You might have dreamt you’d snap back into your size 10 jeans in no time after welcoming your baby, but the reality is probably very different. If lingering baby weight combined with being completely knackered has left you feeling lacklustre about exercising, there really is an answer and it doesn’t have to cost loads or need a childminder.
“Finding time to get out and about in the fresh air and stretch your legs can be a real treat when you’ve got a new little one, and, when done correctly, can help you lose your baby belly, too,” says diet and movement specialist Joanna Hall (www.joannahall.com).
It’s estimated the average new mum walks 639 miles with their buggy in the first year alone anyway. So with the right technique and support, you can turn this into a real workout. Trainers at the ready ladies, here’s how to do it…
When to start
When you’re a new mum, getting out for some fresh air is not only healthy, it’s sociable, too. However, check with your health visitor and doctor before you start walking vigorously to make sure your body’s ready after the birth, especially following a c-section. “Try and take regular strolls outside in the first few weeks and look to increase it to regular active walks after about six weeks,” suggests Joanna. “Once your baby is into a sleep and feeding routine, you’ll be able to find gaps where it’s easy to get out. An ideal time is after a morning feed, so when your little one’s contented and full.” This way you can be out for awhile without having to stop and feed.
Try this: Need some inspiration to get going? Check out www.strollbackto shape.com for free buggy workout videos from Maclaren and Pushy Mothers.
How to walk
Sorry to say it, but simply pottering around the block once a week isn’t going to give your waistline a workout. “It’s all about how you walk, as well as how much,” explains Joanna. “For maximum results, you need to walk with your shoulders and neck up, like you’re wearing dangling earrings that you don’t want your clothes to catch on. Keep your hips level, as if there’s a glass of water balancing on each one that you can’t spill, and when you do walk, make sure the whole of your foot goes down to the floor, so your leg is extended out in front of you.” This way your posture will improve, and your muscles will start to work, giving you a firmer and fitter body.
How much to do
“Start slow, and don’t push yourself too much at first,” advises Joanna. “Think about your local area and work out three routes of a walk that could take 10, 20 or 30 minutes to do. Start with 10 minutes and build up to 30 over a few weeks.” Counting your steps with a pedometer will give you a real self-esteem boost, as you can see how many you’ve done each day. You should be aiming for about 1,200 steps for every 10 minutes you walk, doubling that for a 20 minute walk, and so on. “An active walker, walking correctly, could lose up to 10lbs in 4 weeks,” says Joanna. “This is realistic if you stick to the correct posture technique and get out regularly.”
Try this: Have something to look forward to at the end of each walk. Use a route that ends at the library if you like books, or a friend’s house for a gossip.
What to eat
Walking burns lots of calories and when done correctly really does use a lot of energy and effort, so you need to pack your diet full of the right nutrients to keep you going. “Snack little and often to keep your energy levels up,” says Joanna. “Have a handful of nuts or dried fruit mid morning and afternoon, and be sure to keep your fluid levels up all day.” Whiz up some berries and a peach or banana with fresh fruit juice to make a smoothie. Have a glass in the morning and take a bottle with the rest out with you to keep hydrated and alert while walking.
We challenged Gemma Stevens, 27, from Kent, who’s recently given birth to Henry, 17 weeks, to try our walking challenge.
“I’m getting married in August, so really needed to kick start my exercise regime to shape up after having Henry. Walking seemed ideal, as I could fit it in easily around my day. I don’t have a car, so I’m used to using my own two feet anyway.”
Day one: the school run
“Although it’s only a five to 10 minute walk, doing the school run with my other son, Edward, 8, every day seems like a good starting point to build up from.”
Day five: twice a day
“I’m really getting into this walking lark now and have done at least one other walk each day on top of the school run. If I haven’t had something like shopping or an appointment to get to, I’ve made sure I’ve planned another walk each day. It can be as simple as a walk to the park or a friend’s house.”
Day ten: hill start
“I’m trying to up the ante now and I’ve been walking regularly to a mate’s house that’s on top of a hill to make it more of a workout. It’s been nice to have a goal like a gossip session at the end of each walk. I’ve done at least one mile each day, and the furthest I’ve walked in one go is 2.6 miles to the shops in Rochester.”
Day twelve: supermarket sweep
I’m all about making the most of each walk. For example, when I go to the supermarket I trek up and down every aisle, rather than the ones I need, which also gives me the chance to see the offers!
Day eighteen: pounds saver
I weighed myself today and I’ve lost 5lbs. But that’s not all, I not only feel fantastic about the weight loss, I’m more alert and energised since I started three weeks ago. Henry’s really enjoyed it too, and a long buggy trip sends him to sleep in no time! I’m determined to keep it up, and hopefully see more results. It’s fun, easy to fit into my day, and I’m seeing the benefits. What’s not to love?”