OutSMARTing the Baby Wait: Setting Post-Pregnancy Fitness Goals

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She did what? You hear it all the time. Some Hollywood starlet gave birth six weeks ago and now she’s rockin’ boy shorts on the cover of Cosmopolitan. Really?

One of the biggest goals for a pregnant woman is to get her body and lifestyle back after giving birth. But because we often read and hear conflicting information, many of us aren’t sure how to approach our post-baby fitness routine.
While the acronym has been used for all types of goal-setting for years, using the S.M.A.R.T technique is not only, well, smart, but customizable to each new mom, especially since new mothers have put their body through some major shakeups over the last year. By understanding SMART and knowing what the letters stand for, you can then begin to decipher what they mean for you personally.

Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t point you in a direction. You can set a goal to lose weight, but if you only lose a pound and then gain it back quickly, you have reached your goal, but you’re probably not happy. Be as well-defined as possible when it comes to setting fitness goals. Write them down where you can see them. Make the goals simple, so you know exactly where you are headed and exactly where you want to end up.

This one is the easiest of all the SMART goals. Make it measurable: I want to finish a 5K. So if you start a 5K and you finish it, you have reached your goal. If you want to lose 15 pounds, then put it in writing. If you want to get seven hours of sleep each weeknight, then start counting. Use tools to help you track your progress, such as an app, alarm clock or new scale.

Be reasonable, baby. Just because your neighbor was back at body combat class three weeks after giving birth doesn’t mean you will be ready. It’s fine to shoot for the stars, but be realistic. Similarly, setting a too-easy goal is also not very motivating. Only you know your boundaries.

Let’s face it; for most women, our bodies just aren’t the same after giving birth. Don’t focus on where you used to be, but rather set goals that are important to where you are in your life right now. And achieve your own aspirations. If your husband keeps hinting he wants to see you back in your little black dress by the time his company party rolls around, that may not be what you’re feeling. Now is the time to figure out what you really want to do.

Examine your goal so far. Does it seem relevant? If so, keep trucking. If you are not concerned about weight loss or this is not a good time in your life to focus on that, choose something that’s truly motivating to you.

The general rule of thumb is to get back into the exercise game about six weeks after giving birth, but everyone is different. You pay your doctor for a reason. Work closely with her to make sure everything is safe and determine a proper start time for you. When it comes to your goals, make sure you place a timeframe on it, such as “I want to finish a 5K by April 30,” or “I want to lose 12 pounds by my high school reunion.”

Now, if you weren’t doing CrossFit or spin classes before you were pregnant, this probably is not the time to start. Once you begin exercising regularly, you can add some new moves and high-intensity forms of exercise. Start with choosing exercise that is familiar. You can always up the ante as you work toward your goals.

And let’s not forget the, ahem, food. Yes, we all had a few crazy ice cream combinations, doughnuts or value meals when we were pregnant, but hopefully, you kept your eating indulgences in check and you’re not starting from square one when it comes to nutrition. We hear it a lot, but the old 80/20 rule—eating healthy 80 percent of the time and choosing a few indulgences the other 20 percent—can be very beneficial. Plus, you can’t exercise your way out of a poor diet. Once you get a handle on what you are eating, everything else will be easier to accomplish.

If you’re reading this and still pregnant, that is good news! There is no better time to prepare for fitness after pregnancy than when baby is still in the oven. Take time now (because you have more of it) to plan. Set SMART goals, and get back on track after baby on your own time. ■

Sources: fitpregnancy.com, reuters.com and acefitness.org.