Women

To get back into pre-pregnancy shape, you need a workout you can stick to. Bounce back safely with our progressive plan. After being completely focused on your pregnancy for nine months, it can be sort of shocking to see just yourself when you look in the mirror after your baby is born. As you heal and get into the swing of new motherhood, you might start eyeing your body with suspicion and wonder if you'll ever fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans again. Admittedly, the process takes patience and persistence. Many women find that it takes up to a year to start feeling and looking like themselves again.

Be sure you have your doctor's approval before starting this or any other exercise program.

One of the most effective and safest ways to get there is with a progressive walk/jog program designed to build energy and stamina as well as shed the baby weight. Because it's easy and pleasant to do (what's not to like about walking outside on a pretty morning?), you're much more likely to stay motivated and get your body back, one month at a time. Stick with it for the next 12 months and you'll be stronger, fitter and back to wearing your favorite jeans by the time your baby celebrates her first birthday. Be sure you have your doctor's approval before starting this or any other exercise program.

Your month-by-month fitness plan

Month 1

Armed with your dot's OK, start taking easy walks that won't be too hard on your body; use this time to get a feel for your body again. Try to get out every day, even if it's for only 10 minutes or so. Put your baby in a front carrier or stroller and take her with you. If walking causes or worsens any bleeding, stop immediately and contact your doctor.

Month 2

Now you're ready to start building up your stamina. Gradually increase the length of your walks until you're at approximately 100 minutes total per week. Try to walk at least five days out of every week.

Month 3

Keep up your five-day-a- week schedule, but increase your total time to about 150 minutes a week and add a few speed bursts. To do one, pick up the pace for about a minute, then resume your normal pace for one minute. These brisk- walking intervals increase your heart rate and help you burn calories at a faster rate.

Keep up your five-day-a- week schedule, but increase your total time to about 150 minutes a week and add a few speed bursts

Month 4

Increase the time of each speed burst so you're doing a burst of three minutes, followed by one minute of walking at your normal pace. Aim for four bursts each time you walk. You're getting stronger now, so try to walk six days a week, for a total of 180 minutes.

Month 5

This phase of your walking plan starts getting serious: You should increase your total walking time to 200 minutes per week, making sure at least one walk is 45 minutes long. Increase your speed bursts to about four minutes each; do five of them each time you walk.

Month 6

Now that you're a pro at fitness walking on level ground, add some gentle hills to your route one day a week. (For comfort and safety- yours and your baby's-it might be time to move her to a structured carrier or jogging stroller.) Continue to walk six days a week, for a total of 210 minutes. (Note: Hill climbing takes the place of speed bursts this month and the following month, too.)

Now that you're a pro at fitness walking on level ground, add some gentle hills to your route one day a week.

Month 7

Add easy hills to another day in your walking schedule. Continue to walk six days a week, for a total of 200 minutes. (The extra time and effort spent climbing hills compensate for the fewer total minutes this month.)

Month 8

Welcome speed bursts back into your routine. Walk six days a week, for a total of 225 minutes. Aim to do six five-minute speed bursts on five days and 50 minutes of walks with hills on another day.

Month 9

Add brief spurts of jogging to your workouts to challenge your body. Move your baby to a jogging stroller if you haven't already done so. Exercise six days a week: Do your normal walking routine for four days; on two days, add four one-minute intervals of jogging, followed by one minute of walking.

Be proud of your fitter, stronger body!

Month 10

Shoot for at least one long walk every week that lasts approximately 60 minutes. Continue to exercise six days a week, and work in additional jogging intervals. Include two days in which you jog for two minutes and walk for one; do four intervals.

Month 11

Now you should be jogging for 15 minutes twice a week (jog for 15 minutes straight or do a few walk/jog intervals). Continue doing your walk-jog routine six days a week.

Month 12

Continue exercising six days a week while increasing your jogging time to 20-minute intervals twice a week. And be proud of your fitter, stronger body!

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