With a new baby to care for, many moms can't find the time to take a shower, much less squeeze in a workout. Although it can be tricky, fitting in exercise isn't impossible. There are many ways you can integrate fitness into your day — even if it's just 10 minutes here and there. It may take some finessing and fine-tuning, but it's worth it: Not only will you get a jumpstart on losing the baby weight, but that daily dose of activity will also help you feel more refreshed, energetic and alert to help you be the happiest mom you can be. Here are seven ways to make it happen.
Establish a Schedule
Although this is more easily said than done, and things often won't go as planned, having a general idea of the rhythm of your day can help you anticipate when you might have time to slip in a workout. On her website, The Balanced Life, Pilates instructor Robin Long says that she established an "eat, play, sleep" routine with her newborn daughter right from the start.
After feeding, she would allow for some playtime together, then put the baby down for a nap — during which she'd sneak in a quick workout. By planning several of these breaks throughout the day, you'll have plenty of opportunities to move your body.
Go for a Hike
Pump your arms to get your heart rate up, and find some hills to tackle to burn extra calories and work your leg muscles. During your strolls, you can even stop in a park and do some squats and lunges. The baby will add a bit of resistance, just as if you were holding light dumbbells.
You can also seek out other moms in your area to walk or jog with. Having these meet-ups scheduled into your day will help motivate you and keep you on track — plus provide a much-needed opportunity to socialize.
Break Exercise Into Chunks
Before baby, you had time for a 60-minute yoga class or an hour-long gym visit. Forget about that for now; with feedings every two to three hours, there's little chance of fitting in an extended fitness session. But we have good news: Breaking down exercise into 10- or 15-minute chunks is just as effective as one of those hour-long workouts you used to love.
Ten minutes is plenty of time to do a low-impact routine, including modified jumping jacks, skaters, high knees, wall push-ups and walking lunges. If you have stairs in your house, you can get a great workout just by walking up and down them for 10 minutes without stopping. Bottom line: Be creative, and don't worry about the length of your workout; anything is better than nothing.
Dress for Success
Put your workout clothes on first thing in the morning, suggests mom and blogger Amanda Perry on her blog, Sistas of Strength. Even if you're not sure when you'll have time to work out, wearing your exercise clothes automatically puts you in the right mindset. If you're already dressed for fitness, it's much easier to take advantage of any time you find throughout your day; plus, Perry says, workout clothes are pretty comfortable.
Take a Class
You may not have the luxury of getting out to a fitness class on your own — at least not in the beginning — but you can attend classes specifically tailored for new moms and their babies. Many gyms and fitness studios offer mommy-and-me programs, including general fitness classes, stroller workouts, water aerobics, Pilates and yoga.
Ask for Help
Let's face it: As a new mom, there are certain tasks (such as breastfeeding) that you can't delegate to others. But there are many other things you can ask for help with that would free up some time for exercise. Tell your partner, family and friends that you want to start getting back in shape so you can be a healthy and energetic mom, and ask for their support.
Trusted friends and family members will probably be willing to relieve you of your mom duties for a few hours each week so you can get to the gym and squeeze in some "me time." If you don't feel comfortable leaving the baby, delegate some other tasks — such as grocery shopping or other errands — to free up some time for at-home workouts or mommy-and-me classes with your little one.
Make the Most of Your Workouts
Since you don't have a lot of time, it's important to be efficient when you finally do get to exercise. In the beginning, it's perfectly fine to take it slow and and only do what you feel up to doing. But once you're ready, and your doctor has cleared you for more strenuous exercise, it's time to kick it up a notch or two.
Interval workouts and circuit training are great options when you're crunched for time. In 30 minutes, you can get in a total-body workout that will help strengthen your muscles and burn calories. Choose eight to 10 exercises and perform one set of each with very brief rests in between. You don't need any equipment — just your own body weight.
Some sample exercises to try include:
Set an interval timer for 30 to 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest. After performing each exercise once, rest for one or two minutes, then repeat the round two to three more times. You'll be surprised at how challenging one of these short sessions can be — and heck, you might even have time to squeeze in a shower afterward!