Everybody and every body is different, and so is the time it takes to recover from giving birth and shedding the weight we put on during the pregnancy and regaining physical strength. I had gained a whopping 21 kilograms/46 pounds, which meant that I added one third of my original weight to the scale. And while I lost most of this extra weight within the first 3 months after the birth, it was still a long journey to bring my body back to its initial, pre-preggo state.
One of the most effective and fun ways of redefining your waistline is hula hoop. Not the simple hoop we used as kids, but a weighted fitness hula hoop. The amazing thing about it: 10-15 minutes per day is enough. So no matter how stressful life with a newborn gets, you will most likely be able to find some time for it.
The best benefit of hula hooping is the effect it has on strengthening and training your pelvic muscles. Not just the pelvic floor (which most people focus on if they pay attention to excersising that part of their body), but the entire pelvic muscle area, which is actually a quite large muscle influencing almost all parts of our lower upper body, such as our back, our organs, digestion, etc. This part of your body that has been experiencing the most stress, stretching, tearing and overall pressure of all muscles during pregnancy. Yet, a strong pelvic area is quintessential to so many aspects of our well being. A lot of people find it challenging to consciously activate this area and particularily the pelvic floor muscle. This is why hula hooping is so great, because you subconsciously tighten and activate the entire pelvic area in order to move the hoop around your waist. Thereby you tense those muscles naturally and thus strengthen them over time. Because this is a muscle that is so hard to flex at will for so many, but yet so important to do to rebuild after pregnancy and birth, you will already feel the physical effect from hula hooping by just doing it for 10-15 minutes in the beginning.
The second great benefit: it strengthens and trains your inner abdominal muscles and works on the exact part of your body that has been most affected by the pregnancy. The hoop exercise works on your inner core and thus gifts you with a nicely trained middle. After all, fit is the new skinny! Besides and actually more important than being skinny, is being strong.
I already worked with a fitness hoop 2-3 times a week before the pregnancy, in addition to my gym workouts, and I can only wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone and every mom as an awesome way to strengthen and trim your core. This is the one I am using. It comes with 3 different weight options. Besides the added weight, it also has a wave design, so while spinning the ring also massages the love handles in your middle to trigger fat-burning in that area, by increasing the blood flow. Make sure that you only start this, if your doctor gives you the okay to work on your abs again, otherwise you could do yourself more harm than good.
Do not get disheartened if it takes you a few attempts to get the hang of how to keep the hoop up. It’s not that you forgot all your skills from childhood (assuming you learned) or that your hips are too stiff, but merely that the added weight of the hoop requires a tad bit more training and muscle work to make it work. Click here for a great hula hoop tutorial video.
P.S. Not its original purpose, but moms usually tend to get neck and shoulder pain from constantly lifting, shifting and holding a growing and not very cooperative baby. One way to help you loosen up those stiff muscles and ease the pain is to hold the hula hoop in front of you like a giant steering wheel and twist and turn it for a couple of minutes as if you have to swiftly maneuver a large, heavy semi-truck through an obstacle course. This is another great 5 minute excercise to release shoulder and neck tension.
Disclaimer: Before starting any type of postpartum workout ask your midwife or ob-gyn if it’s safe for you to start exercising or if there are any restrictions in your case. They need to check if there is any diastasis recti. This is vitally important, otherwise any exercise you engage in is actually doing your body more harm than good, especially in the long run and sometimes many years down the road. Basically it is all about making sure that the two abdominal muscles are reconnected. Do not do any ab training before this split that’s created during pregnancy is closed. This can take anything between a couple of weeks or several month depending on your body – so there is no rule of thumb on how fast yours abdominal integration will happen. Give it the time it needs. Just because a friend of yours took 5 month to recover, it might be still fine for you to restart after 3 weeks. Likewise: just because that one girl you know starting an ambitious workout regime two weeks after her baby was born and ran a marathon half a year later, doesn’t mean that you should or could. Focus on yourself and what feels and is best for you, you alone. Again every body is different, so check what applies in your case.