Getting Fit After Baby...Billings Style!

by TJ Wierenga Like most mothers of young children, Tonya (31) of Billings finds herself still longing for the ability to fit back into her Pre-Baby jeans. “I have a box of really favorite shirts and great jeans in my basement,” she sighs. “I just can’t let myself throw them out or donate them… I know I can get back into them someday!” And also like most moms, Tonya finds her good intentions often stymied by lack of energy, being tired, childcare issues, and even the weather. “I think Billings is a great place for fitness,” said neonatologist Alison Rentz, MD with St. Vincent’s Healthcare and mother. “There are lots of trails and paths to walk, hike and run on around here - personally I love Norm’s Island, the rims, Black Otter Trail, and Phipps Park out past Ironwood. I also am impressed with the number of races you can get involved in to motivate you for fitness. People here are very active and motivated in general compared to other areas. I think the drawback can be the weather, but in general, there are clothing options for all kinds of weather and that should not prevent you from getting out.” By bundling up your baby or small children before putting them in a jogging stroller or bicycle trailer, exercising moms can find many more “outdoors access” days. Both mothers and children will find that a little outdoor air and activity does wonders for our health, attitudes and energy levels. “I think the biggest impediment to regaining fitness for anyone is time,” explained Jenny Pflug, MD, a hospitalist with Billings Clinic certified in internal medicine and pediatrics, and mother of two preschoolers.” You wouldn’t think one little baby would take up so much of your time. I think for that reason you need to be creative about fitness. That may mean taking the baby for a walk in the stroller between naps or exercising 20 minutes with an exercise or yoga video during their nap.” Billings has an abundance of great parks with walking trails suited for families with small children and strollers. Rentz continued, “I think the fatigue of being a mom prevents us from getting motivated. This is overcome by having an exercise buddy, someone else to hold us responsible, or scheduling it in on a calendar. Once you get started, exercise actually helps with fatigue, so it is the motivation to do it that we need to find. I have found that now I am craving exercise to actually give me energy for the rest of the day.” Listing the benefits of getting back into shape after baby, Rentz mentioned “There are obviously both physical and psychological reasons for good health and fitness after having children. I do know that gaining too much weight in pregnancy is associated with the development of diabetes later in life, so staving this off with good fitness habits is obviously healthy. Secondly, feeling strong helps to you to care for your kids. On the psychological front, taking care of yourself makes you a better mom and fitness is the best way to care for yourself. You would never feed your kids junk and you always make them get out to exercise, so we should do the same for us. Also, it provides an excellent example for our kids for the future - if they see us exercising, they likely will too.” Pflug added, “I think it is important for women to regain their fitness after pregnancy not only for their physical health, but also for their mental health.  I also think that you need to give yourself time to get back into shape, especially if you are breastfeeding…you are still going to need extra calories.” Moms can also check out our local gyms – some offer “Mommy and Me” classes for exercising with young children, others have childcare available while Mom works out. Stroller Strides (www.StrollerStrides.com) is another great option that we have in Billings. Molly Reas, Franchise Owner/Instructor with Stroller Strides said, “Stroller Strides is a great opportunity to combine fitness and motherhood all into one.  You have the support of other moms, are able to get a total body workout in multiple days of the week, and you are doing all of this while spending precious time with your children.” Reas continued, “The best advice I can give new moms is to take each day a step at a time, and make activity a priority.  When you set your goals to encompass physical fitness and all the wonderful benefits it has to offer, anything can be accomplished.  In order to get back in shape all you have to do is get moving; all activity counts and will pay off in more ways than one. Find activities that both of you enjoy... it is always easier to exercise if you are having fun!”   TJ Wierenga is a mom of two preschoolers in Billings and trying very hard to practice what she preaches.