As many of you know, our very own Katie Andrews brought the first Recyclistiny into the world this spring. We wanted to share this Recycle Mama’s journey back to the saddle and encourage all of those new moms out there to reclaim their rides!
While there are many aspects of being a new parent that you can prepare for by reading books, joining groups, or listening to friends, the actual experience of both giving birth (and what happens after) is really a mystery until you experience it. As any new mother will tell you, there is a lot of anxiety leading up to the day that your child is born, and little you can do to ready yourself for what is a monumental change.
But once that amazing birth-day arrives, the anxiety unfortunately doesn’t end. Are you going to co-sleep? Are you breastfeeding? Will your baby use organic diapers? Cloth? There are so many decisions to make, and it can easily feel overwhelming. So overwhelming in fact, that you focus all your energy on making everything perfect for the baby, and forget that caring for yourself is also a priority. (If you didn’t think it was, now is the time to MAKE it a priority). You can’t be a good parent to your child if you aren’t taking a moment for yourself – to recharge, refresh, and most importantly, take back your body that for the past 10 months has been rented out to a tiny but demanding little human.
Yes, what I’m telling you is, it’s time to get back in the saddle. Because I had a c-section (little guy was all tied up!), I was told that I couldn’t get back to my regular exercise until 8 weeks after my son, Benjamin, was born. To be honest, I was a bit relieved that a date was set for me – exactly 2 months after he was born, I signed up for my first spin class. Surely I could have started with something a bit less challenging, like couch aerobics, but I knew that the only way to begin to take back my body was to jump in, clips first.
But let me back it up a second and tell you how I got to that first ride…After having Ben, I could hardly walk, let alone consider exercise. A c-section is full abdominal surgery, and giving birth will leave your body equally changed, exhausted, aching, and unable to consider sitting on a spin bike. As much as I yearned to get back in the saddle, I knew I’d have to start slow.
Step 1: Walk around the block. No matter how fit you were during your pregnancy, your first step should always be walking around the block. See how it feels. Are you winded? Tired? Sore? I made it 2 blocks the first time before I had to turn around. Baby steps.
Step 2: Extend the walk and push the stroller. Strollers are no joke. Pushing that thing, with Ben inside, for 10 minutes outside would cause me to need an extra afternoon nap. Don’t go too far from home before you turn around – if after a couple blocks you still feel good, go for another spin. But you don’t want to walk out too far then need to take a cab back (yes, I considered it once).
Step 3: Start doing some household activities that you probably asked your husband/friend/mother to do over the first week or two. My first days home I couldn’t reach high enough to put a plate away in a cabinet, lift the laundry basket, walk the dog or take out the trash. (Note: I wasn’t exactly complaining about missing these tasks and I was very lucky to have many helping hands.) However, resuming these day-to-day activities was a good barometer for how I was healing – the day I could reach a wine glass on my own was a real success :) Remember that every time you lift, bend, reach, and squat, you are working your body’s muscles and beginning to retrain them for exercise.
Step 4: Put your baby to work. I was most paranoid about walking into my first Recycle class and making it about 30 seconds into the arm sequence before I dropped my weights. What I didn’t realize is: babies are heavy. When you lift them up from a chair, the crib, the changing table 382 times a day, you are working your arms, chest and back. Have you ever carried a car set with a baby in it? It’s no joke. Now take it in one arm and add a swinging motion so the infant inside stops screaming bloody murder and terrifying everyone in the elevator. Yeah – that’s like doing one-armed kettle bell swings with a 25 lb weight. Your baby is making you work every single day (as if you didn’t already know that!)
Step 5: Pull off the bandaid, sign up for a class, and reclaim your ride. I swear I couldn’t sleep the night before my first ride back in the saddle because I was paranoid about humiliating myself. What if I couldn’t follow the choreography? What if I couldn’t hit a double time? Or even get out of the saddle? What if jumps went over my head or a climb was out of the question? Mostly I feared – what if my boobs start leaking during class????! I wore two sports bras, fed Ben right before I left, brought a swimming pool worth of water, and went to the studio. When I sat down to put my shoes on, they fit so much more comfortably than the last time I had worn them, almost 3 months before. I realized – the last time I had done this, I was 36 weeks pregnant (with swollen feet). Since then I have given birth, learned to breastfeed, stayed up nights crying in frustration, and spent mornings giggling into a crib at my newborn son. I have made decisions for him that I would never know were right or wrong, but were my responsibility to make. I have become a mother. And there was nothing in that studio, on that bike, in that class that that would hold a candle to the challenge I was already living. I strapped on those shoes and I ROCKED that ride. And I came home to my baby and told him….She’s baaaack!!!
This all took me 8 full weeks, but your timeline could be different. The most important thing to remember is that your body WILL come back. It will feel changed, different, and new but also STRONGER, FIERCER, and more POWERFUL than you realized possible. You made a tiny human – and that is the most amazing thing of all. If your body can do THAT, it can certainly push those pedals around, and return you back to the person you knew a year ago. With just one adorable difference.