9 months of anticipation couldn’t prepare you for this: your whole world changed the moment your child was born. It really seemed like you were part of a miracle. That baby was yours. You were in awe and in love.
When you got home from the hospital, you were still in awe and still in love. You still are. But you were also tired and anxious and didn’t know how to do seemingly anything. Thank goodness for the internet and that book your mom bought you but you didn’t think you needed. And thank goodness for the friends who went before you into the brave new world of parenthood.
After you learned how to do lots of new new things (like bathing your child, taking your baby’s temperature, or changing the worst diaper yet), you also needed to relearn how to do mundane things again. You had to learn how to take a shower or use the bathroom while also watching your baby. You had to learn how to go to the grocery store while pushing a stroller. You had to learn how to clean your house while you tended to someone who wouldn’t stop crying unless you held her.
And then you had to learn how to be, how to exist in a way that made you happy.
That’s when I started wiking. Maybe you did too.
When I say wiking, hopefully you know what I mean by now: walking or hiking in nature. It could be going for a long walk or a short hike, but it must be in a natural environment. I’ve always enjoyed wikes. I started doing a lot of walking late in my pregnancy when I was pretty huge and couldn’t workout like I used to. When my baby came, I began wiking a lot, and I found so many benefits:
It’s free or basically free. You want to connect with your friends and be social, but how many times can you go out to lunch? When you're on maternity or paternity leave, lunch dates are occasionally nice, but you want to get out of the house every day and you can’t do lunch every day! That will put a hole in your wallet and a tire around your belly. If you’re worried about the cost of having a child or you’re trying to lose your extra pregnancy pounds, lunch every day is simply not going to work! You can easily catch up on your lives (or your celebrity gossip) on a wike.
It’s low impact exercise that you can do with your child. You can walk before you’re cleared for working out, which usually happens at your 6 week postpartum appointment. You need to move long before then, and if you are usually active, waiting 6 weeks to workout will seem like eternity. Then, when 6 weeks does roll around, you’ll need to figure out how to work out with an infant around. Wiking is a great way to get some low impact exercise while spending time with your child. Strap him or her into a baby-wearing device, and you are free to walk as quickly as you want and get that heart pumping. It might not be crossfit (or BBG!), but at least it’s something!
You’ll feel accomplished. Sometimes you just need to feel like you did something with your day. It’s difficult to find time to take a shower or wash the dishes. Your child won’t let you put her down without crying, and the naps are so unpredictable in the beginning. Intellectually, you know nurturing an infant is important work, but at the end of the day, it just seems like you haven’t accomplished anything. I’ve always parroted, “You’ll never regret a workout.” I feel the same way about a wike: you won’t regret it. It’s something you can do with your baby when she’s happy or not so happy (see below) and when she’s awake or asleep (those baby carriers are so comfy). You can get a change of scenery, elevate your heart rate, and take in some wildlife. At the end of the day, you can think about your wike as something you actually accomplished.
It’s peaceful. Believe it or not, the natural environment and fresh air may calm your colicky infant—and therefore, yourself. I’ve heard it from so many moms: their babies are calmer when outdoors. Research with older children has shown that exposure to nature can have positive outcomes in a variety of areas, including psychological well-being. My own baby was super cranky and downright pained before we learned about her food allergies. She cried a lot. Sometimes it was hard to take—it was hard to know she was in pain and hard to listen to her cry. When we went out for a walk in the forest, however, she calmed right down. Feeling the breeze on her face and watching the leaves rustle with glimpses of the sun shining through, she really seemed content. When she was content, I was content, as well. Our wikes were restorative for both of us.
It’s never too soon to teach your child to appreciate nature. You’ll feel like you’re doing something good for your child, as well as yourself. In our plugged-in world, children need to be exposed to natural environments in order to cultivate an appreciation for nature. We know this is important now more than ever, yet children spend more time indoors than ever before. Start showing your child when he’s as young as possible that he can enjoy time outside. The youngest babies can feel the natural light on their skin, see the reflection of sun on water, and hear the rustle of leaves in the breeze. Start going on nature walks when your child is young, and it’s sure to become something you do together that you both enjoy long into the future.
As I approach the 6 month mark with my wike baby, I feel like we are turning a corner. Baby is happier and more content. She’s engaged with the world around her. She’s more predictable in every way. Wiking got us through those early months, and it’s something we continue to enjoy.
If you’re a mom-to-be or a new mom (Or dad! Dads can wike, too!), I highly recommend hitting the trails-- or even the sidewalks-- and getting outside for a good wike! It’s good for the mind, body, and soul, and it’s something both of you can enjoy.
Do you wike? How does it affect you? Do you do it for the same reasons? Do you find the same benefits? Share your thoughts with our community in the comments section below or on our facebook page. I look forward to hearing what you think!