Fitfluencer Kayla Istines penned an exclusive piece for Women’s Health magazine today, sharing how hard it was for to bounce back to her workouts after giving birth to her first baby earlier this year.
The female body is truly amazing, and my appreciation for it has deepened so much since I had my daughter, Arna, in April. It’s funny because I’ve trained women postpartum throughout my career, but I didn’t fully understand the physical and emotional journey that comes with getting back into a workout routine post-birth until I went through it myself.
I did my first post-pregnancy workout the day I got clearance from my doctors, about six weeks after my C-section. And as I headed to the gym, I felt apprehensive—and that’s so not me! I had so many mixed emotions. I was so ready to move my body again and start regaining my strength, but I was also nervous because your body goes through so many changes emotionally and physically through pregnancy.
Before getting pregnant, I never had any self-doubts when it came to working out. I’ve always loved exercise, and I kept resistance training until I was 38 weeks pregnant and doing low-intensity cardio up to the end. But for the first time in my life, I struggled through my workout—even though I was just walking on a treadmill at my own pace, about 2.3 miles per hour.
I was aiming for 30 minutes but only got about halfway there. It felt so long, and I felt exhausted. To go from being fit and active my whole life to then pushing myself to my limits with a simple walk on the treadmill was really tough for me.
I am choosing to focus on the small wins, not the setbacks.
That was the first time it really physically hit me that my fitness level was no longer the same as it had been. At the same time, I had an overwhelming feeling of achievement. Although the session was really hard, it sparked a new determination and motivation in me not to reflect on what I didn’t do, but to celebrate what I did accomplish in that first workout.
From that point on, I was on a new journey to regain and rebuild my strength. No matter how hard it felt, I made a commitment to myself to show up every day and give it the best I could. I was excited for my next workout and to see how much harder I could push myself every day. After all, progress is progress—whether I walked for just one extra minute or a few more feet than the day before.
I’ve always been motivated by improving my fitness in the gym, and now that I’m a mother, I’m motivated in another way: I want to show up and get my workout in because I want to be the strongest, most confident version of myself to be a good role model for my daughter.
After that first post-pregnancy workout, I did two low-intensity cardio (LISS) sessions per week for the next two weeks. Then I added one to two modified BBG sessions per week on top of that. Right now, I’m aiming for three modified BBG workouts and two to three LISS sessions per week.
Pregnancy has taught me so much, and I want to help other new moms beat their workout struggles. These are my top tips for kickstarting a new workout routine, whether you’re a new mom or just need some help getting motivated.
1.Set specific goals
I am a big believer in goal setting. I find it is a great way to help me stay focused and keep me motivated and on track with my workout routine. Rather than setting unclear goals like, “I want to be fit,” I like to set specific goals such as, “I want to complete five burpees without rest.”
This kind of goal is simple and measurable—and it’s easier to achieve success when you have a clear mission. My next goal is to participate in SWEAT NATION for 30 days. During these 30 days, I want to commit myself to three 28-minute modified BBG workouts and two to three LISS sessions per week to re-establish my workout routine post-birth.
2. Find a routine you like
As a personal trainer, I know fitness is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s so important to find a routine you enjoy so you’re more likely to stick to it. That’s why flexibility and variety are important when you’re starting a workout program. Personally, I have always loved plyometrics training—but because I had a C-section, I can’t do the same jumping exercises I used to.
So currently, I’m focusing on rebuilding strength with stable exercises. Later down the road, I’ll reintroduce explosive plyometric movements in my workout routine (when I have clearance from my doctor). I’ve safely reintroduced some core exercises, such as planks and side planks, but not abdominal work like a sit-up.
3. Get a workout buddy
Workout buddies are a great way to keep you accountable to make working out a habit. I feel so blessed to have the BBG community around me no matter where I am in the world. I know they are there every day to motivate me, and they really do hold me accountable to show up, push myself, and get through every workout. To watch and feel women supporting each other and appreciating that everyone’s journey is different is so special.
4. Know there will be setbacks
Since having Arna, setbacks have certainly been part of the adjustment in my routine. Case in point: I am currently scheduling my workouts in the late afternoon or night because that’s when my family is around to watch her—but sometimes life gets in the way and I can’t make it to the gym.
Rather than dwelling on the times I don’t work out, I’m focusing on the positives of my new routine. For days when I am short on time and can’t fit in a modified BBG workout, I use the ‘quick workouts’ function in the SWEAT app. These range from 15 to 20 minutes, can be done at home, and are a great way to help me keep active when I can’t fit in a full session. I am choosing to focus on the small wins, not the setbacks.
5. Find your playlist
It’s so important to find something you love about working out because that’s what’s going to motivate you to show up and exercise regularly. Personally, I love a good playlist. SWEAT now has both Apple Music and Spotify integration, which allows me to pick my favorite music that gets me in the right headspace to push myself and keep me going through my workout.
Getting back into a workout routine has been an adjustment and has come with its challenges, mentally and physically. I know how important it is to listen to my body, take it slowly, and to do my best every day as I start to regain my strength.
If you’re starting a workout routine, don’t feel like you need to go from zero to 60 all at once. Just focus on finding your motivation, being kind to yourself, and doing your best—and a fitness habit will follow.