How to Get the Most out of a Hike Postpartum
After giving birth, I had to wait 6 weeks until my doctor gave me the go-ahead for exercise. It also took about 6 weeks for things to settle down a bit with care for our newborn baby. After that initial period, I was excited to get back outdoors and go for some hikes.
Since then I only have time to go hiking once a week, so it’s important to me that I get the most out of those hikes. It took a bit of experimentation and experience to learn how to enjoy the short exercising time that I have to its fullest, but I’ve come up with several general principles that I follow to do so. Perhaps they can help others who are navigating their postpartum periods as well.
1. Plan ahead
Know how long you have until you need to get back to taking care of baby and plan accordingly. Within the time that you have, prioritize how to use your time.
Factors to consider when picking a hike –
- Time driving
- Time hiking
- Difficulty of the trail
For me, I have about 4 hours. That’s 4 hours after a morning pumping session to get organized, drive to the location, hike, drive back, and take a shower before breastfeeding baby or pumping. For those 4 hours my husband watches over baby and feeds her pumped breastmilk.
I’d probably give myself about 45 minutes for the getting organized and taking a shower portions, so that gives me 3.25 hours for driving and hiking. I live in Longmont, Colorado and there are many trails within 20-30 minutes drive from where I live. There are fewer trails within 20 minutes drive, so I have to ask myself – do I want to get in an extra 20 minutes of hiking, or is there a particular trail 30 minutes away that is a bit shorter that I want to do? Usually the answer is I’d rather hike longer and get in more exercise.
When picking a trail, I also keep in mind its difficulty. I know I can hike about 5.5 miles in 2 hours on an easy to moderate trail, while I can probably do about 3 miles in 2 hours on a strenuous trail.
2. Set your purpose for the hike ahead of time
If you set your purpose for the hike ahead of time, it’s easier to not get frustrated over missing out on some other aspect of hiking during your short exercise window. I’ve found that because my time is limited these days for hiking, I tend to want to get everything done within that time. The reality is that that’s unlikely to happen.
For me, the purposes I gravitate to are –
- Exercise – trying to hike as hard and as long as possible during my 2 hour window.
- Enjoying the company of a friend – usually when I hike with a friend, we hike slower as we chat. Time with friends is also important postpartum!
- Taking it easy and forest bathing – a good option when I’m tired, but still want to recharge in nature.
The day I took the picture above on Little Thompson Overlook Trail I was tired, so I picked a short trail (2.8 miles) with views and took time to enjoy the wildflowers and the views.
3. Take a moment to enjoy nature
Taking care of baby, everything can seem a bit of a rush. Even hiking and exercising can feel rushed. If you are able to get out for a hike, it can make all the difference to take time to enjoy the nature around you.
Take a deep breath and enjoy the fresh air and the smell of the pine trees.
Pause your hiking to enjoy the view.
Sit down and relax for a little while. It doesn’t have to be at a viewpoint.
The picture above was taken at a random rock I sat down on on the Eagle Wind Trail at Rabbit Mountain. I originally wanted to sit on the bench that’s halfway around the trail, but it was already taken. It was a blessing in disguise. I remember very clearly sitting down on this rock and taking in the fresh air and having a quiet moment to myself. I sat there for ten minutes. It felt so refreshing and was the best part of the hike.
4. Try walking meditation
I have tried walking meditation while out on my postpartum hikes and found it grounding. You do this by deliberately thinking about your walking movements as you do them. It’s a way to center yourself in the moment and be more aware of your body and surroundings, as opposed to having your mind whirring about a million different things.
Check out this guide to walking meditation.
5. Get creative
As a hiker, you may be used to picking a trail and hiking it all. But if you have limited time postpartum, you may need to get creative. You can pick trails that you know you can finish within the timeframe. You can also pick a longer trail and hike for an allotted period of time or to a mid-point destination before turning back. It’s still a hike!
I’ve been doing this a lot. I hike to a viewpoint on the Nighthawk Trail at Hall Ranch in Lyons (above picture). The trail is about 10 miles long, but the hike is 5.6 miles long. Another week I hiked to the quarry on the Picture Rock Trail at Heil Valley Ranch, 6.1 miles of another 10-mile trail.
6. Just do what you can
In the end, just do what you can. You may have initially thought you could do a longer or harder hike that day, but had to cut it short because you’re tired or the weather was bad. That’s fine! You’re still out there getting the benefits of fresh air, forest bathing, and some exercise.
The picture above was taken at Rabbit Mountain on a day when a thunderstorm with hail cut my hike short. It rolled in quickly and I had to run back to my car. I was soaking wet. I didn’t get to the end of the trail I wanted to, but it was still a good outing.
Taking care of your physical and mental health is important postpartum. Hiking can be a great way to take time to take care of yourself amidst taking care of baby 24/7. I hope these tips can help you get the most out of hiking postpartum.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with new moms about how to get the most out of a hike postpartum? Please share your ideas in the comment section.