Postpartum Fitness: One Athlete/Parent Shares Their Experience

Brooke Duke

I have a hard time claiming the title “athlete,” because I’m not sure if I can. But I’ve been a martial artist for almost 15 years, sometimes training as often as four times a week, so maybe I’m an amateur athlete? Whatever way you want to look at it, karate has been a big part of my life for a long time.

When I got pregnant, I knew that was going to have to change a little bit. I had had a previous miscarriage so I wanted to be cautious. For me that was going to mean working out mostly solo—even in class—not sparring, and no weapons.

Little did I know that my maternity “change” would turn into a year-long hiatus. I got very sick during my pregnancy and couldn’t get out of bed, let alone run forms or practice in any way. And since my dojo was over an hour away, I couldn’t go train with my classmates either. Towards the end of my pregnancy I got a little bit better and was able to start going for walks, but I had lost so much of my stamina and energy that I couldn’t even do that for very long. And between my hyperemesis, anemia, and months of bed rest, I didn’t have much energy day to day anyway.

Fast forward to a couple months postpartum, and I was ready to start getting back to my former martial artist self. But I felt overwhelmed and scared. I had lost so much of my stamina and flexibility - what if I couldn’t hack it anymore? I hadn’t been able to practice in months, plus I had a baby now. Could I even do this?

But I hadn’t become a second-degree black belt by giving up or backing down from a challenge. So I took a deep breath and got to work.

I started small, one or two days a week. And you know what? It was amazing. I had forgotten the way my body felt when I was moving it within my forms. I forgot how strong and beautiful and powerful karate made me feel. Slowly I was able to build up more and more of my old routines. My flexibility came back remarkably quickly. My stamina and strength slowly returned as well.

Gaining back my athlete status as a new mom hasn’t been easy, but it has been exactly what I needed. It has been a lesson in prioritizing myself and remembering what my identity is outside of just “mom.”, columnistComment