Since my son was born it’s been four short years, full of some very long days. After a high-risk pregnancy abruptly ended in delivering a tiny, extremely premature baby, fitness just wasn’t my priority. Postpartum, apart from sporadic yoga sessions and a few hikes here and there, I haven’t worked out anywhere near as much as I should. But now my son is in kindergarten, it’s time for mommy to explore her options!
Mom in Balance: kicking my first workout’s butt
Some of my friends are really into Mom in Balance, trainer-led group workouts for moms in parks. One reason these workouts are popular is that there is a babysitter on hand to look after the little ones while moms focus on kicking this workout’s butt!
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Nervous as I headed to my trial workout in Arisugawa Park, I wondered if I would be the only uncoordinated newbie mom there. But as it started, I felt uninhibited in the park setting where passersby barely threw us workout moms a glance.
Outside in a wide-open space, a number of creative exercises took place. We pulled resistance bands through a fence and punched invisible foes for an upper-body workout. We got a healthy dose of cardio by running through a fabric ladder on the grass floor. Some exercises were done in pairs which meant making some new mama friends!
After the cool-down, we all headed home and I found myself floating on a post-workout buzz for the rest of the day. This outdoor workout could definitely be an option for me.
But when it comes to exercise as a mom, what do we need to know?
Exercise tips for pregnant women and new moms
Safety comes first: Let your health provider know exactly what kind of exercise you plan to do before starting any kind of work out. Exercise is great during pregnancy for many moms, but it isn’t safe for every pregnancy, nor is overdoing workouts too soon after giving birth.
Do what is right for you: Ignore all the inevitable unkind comments by people ignorant of how pregnancy and birth impact the human body. Please don’t pressure yourself to get back into shape in a hurry—do what works for you. Your body and your birth story are completely unique and a workout that suits a friend won’t necessarily suit you. Take into account your own needs and abilities by modifying exercises.
Redefining “back in shape”: My favorite definition of “back in shape” comes from Julie, one of the Mom in Balance trainers who says, “It’s not about weight loss, but about finding your new self, as a mom.” Learn to embrace your new normal instead of trying to force your body back into your pre-pregnancy jeans or obsessing over weight loss. You are amazing, and your body did something incredible—so be kind to yourself.
Find a community of like-minded moms: Being part of a supportive community of moms who also want to be active will hold you accountable and help keep you motivated. If you’re looking forward to seeing friends, moms will even go out to exercise in the rain!
Be inspired and inspire others: You might feel you are just an ordinary person, but by putting your sneakers on in the morning and inviting another mom to train or even simply go for a walk, you may be lifting another mother from the brink of postnatal depression.
Exercise options to suit every mom
With so many choices available for Tokyo moms these days, you can find something that suits your needs.
Take the long way: Instead of taking the train, try walking to your destination. Or if you do take the train, get off a stop or two early and walk the rest. You’ll even get to save a few hundred yen from it.
Join the stairs club: Instead of taking the elevator, incorporate mini-workouts into your day by walking up the stairs. Once your baby has arrived, taking your baby out in a carrier and leaving the stroller at home will also save you the inconvenience of needing to find a stroller-friendly station exit.
Pregnancy and baby swim classes: Swimming is a great way to gently exercise your whole body and the weightless feeling of the water can help pregnant moms feel almost like they have their own body back. Private gyms in Tokyo like Central Sports and Tipness offer both Maternity Swimming and Baby Swimming classes. Just be aware that you will probably need to cover any tattoos and follow a few other fun rules. Also check out what your local municipal pool has on offer, when pregnant or accompanied by a baby, close to home is always best!
Mama classes at municipal gymnasiums: Local gyms run by each ward or city offer a variety of exercise options which often include maternity and postpartum Pilates, yoga, and other workouts focused on recovering your pelvic floor muscles. You can find schedules on your ward’s homepage, although these may be only listed in Japanese. The mama yoga class I went to in Toshima Ward had a babysitter so I could focus on stretching while my son happily played with toys in the corner.
Workouts in English: There are many indoor fitness classes in central Tokyo that are popular with the international community, like Club 360 or My Body My Pilates which are both in Motoazabu, so the language need not be a barrier. If you’re an outdoorsy person then Mom in Balance, or Hike it Baby may be the perfect fit!
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Special #tbt today, my first Pilates class two years ago. I just want to say thank you to all the special souls that have given me the opportunity to share with them the benefits of Pilates. Join us if you want to be happy too. #pilateslovers #tokyowithkids #healthymother #healthylifestyle #fitmomsofinstagram
Apps and online: With an app like the Nike Training Club, you can have workouts at the touch of a button that will travel with you and fit around your schedule. If you need to strengthen your pelvic floor (leak when laughing, anyone?) and need help with diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles), MuTu System is a popular online workout program. If you like to dance and want to do something fun while celebrating some pride, The Fitness Marshall on YouTube has a huge number of workouts and Caleb Marshall’s larger-than-life personality will get you laughing, too.
Remember that you have done something incredible
If you are struggling with how you feel about your body through pregnancy and the aftermath, I have been there and I am still there. Four years on, I’m not acing fitness or motherhood, either.
But we all have our ups and downs, and becoming a mom is a huge adjustment that changes our bodies and lives forever. Having realistic expectations will help you learn to love the new you.
Getting some new outfits so you can stop comparing yourself to how you were before, and building supportive communities will help you embrace your gorgeous new self as we all make the transition into motherhood, together.
And in the meantime, grab a friend and just keep on walking.
How do you stay fit during pregnancy and after the little one has arrived? Let us know in the comments below!
Read more: savvytokyo.com