Return to Fitness

Returning to fitness after a baby

January 19, 2020
Return to Fitness

Words and photo by Kristen Phillips

It’s been a slow roll coming back to fitness after giving birth to a baby boy 14 months ago, but with the turn of the new year it's time to begin again.

Becoming a mother has been an awesome experience and the time away from training has made my heart fonder. I was lucky to have a healthy pregnancy and ride consistently until 35-weeks. My husband and I have been riding and racing bikes together for a very long time and we both knew things would be different once our son was born. We took several cycling “babymoon” trips to make the most of our last year just the two of us. I rode my road bike a few times a week in Prospect Park and enjoyed riding my mountain bike into the third trimester. As pregnancy progressed I slowed down a bit but always deeply appreciated the ability to ride. It felt like cycling through pregnancy eased the transition to motherhood. It kept me fit and happy through the process. Our son was born healthy at 39-weeks and 5-days and we couldn’t have been happier.

I will admit I expected to be back on the bike much sooner after giving birth.

I thought I would wait for the ok from my doctor and then be on the trainer or rollers a few days a week. But newborn life was a blur and before I knew it, I was back at work juggling a full-time job, coaching clients, and a baby. The whole first year was all about doing what I could do when I could do it. I rode the spin bike at the gym, ran with a jogging stroller, and got a yoga studio membership. The idea of having even a simple training schedule to follow seemed impossible. I relied heavily on yoga to help me regain strength, undo stress, and carve out brief periods of uninterrupted time in otherwise very busy days.

Then there was the sleep, or lack thereof. It’s very hard to add training commitments when the mind and body aren’t getting adequate rest. It’s also hard to trade extra sleep or time with your baby for a workout. New moms have so many conflicting priorities. There was also breastfeeding which in my experience was stress-inducing and further complicated my ability to train. All to say that being a working mom with a new baby took longer to adjust to than I initially gave it credit for.

Within all of this, I had many wonderful new experiences.

I spent the summer in the park with other moms who are cyclists with babies around the same age. Then there were all of the outdoor things I was able to do with baby as he grew. At 4-months we started running together in the park. At 7-months we started hiking with a baby backpack. At 10-months we started riding together. Pretty soon he’ll be riding his own bike and I will be trying to keep up with him. Time away from training meant having more time for these things, and for that I’m grateful.

Now with the first year behind us, the urge to train is strong and I've have had a schedule for a few weeks now that includes riding, strength training, and yoga. It feels really good to be back at it! I’m looking at goal events for 2020 and have adjusted my training zones to reflect my current fitness level. With less time to spare, my return to fitness program is all about efficiency. In the next few weeks, I’ll update on how things are going.

For moms coming back to fitness after a baby, or for anyone who has taken some time off, here are a few things I’ve learned:
  • Slowly but surely make space and time for training. Once you stop, that time easily gets eaten up and it can feel impossible to go back to your normal routine. Remember you don’t have to launch straight into a full schedule. You can start with three hours a week, then five, and so on.
  • Once that space is created, stay consistent. If you start riding for an hour three days a week, keep at it but don’t stress if you have to miss a workout. The main thing is if you do miss a workout, don’t let it set you back to square one.
  • Eliminate barriers no matter how small. Anything you can do to reduce the activation energy needed to workout is key.
  • Stay accountable. This could be with a training program, a coach, or a group of friends. Remember to be social and allow the community to support you. Fitness is always better with friends.

Here’s to a strong 2020!

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  • Carol K January 27, 2020 at 11:36 am

    Love this! This totally captures my experience as well. Before you have a baby you think you’ll be back on the bike in no time until you realize how crazy it is to manage a newborn, returning to work and life in general. Having the support of fellow moms and a community of friends to inspire you and invite you to ride is so helpful! Spinning with power training in the winter while the YMCA Child watch took care of my child really helped me stay in shape in the winter when it was impossible to get out due to weather and not having anyone to watch him. Looking forward to spending more time in the great outdoors this spring!