Keeping up with the kids: fitness for mums.
Never mind the pre-baby jeans. Sussex postnatal fitness expert Louise Cornish has the lowdown on achievable, realistic and empowering fitness for new and not-so-new mums.
‘Once postnatal, always postnatal,’ is a bit of a mantra to Louise Cornish, a specialist pre and postnatal PT based in Haywards Heath. ‘There are a lot of mums out there who never fully recovered from the postnatal phase and now feel almost ashamed to say they still can’t go running or get on the trampoline,’ she says. But no matter what stage you’re at in your fitness journey, her message is clear. It’s never too late and you can be fitter and stronger than you were even before children. Sound good? Read on for her top tips!
Start where you are to get to where you want to be
If you try and ‘get back’ to everything too quickly, the chances are you’ll end up with setbacks and even injuries down the line. Aim for little and often. Small, consistent habits will get you where you want to be, if you try for too much too soon, you’re unlikely to be able to sustain it. Begin from the inside out – pelvic floor, core and posture – and progress from there.
Changes are normal – yes, even those ones – and it’s not too late.
During pregnancy the weight of the baby puts pressure on the pelvic floor and these muscles will lengthen and weaken. Some mums don’t notice the effects but others may feel their pelvic floor still isn’t what it was some 10 years later! It’s absolutely never too late to start working on your pelvic floor, you can start pelvic floor exercises at any stage in life and they’ll still have an effect.
Your centre of gravity will have changed and your core muscles will have lengthened and weakened. They may even have separated. We talk a lot about the ‘mummy tummy’ but there are lots of things that can affect the core and lots of ways to improve its strength. Sometimes it’s as simple as posture and the way you’re standing.
Finally, hormone changes are very common. This doesn’t only apply postpartum, when your hormones and moods are constantly out of sync. Often when children reach school age, we can start going through other hormone changes – just as we think we’re getting back on track.
Have an achievable goal, and create habits
It’s important to have a goal and know the journey you want to take to get there. If you’re pressed for time, you’ll be more motivated if you know you’re going in the right direction. Jumping around the room hoping to lose weight might not be the right strategy if your pelvic floor needs work.
Build your habits into your day – you could do your pelvic floor exercises every time you make tea, for example. And start small. 10 minutes a day three times a week soon becomes 30 minutes a day three times a week, then five times a week.
Do what you enjoy
Clients often ask me ‘what’s the best exercise for’ a specific outcome. The best exercise is the exercise you enjoy, because you’re more likely to do it. Whether it’s an outdoor class, walking with a friend, running – if you enjoy it you’ll do it more. This can also help you work out where you need to focus, it could be that you love running but your pelvic floor isn’t up to it so working on your pelvic floor is the first step to get you back running.
Don’t feel guilty
A lot of mums feel guilty about looking after themselves, but I always ask – who are you feeling guilty for? At the end of the day your kids probably don’t care what you do, you’re being a good role model and if you take time for yourself you’ll feel happier and have more to give. A lot of people say exercise is a priority in an ideal world, but in reality it often drops way down the list. If it’s a priority, find the time for it.
Watch out for the three p’s
If you’re experiencing any pressure, pain or pee, it’s a sign you might be overstretching yourself.
You can’t spot-reduce
A crash diet and loads of sit-ups won’t necessarily help you lose belly fat. It’s not possible to spot-check where you lose weight from. Instead of focusing on what your body looks like, pay attention to what it can do. As you get fitter and stronger, you may well end up more toned – or you might notice you’re more able to keep up with the kids!
Three top tips
Recognise and respond to your own needs. Some days this could be exercising, other days it could be resting, eating well and asking for help.
It’s your personal journey, so don’t compare yourself to others. No scrolling Instagram wondering why you haven’t ‘snapped back’ like your mate posing in her skinny jeans! Focus on your own goals, your own starting point and your own plan.
Start small, celebrate the small wins, and build up over time.