The pressure for women to “get back” to their pre-baby body is real. So if you needed a reminder that the expectations for new moms are unrealistic, consider this: even someone who makes a living as a trainer can struggle. Kayla Itsines, an Australian fitness expert and influencer, recently opened up in an essay for Women’s Health about just how emotional and challenging she found her post-baby fitness journey to be–and that it started with a slow walk on the treadmill.
After getting the go-ahead from her doctors, Itsines was able to workout six weeks after her C-section. But nothing, not even working extensively with post-partum moms, prepared her for the experience.
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“And as I headed to the gym, I felt apprehensive—and that’s so not me! I had so many mixed emotions,” Itsines writes. Even though she had worked out “up to the end,” (including weight training until 38 weeks), she was only able to do 15 minutes on the treadmill.
“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,” she explains.
After her first workout, Itsines says she chose to focus on what her small wins were, not setbacks. By starting small, she was eventually able to go from two low-impact workouts a week to a more frequent routine. But even now, more than three months after her daughter’s birth, she is still focusing on small wins like regaining strength and still waiting to reintroduce sit-ups.
While Itsines’ goals for herself are far from one-size-fits-all, much of her advice for new moms can work whether your goal is working out six days a week or just regularly walking around the neighborhood a few times a week. She recommends setting specific goals that are “simple and measurable,” getting a good playlist and finding a buddy. But, most importantly, giving yourself some grace. “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,” she concludes.