Postpartum drills for mother and Chumley
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Women Outside, Fall 1998
GEAR | TRAVEL | FITNESS | HEALTH |
HEALTH: Technology | RECOVERY
The three rules of exercise after childbirth: You leak. You tire easily. Then you leak some more.
No one, of course, expects an easy comeback from nine months of weight gain, diminishing muscle mass, punishing exhaustion, and a sudden and extraordinary inflation in one’s chest size. but then again, no one told me much of anything about what to expect, even in this era of You’re Expecting, What to Expect the First Year, What to Expect in Years One
Because regaining fitness after giving birth is generally much harder than sustaining it beforehand. Junior in utero is considerably easier to manage than Junior in a baby backpack; in the former state, he can’t complain. Meanwhile, you’ve also become sole proprietor of Mom’s 24-Hour-A-Day-All-You-Can-Eat Cafe. Still, in the year since my son pummeled his way into the world,
When you’re ready to hit the trails again post-birth (check with your doctor first, obviously; the usual medical advice is to wait at least four to five weeks), I recommended breaking out the jogging stroller, which you of course demanded as a shower gift. Let the kid be your guide. An infant is delighted for you to run long and slow (think 10-minute miles). As your endurance
Then, lift your child. Set him down. At his insistence, lift him again. Repeat until exhaustion sets in. This works the triceps, biceps, deltoids, trapezius, lastimus dorsi, infraspinous … aw, hell, it works your entire upper body. This is why the ranks of world-class paddlers are rife with mothers.
When the baby becomes a toddler, join a gym. You’ll be ready for both the physical challenges and and the adult company. Your child can romp in the nursery. And the weights won’t wriggle like eels from your grasp.
I’ve also learned a few things about equipment along the way. Layer those running bras — the more the better. Until someone develops high-performance postpartum undergarments of Gore-Tex and tempered steel, this is the only effective way to corral that new bosom. As for the racing-bike seat — or even the mountain-bike seat — that once so perfectly molded to
My most indelible lesson, however, came after months of juggling sweat and son. One evening, I skipped a group bike ride to rock him to sleep. As he shifted and sighed and nestled deep against my chest, I began to feel his heartbeat gently thrumming above my own, a flutter so strong and so fragile that tears welled in my eyes. Life, I suddenly understood, is its own interval