am 145 lbs and insanely muscular. My baby will be 2 years old in February.
The moral of my story is that the snapback is a myth. I played the long game instead, and thankfully it has worked out. I didn’t really know quite what to expect, but I was definitely surprised to find out that breastfeeding wasn’t the magic weight loss silver bullet that everyone says it is.
Focus on finding an activity that you love so that losing weight and getting fit are just byproducts of something greater. If you can’t bring yourself to go to the gym, then that’s not the thing that’s going to work for you. Try something fun like pole, Zumba or rock climbing, where you’re actually excited to do it and you won’t even notice that you’re getting back in shape until it happens. I always say that for me to love an activity it has to meet the following criteria: one, feats of strength; two, sisterhood; and three, elements of danger.
It’s also important to find something that works for your lifestyle. Having a baby means you have to be home a lot. So for me, having a pole in my home is key because it allows me to work out after my daughter goes to bed. Before I had a home pole I used to play Just Dance on my husband’s Xbox to have fun, dance and burn calories at the same time–whatever gets you through!
Starrene Rhett Rocque is the author of Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted, and a Brooklyn-based digital content producer who has worked with Hello Beautiful, Teen Vogue, IMAN Cosmetics, Complex and more. She is two years deep into life as a mom.