I always thought exercising after having a baby would be just like riding a bike – you never really forget how to do it right? I was mostly sensible through my pregnancy. I stayed active, I ate healthily (within reason) and thought once all was done and dusted it would be straight back to business on the exercise front. I’d run with the pushchair, I’d workout in the garden while he was napping, he’d lay peacefully beside me as I perfected my downward dog …
Even reading that now makes me laugh out loud. The first few months were a heady mix of euphoria and extreme sleep depravation, I felt any residual fitness I had slowly ebbing away. Turns out there was about 30 mins free time between feeds and this usually involved me munching on anything that had a high enough sugar content to get me through the next few hours. But I digress, time moved on, we got into a nice little routine and finally it was time to chase down the ghost of my fitness past. Not because I was overly concerned about squeezing back into my jeans you understand but because I am an incredibly grumpy person when I don’t exercise (no comment needed here from my other half!).
Here is the best advice I can offer from a new mum’s perspective and stay tuned for the new dad’s perspective coming soon:
Go easy on yourself: Your body has been through a lot. Start off with some basic resistance routines using light weights. This will help rebuild muscle and strengthen bone density. Build up gradually to high impact work including running. Note to self jumping jacks are not the new mum’s friend.
The friend factor: Enter my friend Emma, mum of two year old twins, possibly the world’s most motivated person when it comes to exercise. Having a workout buddy, especially one who is further down the baby road than you is invaluable. Emma used to pitch up on my doorstep on a cold, wintry Thursday evening when all I wanted to do was watch Silent Witness and drag me along to running club. I always felt so tired beforehand but once I got going it was amazing to experience the freedom of being out on my own with no little person demanding my attention. I was doing something just for me. Little by little we got more regular runs in and before I knew it I felt confident enough to take on a half marathon again.
Class action: Joining a group class can really help from a motivation perspective. Because I’m a trainer everyone assumes I would rather run a class myself than attend one. But sometimes you just want to switch off completely and relinquish control to someone else. Luckily there was a superb trainer running a late evening class out of our studio which worked perfectly with bedtime routine. There were a few new mums in the group and she really took this into account when planning the classes. There was good camaraderie in the class and this made us want to attend even when knackered after a long day.
BYO: The evening class led to a beach circuits morning class where you could bring your baby along. I was slightly trepidatious at first. What were the chances of all the planets being aligned and junior actually napping whilst I got a cheeky workout in? Turns out the sound of the sea is miles better than Ewan the Sheep could ever be and most Fridays we had happily dozing babies. Sometimes the thought of the effort involved in getting yourself and your little one ready and dragging them along to a class can be overwhelming but its worth the effort even if you only make it half way through.
Tag team system with your partner: This may involve a more complex negotiating system than an EU directive but definitely worth it. Work out with your other half what nights/mornings you want to find time to exercise at and vice versa. Make this part of your weekly routine and stick to it. You’ll both be the better for it.
A year down the road I feel fit and happy. I don’t exercise at anywhere near the level of intensity I did in the past but I’ve feel like I’ve reached a happy medium. Now if I could just get the little man to sleep past 6am I’d probably be the next Jo Pavey!