When Christina Musso of Cherry Hill had her twins and began nursing, she was surprised to find she not only got back to her pre-pregnancy weight, but she wound up losing 10 extra pounds. However, when she stopped nursing, Musso says the weight began to creep back on and her stretched stomach, from having carried multiples, was becoming troublesome. And as you might imagine, it wasn’t easy to find time to exercise. “Working full time, taking care of a household, and caring for two 9-month-olds does not leave a lot of time for me to workout,” Musso says. “When you are a working mom, you feel guilty not spending time with your kids at night.”
Getting back in action
It’s a common concern that many women have after giving birth: How do I fit in workouts and get back to my pre-baby look? But most trainers say you’d be surprised by what you can accomplish in just a short workout session. It’s what you’re doing during that time that really matters.
“Gone are the days when you watch a movie on the treadmill for an hour,” says Karen Keegan, owner of Koko FitClub of Cherry Hill. “What works—and what we do here—is interval training. Interval training is a progressive workout that gets your heart rate up, and then lets it recover several times during the training. We do 15-minute-long sessions and most people find it’s pretty easy to incorporate that into their day.”
That interval training should be combined with some weight training to increase muscle mass, adds Keegan. Anthony Capozzoli, owner of Smart Bodies Personal Training Center in Marlton, agrees. “What many women forget or fail to do is add some resistance training to their routine,” he says. “That helps build some metabolism because you’re using muscle. So many people just jump into doing cardio alone.”
In fact, some women jump into a cardio routine so fast that it can be detrimental. Doing too much too fast is a recipe for failure. “For many women who are eager to get their pre-pregnancy body back, their first instinct is to go pound pavement,” says Brian Kane, co-owner of Evolution Fitness in Cherry Hill. “But the core muscles really need to be re-established first because there’s not enough stability for running yet. You can put yourself in a weaker state or set yourself up for injury by starting out too fast.”
The trainers at Evolution focus on re-establishing the core muscles with their post-pregnancy clients. But women who are eager to target their abs may be surprised to learn that one thing they don’t do is crunches. “The last thing you want to do post-pregnancy is a crunch,” Kane says. “Those muscles no longer have the ability to support your back and you’re setting yourself up for an injury. We teach specific exercises like advanced variations of the plank or various work with resistance bands.”
There are quite a few exercises that will help improve the core, adds Trae Toliver, sports performance director of Velocity Sports Performance in Cherry Hill, who agrees the core muscles need to be stable before any sort of crunches or intense cardio is even attempted.
“Core exercises could be TRX roll-outs, planks, jackknives, or any type of stability ball exercise,” Toliver says. “Core exercises and getting into the routine of a strict diet is where the initial focus should be. But start slow. Don’t rush back into things. And make sure you’re listening to your body.”
While both women who have given birth naturally and via cesarean section can get back in shape, because a C-section is a major operation, it does take a bit longer for those women to slim down. Many women complain specifically about the lower abdomen area that just doesn’t seem the same, even after getting into a workout routine. But Jim Agigian, a personal trainer at Giant Fitness in Mount Laurel, wants women to know it’s possible. “I’ve had clients tell me that even their doctor said they will have that extra flab forever—or that they need surgery—and that’s just not true,” he says. “Lots of leg raises, a good diet, and the right cardio is the prescription. Anything that is a leg raise will work the lower abs while a sit-up or crunch will work the upper abs. You don’t need surgery—you just need to find the right routine.”
A lot of women just need the right motivation. Agigian, a former body builder, also works as a motivational speaker and he’s passionate about encouraging his clients that they can achieve their goals. He says many clients just need that extra push. “Motivation is so important and I remind my clients that it’s good that they’re doing something positive for themselves,” he adds. “Parents do so much for their kids—they need to do something for themselves, too.”
At Evolution, there is a strong focus on “mental coaching,” as well, says David Duzenski, co-owner. “One suggestion we might make when a new mom is starting out is to keep a journal,” he says. “Not just about nutrition and workouts but about your inspiration. You might write about how you’re getting stronger and why you’re getting stronger. Getting healthy isn’t just about you—it’s about getting healthy for your family. You want to be strong for your child and writing that down reinforces why you’re going to the gym in the first place.”
Of course, not everyone can get to the gym each and every day, so on those off days, trainers often encourage their clients to find little ways to fit in a workout. “You don’t need a ton of time to fit in some extra exercise,” Toliver says. “Park farther away from the supermarket or take the stairs instead of the elevator. When you get home from work, take a walk. Anything is better than nothing and, if it’s just 10 free minutes you have in a day, use that time wisely to fit in a little exercise—even if it’s just 20 push-ups.”
For Musso, that’s exactly what she’s been doing. “We have a 10K step challenge at work, so I’ve been walking more during the day and taking the kids for walks at night—and wearing a pedometer helps,” she says. “It challenges me and I wind up doing little things to get to that 10K daily target such as parking farther away or getting off at the subway a stop earlier. I’ve found I can still spend time with the babies by all going for a walk together.”
1990 Route 70
1315 Route 73
Koko FitClub of Cherry Hill
2095A Route 70 E.
Personal Training Center
117A Route 73 S.
Velocity Sports Performance
2005 Route 70 E.
Published (and copyrighted) in the Art of Living Well pull-out section of Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 3 (May, 2013).
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