Fitness After Pregnancy

Bouncing Back After a Bundle of Joy
a group of young mothers working out with their babies nearby

Competitive runner Holly Corbett was stunned when she started to feel uncharacteristically tired during a Tri-State Tough Mudder obstacle race in New Jersey. She had previously competed in triathlons and marathons and had trained no differently for this event.

“I couldn’t figure out why I was moving so slowly,” the freelance writer and editor recalled. “I knew I was feeling more fatigued than usual and even a bit nauseous. I attributed it to trying too hard.”

Corbett finished the endurance race and later learned that she was already six weeks pregnant. In her second trimester, she stopped running altogether and switched to walking, yoga, swimming, and lifting weights. Despite having written extensively about body image issues for women’s magazines, she admits to occasionally feeling self-conscious about her larger silhouette. 

“On one hand, the changes happened so gradually that it wasn’t such a big shock, but I definitely looked in the mirror and thought, ‘it can’t be physically possible to get this big.’ I sometimes wondered if I’d get my body back,” she said.

After her son Blake was born, Corbett was eager to get back into marathon shape as soon as possible. She waited four weeks to lace up her sneakers and puttered out after a half mile of pounding the pavement. 

“I was surprised how weak my body had become even though I had been exercising during my pregnancy,” she said. “So I stopped and then I walked. Eventually, I worked myself up to one mile and then two and then three.”

Bikini Boot Camps

Australian personal trainer Kayla Itsines, who runs “bikini boot camps” and also trains clients around the world online, encourages her nearly 15.3 million Instagram followers to share before-and-after weight loss photos with each other for inspiration. She said she frequently hears from new mothers who are apprehensive about the slow progress of their post-baby fitness programs.  

“The biggest mistake I see over and over is women trying to do too much too fast,” said Itsines. “Everybody’s body is different, but in general, I advise that new moms wait about 12 weeks before starting a serious exercise program.” Itsines has her post-pregnancy clients stick to an intense daily 28-minute routine instead of devoting hours in the gym. 

“The idea is that they only need to devote 2 percent of their day and then they can give the other 98 percent to their family. Fitness is an emotional journey,” she said. “Even if you were not in shape before having your baby, after pregnancy is the perfect time for you to do something positive for yourself.”

For Corbett, who gained 33-35 pounds during pregnancy, it took four months after her baby’s birth to get back to her original weight of 120. Her son Blake doubled as a weight in her mother-and-baby fitness class. 

“I thought I’d never get back to the weight I was before. The human body is amazing. Enjoy the process and your new stage in life!”  

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Personal communication: Holly Corbett, Kayla Itsines


Darren Garnick

Darren Garnick is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, writer, producer and photographer who occasionally breaks away from his beanbag chair to stack firewood. He and his wife Stacy live in a secluded wooded grove in central New Hampshire with their two children, countless fisher cats, and frolicking deer.