Whether you’ve just given birth to your first baby or your fourth, one thing is certain: your body has changed over the past nine months. Hormonal changes have relaxed the ligaments in your body, your growing baby has stretched your ab muscles beyond their ability to function, and you gained a new center of balance as your hips widened in preparation for childbirth. And let’s not forget about how exhausted you are from caring for your newborn twenty-four hours a day.
Many postpartum moms seek ways to lose lingering baby weight, if not regain their pre-baby bodies. But it can be a challenge to find the time and energy to incorporate workouts. That’s where your stroller, and the daily walks you are already taking, can become the foundation for a fitness regime that’s easy to start and maintain.
The Benefits of Working Out with Your Baby
There are several benefits to working out with your baby. Investing in a 3 wheel stroller for jogging or running ensures that both you and your baby will get plenty of fresh air. But there are other great benefits for both of you.
Multi-Tasking for Busy Moms
Many moms, whether new or veteran, have constraints on their time every day. Bringing baby along for a stroller workout allows busy moms to maximize the time they do have available, ensuring that their little ones have exposure to the big world outside their house while also participating in healthy habits.
Interaction with Baby
When you work out with your baby, you have an opportunity to provide a bonding and learning experience, whether you go for a walk outside or do some “mommy and me” style yoga. When you explain what you’re doing as you exercise, you build vocabulary and model a healthy lifestyle. Research has shown that children who see their parents exercise tend to exercise more as well.
Staying Fit with Your Jogging Stroller
Many new moms feel dissatisfied with their bodies after giving birth, but the regularity with which busy moms workout can be sporadic. Incorporating a total-body workout into your daily stroller walks is a great way to begin and maintain a fitness routine. Even moms who may struggle to lose weight will see improvement in their overall fitness level, muscle tone, cardiovascular health, energy level, and even sleep patterns.
Get a Quick Workout with Your Jogging Stroller
While a recent study has shown that jogging with your stroller may not burn as many calories as a stroller-free run due to unintentional adjustments to such factors as length of stride and speed, you can increase the effectiveness of your stroller workout. This can be done by engaging in what is known as interval training.
Interval training involves alternating short bursts of cardio, such as brisk walking or jogging, with sets of targeted strength training exercises or stretches. By engaging in interval training as part of your stroller workout, you can increase—or at least maintain—your aerobic capacity, burn more calories, and complete your workout in less time with greater effectiveness. An added bonus is your ability to mix up the exercises you choose to do during the strength portion of your intervals, thus keeping boredom away.
As you move through the intervals, it may be helpful to set a timer on your phone or fitness watch (if you use one). This will help keep you on track with your timing. Some smartphone apps and fitness watches have interval timers with either preset or adjustable segments, allowing you to move from one interval to the next without having to stop to set a timer. If you have a spot on your stroller to stow resistance tubing or light hand weights, bring them with you if desired, but this is not necessary to get an effective workout.
Try this Simple Exercise Routine
- Warm Up (3-5 minutes). At the start of your stroller workout, begin with an easy, gentle walk. The goal here is to warm up your muscles, get the synovial fluid moving through your joints, and begin to increase your heart rate a bit. Focus on keeping your shoulders back and down away from your ears, engaging the core muscles of your abs and back. As your body becomes warmer, you may begin to pick up the pace. But resist the urge to break into a jog just yet.
- Stretch (2-3 minutes). Once your body is warm, set the brake on your jogging stroller and spend two to three minutes on some light stretching. At this point in your workout, you will want to focus more on your legs than other muscle groups, unless you have an area of your body that is tight or sore from a previous workout.
- Brisk Walk (3 minutes). Now that you’re warmed up, you can begin your intervals with a brisk walk. The pace should be faster than your warm-up, but not so fast that you become breathless. A good guideline is to be able to maintain a conversation without becoming winded, but your heart rate and breathing are elevated. Note: From this point on, you will alternate each strength interval with an interval of brisk walking or, if you’re ready, jogging.
- Squats (2 minutes). When it comes to squats, form is key to effectiveness, rather than the number of reps you complete. Stand with your feet at least shoulder-width apart and parallel to each other. You may wish to lightly rest your fingers on the handle of your jogging stroller for stability, but do not grip the handle. Shift your weight onto your heels as you bend your knees as if you are sitting down onto a chair. Keep your chest up and your shoulders square, and work to keep your knees above your ankles (if you look down, you should be able to see your toes). This is key to protect your knees. The goal is to eventually bring your thighs parallel to the ground, but initially focus on good form even if you don’t lower very far. When you stand back up, engage your hamstrings and gluteus muscles as you straighten your legs, as if you are pushing all your weight through your heels. Try not to lock your knees in between reps.
- Bicep Curls (with or without resistance tubing/hand weights – 2 minutes). Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and engage your core. Start with your hands lowered, slightly in front of your hips and palms facing out. Keep your elbows tight to your sides as you raise your hands to shoulder height in a slow, controlled motion. Hold for two counts, and then reverse the movement in a slow, controlled motion. Do not lock the elbows between reps.
- Stationary Lunges (1 minute each side). Stand with your feet hip-width apart and then step way back with one foot. Keep your shoulders back and your chest up, and rest your fingers on the handle of your stroller for balance. Keeping your weight on the heel of your forward foot, lower your body straight down. As with squats, your goal is to eventually bring the thigh of your front leg parallel to the ground, but the key is to keep your knee above your ankle to protect the joint. If your knee juts forward over your toes, adjust by sliding your back foot to widen your stance. Pushing through the heel of your front foot, lift back up but do not lock your knees. Switch legs after one minute.
- Standing Abdominal Crunch (2 minutes). Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slide one foot slightly forward and lifting the heel. Raise your arms over your head so that your arms frame your ears, and clasp your hands. Engage your core by tiling your pelvis, then bring the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your hipbone toward each other. Switch the position of your feet after one minute.
- Standing Abductors (1 minute each side). Turn sideways and rest your left hand on your stroller’s handle, putting your right hand on your hip. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight onto your left food and find your balance. With a slight bend in your right knee, use the muscles on the outside of your hip to raise your right leg to the side. Tap your toe between reps. As your strength and balance improves, work to keep your toe off the ground throughout the set. Switch sides after one minute.
- Standing Side Crunches (1 minute each side). Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Keep your right hand on the handle of your stroller for balance and place your left hand behind your ear. Shift your weight onto your right foot and slightly bend your left knee so that your heel is off the ground. Perform a side crunch by bringing the bottom of your rib cage toward your hipbone, engaging the oblique muscles. As your strength improves, add a level of difficulty by lifting your left foot off the ground with each crunch. Switch sides after one minute.
- Triceps Pushups. Begin in a modified plank position with your knees on the ground, thighs tight together, hands directly below your shoulders. Rotate your arms so that the insides of your elbows is facing out. As you bend your elbows, work to keep them tight against your ribcage. You may only be able to go down a couple inches at first, but the key to this workout is to maintain a straight line from your knees to the top of your head. Exhale as you slowly push back into your starting position. Aim for eight triceps pushups as a starting point; your goal is to reach muscle failure, the point at which you physically cannot do another rep with good form. Over time try to do one or two reps on your toes, or alternately in an inclined position using a bench. Note: This exercise should only be completed if you are back at your own home, as it requires you to take your hands off your stroller and potentially lose line of sight with your baby.
- Cool Down and Stretch (5 minutes). Complete your workout with a leisurely-paced walk or by marching in place for three minutes. Your heart rate will begin to slow and your breathing return to normal. Finish with some easy stretches, such as a quad/hip flexor stretch, lateral side lunches, roll downs, and cross-body shoulder stretches.
Interact with Your Baby While Exercising
While you are exercising, you have a great opportunity to interact with your baby. If your baby faces you, engage in eye contact as frequently as is safe and talk about what you are doing. Older babies who are facing forward in a jogging stroller may not be able to see you during the jogging/walking portions of your workout, but you can keep up an engaging dialogue by describing your surroundings, naming objects, and asking questions of older toddlers. You can also do some of the strength intervals in front of the stroller so your baby can see you.
Jogging Stroller Workout Safety
When working out with your running stroller, there are several things to keep in mind in order for you and your baby to remain safe.
- Before engaging in any of the strength intervals, make sure you are on flat, stable ground, and set the brake on your stroller.
- Be aware of your surroundings. If possible, complete your stroller workout with a friend or family member, and remain in well-lit, familiar areas.
- Do not hang tubing or resistance bands from the stroller.
- If an exercise requires you to work out beside your stroller, remain a hand’s reach away at all times.
- Stay hydrated, especially in warm climates and in hot, humid conditions. Have water on hand for yourself, as well as your baby once they are older than six months old (babies younger than six months get all the hydration they need from breast milk or formula).
- Dress yourself and your baby properly for the weather. This may mean layers in the winter and ways to keep sun and heat off of your baby in the summer. Sunscreen is a must for you and babies older than six months year-round.
How soon after giving birth can I start working out?
In general, you can safely begin easy walks with your stroller within a couple of weeks of giving birth. More intensive workouts should not be started until you have been given the thumbs-up from your doctor. Discuss your readiness to begin exercising at your first postpartum appointment with your obstetrician, which usually occurs six weeks after a vaginal birth and six to eight weeks after a cesarean birth. Your doctor will provide you with guidance as to what types of exercise to start with and when you may be ready to begin something more rigorous. Your overall fitness level and how much (or little) you exercised during your pregnancy should also be taken into account.
If you experienced any complications during your pregnancy or childbirth, or during the immediate postpartum period, your doctor may advise you to wait longer before beginning an exercise program.
Is a jogging stroller better for a stroller workout than a more traditional stroller?
If you only plan to walk during your stroller workout, any stroller will work. But if you plan to jog or run with your stroller for the cardio portions of your workout, a jogging stroller is a better choice. The design of a 3 wheel stroller makes it easier to steer, especially on uneven pavement, over sidewalk curbs, and on rough terrain. The wheels on a jogging stroller are also larger than those on a traditional stroller and look more like the wheels on a bicycle. Many jogging strollers feature a fixed front wheel, or a mechanism to fix the front wheel, which makes it more stable at higher speeds.
Can I work out even if I am breastfeeding?
While high intensity exercise may increase the amount of lactic acid in your breast milk—which may produce a sour or soapy taste that your baby may not like—moderate exercise doesn’t seem to affect the production or composition of breast milk. If anything, working out while breastfeeding is more about your physical comfort than anything else. Feed your baby or express milk before your workout to prevent engorgement, and invest in a quality sports bra that will provide maximum support during your workouts.
Are there any exercises I should avoid in the postpartum period?
Some abdominal exercises, particularly those that require you to lay down or utilize a cross-body motion to engage the transverse abdominous muscles, should be avoided during the immediate postpartum period, as they put undue stress on muscles that are already weak and stretched from pregnancy. Exercises like bicycle crunches and reverse crunches can exacerbate a condition called diastasis recti, in which the muscles of the abdomen actually separate from each other. This is a common condition that is responsible for that hard-to-shrink “mommy pooch” and typically cannot be repaired without physical therapy, a highly specialized exercise program that targets the pelvic floor, or both; extreme cases may require surgery. Diastasis recti is usually diagnosed by a physician.
If you have had a c-section or an episiotomy, any exercises that could strain your healing scar should be avoided. This may include weight training and certain stretches.
Additionally, take care with any exercises that involve knee bends or high-impact moves. The ligaments in all your joints have loosened during pregnancy, and the widening of your hips may also change the alignment of your knees just enough to create problems. Injury to the knees is common if care is not taken to protect them.