One of the hardest things about losing the baby weight is just starting an exercise plan. As my friend (a mom of four) reminded me: things at rest tend to stay at rest—unless you force yourself to get moving!
To help you get started, here’s a guide to the top exercises for moms—all personally tested by me! What I found works best: mix up your workouts in each session: for example, if you can do the elliptical for 10 minutes, then switch to the bike for 10 minutes, and then run for 10 minutes…it helps you beat exercise boredom—and keeps your body guessing! (Do not use the same machine over and over; not only can that get boring [really boring!], it will work out the same body parts so you’ll see less progress over time.)
The elliptical trainer – This is a great all-over body workout—so if you love this machine, go for it. BUT don’t just leisurely glide on it, as it’s so easy to do. Crank up the intensity and the incline—and do sprint intervals: one fast-paced minute followed by a slower two minutes…and repeat. Calorie burn: about 374 calories in 30 minutes*.
Zumba/Cardio classes – I’ve never been very coordinated so you definitely don’t want to see me doing a Zumba class! But I know people who have really good rhythm—and blast through calories in these classes, while having fun (why they’re a great option for new moms trying to get their bodies back). Calorie burn: about 400 calories in 45 minutes (the typical length of one class).
The WiiFit – My husband and kids bought this for me for Mother’s Day (hmm..a subtle hint that I need to start working out more?). But I just haven’t been able to get into it; if I have a free half an hour, I’d rather get outside and get some fresh air. BUT, the good thing is you can do this while the baby’s sleeping, or even playing, next to you. Calorie burn: it depends on the activity you select.
Running – I love this because all you need is a pair of sneakers, a super-supportive sports bra (particularly if you’re breastfeeding)—and some motivation. You can crank up the tunes on your iPod and move at your own pace, at any time of the day. If you’re using the treadmill, do sprints: warm up slowly for 5 minutes, then run fast for 30 seconds, followed by a slower two minutes—and repeat until your 5-minute cool-down. Calorie burn: running for 30 minutes at about 5 mph burns approximately 278 calories. If you do sprints, you’ll burn more!
Walking – Ditto for walking—and this form of exercise is even better because you can walk for long periods…and it doesn’t really seem like exercise. I try to walk my older son to and from school every day—and if I have time, do an extra walking lap around the park near his school just to sneak in as much exercise as possible. Calorie burn: walking for 30 minutes at around 3 mph burns about 144 calories.
Spinning/Biking – I have a bike—and I have to admit, this is the hardest exercise routine to get back into (I don’t know why!). But, even if you have an indoor bike—or want to head to a Spin class at your local gym—this exercise helps build up leg muscles…and gets you closer toward that goal of lean legs (always high on my list!). Calorie burn: Biking or Spinning for 45 minutes—the length of one class—burns about 346 calories.
Swimming – This is one of the best exercises for all-over body toning. Mix it up and try different strokes—or grab a kickboard and give your legs an intense workout. Calorie burn: you’ll burn about 200 calories in 30 minutes.
Keep in mind that you should do some weight training, too. The reason: muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn all day long—and the leaner you’ll be. If you’re one of those people (as I used to be) who skip the weight room and stick to the cardio machines, I’d recommend treating yourself to a trainer to help you learn how to use the machines in the gym—or even to show you how to do simple sculpting exercises at home. (You can also buy exercise videos; top-notch trainers Jackie Warner and Jillian Michaels both have a number of great home workout videos.)
* Note: The calories burned are just estimates; it depends on how much you weigh (these numbers are based on a 145-pound woman) and how fast you’re actually moving. But rest assured, when you’re exercising, you’re always burning some calories!
© Valerie Latona LLC 2012