I was never much into exercise. Throughout my twenties I’d enjoyed a frivolous and fun existence, never really giving much tought to my physical health. Until I needed to… after a dodgy routine smear result I decided to give my immune system a boost by eating well and exercising regularly. I found a unexpected love for hard-hitting, intensive exercise like Spinning, HIIT and Squash. And developed a super-strong immunity that kicked those precancerous, cervical cells ass! (NB do go and have a smear if you’re due!!!)
I was determined to continue exercising throughout my pregnancy. My hormones, however, had another idea; they decided to give me three solid months of nausea a debilitating fatigue. Then the second trimester rolled around and I felt like I’d been born again! For of energy, I hopped back on my road bike (whilst my bump would permit) and got back to the gym. I think I made it twice before sciatica put a total stop to that. I had an active job though so I kept moving as much as possible.
After my baby was born I was gagging to get back to the gym… but birth had left me needing a longer physical recovery time than I’d anticipated.
I feel let-down, broken, sluggish and fat. I felt my body had failed me somehow. I hated how my body looked. I couldn’t fathom how I could have been so fit and yet been left so ragged by birth. I thought a healthy, toned body would recover more quickly from labour, after all, that’s what the midwives said. I felt lied to, cheated. And so the downward spiral of negativity began…and it went on and on and on.
Eventually I made it along to a Zumba class. It was full of overweight, mature women whooping and ululating, shaking their hips with bejewelled serongs. I thought I’d ending up in hell on earth. But after shaking my bootie for almost an hour (yes, they did make me wear a flashy serong), I skipped out of that dingy school hall with a renewed vitality. I felt alive and upbeat and was all the more refreshed just for having left the house and been liberated from my baby for a short while. I even went back a couple more times. I actually quite liked it! And although it didn’t even touch the baby weight I was still carrying, I felt better about myself.
Exercise. It’s so fundamental in helping to stave off those post-baby blues. Raising your heartbeat just a little for 20 mins can alter the body’s chemistry, giving rise to endorphins and serotonin (the boys natural feel-good drugs) and helping to calm stress hormones. It helps to improve sleep too.
Exercising postnatally can be as simple as popping bubs in a sling or the pram and marching off for a power walk around the park, or perhaps taking some postnatal fitness classes at your local gym with other mums who are likely experiencing similar levels of self-consciousness. There are fabulous postnatal specialist PT’s out there so if like me, you’ve been left with a few ‘complications of childbirth’ you could have a trained professional come to your house and help to rehabilitate your body as well as get you back into shape. Check out the Hypopressives UK website.
But. I want to make it clear; I’m not advocating postnatal exercise because I want to help women get back into their skinny jeans asap after chlidbirth, no! I couldn’t care less what dress size you are, were or wanna be, what I care about is the shape of your mental health.
So have a think about what you might like to do and how you can make it happen…
Can you invest in a sling, if your baby is not keen on sleeping in the pram, and get out for a short walk each day?
Do you have a bike that could accommodate a trailer or kids seat, enabling you peddle your way around the local park?
Is there a local gym you could sign-up for that has an onsite crèche?
Which PT’s with a postnatal specialism run home-based training programmes near you?
Will Nanna pop over for an hour and watch your baby whilst you do a quick Down Dog sesh in the garden?
The important thing is not to pressurise yourself but to make a commitment to your mental wellbeing to get moving as much and as often as you feel is right for your body. Your mood will thank you for it!