I am a first time mother. My beautiful daughter Elke recently had her first birthday and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. Nobody can really prepare you for how much your life and your body will change. Women also tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves and each other to just ‘bounce back’ after child birth and regain their pre-pregnancy body within weeks. This can be overwhelming for sleep deprived, time poor and generally exhausted mothers. It isn’t a race. It is important to set your own pace and listen to your body because nobody understands it better than you do.
I hope sharing my story will help the mothers who read this on their fitness journey post-pregnancy.
Before I had a baby, I would work out whenever I wanted. Some weeks I would clock up 8 sessions. I could do this because I had the energy and the time. Now, it’s a different story. One of the biggest lessons (there are plenty) I have learnt since having Elke is that my time now has to be shared. What! No-one taught me to share. Where was that in the handbook? It also meant my husband and I had to schedule who was baby-sitting (whoops I mean parenting) so the other could take some time for themselves. Not having flexibility to do things when I wanted to do them was a big adjustment.
I was also tired. A kind of tired I can’t really explain. It was a tired that lasted for a really long time after having Elke. My mindset had to change when it came to my workouts – the intensity, the duration and what my body could handle considering what it had just been through. As a personal trainer of more than seven years and a group fitness instructor of more than 11 years, this was a big learning curve.
HOW DID I ADAPT?
I love to run. After giving birth though I was really cautious about getting back into running. I had to learn to adapt my training. I was also stuck in a baby cycle of feeding, expressing and sleeping. Time for myself was virtually non-existent. I knew that for my own physical and mental health I needed to get back on the horse and start to feel good about my fitness and my body again.
I set myself a goal of exercising for 30 minutes most days. First stop was the stationary bike. Although it is not a favourite of mine it suited what I needed. It was safe (low impact), easy (inside and close to the clock and Elke) and it gave me the workout I wanted. I mixed it up each workout changing the intervals and the intensity. I did whatever to make the 30 minutes come around quickly.
I LAUGHED …
As I tried my first lot of pushups. OMG I knew it was going to be hard, but struggling to even get to 10 was a massive shock to my system. I knew that I had lost strength but I hadn’t counted on it being quite so dramatic. I tried not to lose heart instead telling myself that the first few times would probably suck but it would get easier. I was right. It did get easier. Starting is the hardest part. Just by starting you are already half way there.
Over the following weeks, I worked on my energy levels and the intensity of my workouts. All the time I remembered to be kind to myself. This was my journey. It was important for me to set and realise my own goals and not compare myself to other mothers who seemed to be recovering more quickly. Pregnancy and child birth affects each woman in different ways. It is so important not to compare your progress to anyone else. I stuck with my 30 minute goal for a workout until I had the mental energy to train for a longer period. I wanted to make myself feel good again, not set the bar higher than I could reach.
I GOT ON WITH THE JOB
Personal trainers like everyone else have to work on their physical and mental strength. It is not something we are born with. The muscles of our brain and our body need to be rebuilt. The best way do to this is to just do it. I did my workout every day – maybe not at 90% or even 60% but I still did it even on the days I really didn’t want to. Every day though after a workout I felt better than I had when I started. This made me feel good.
THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION:
Your body after child birth will be different but you can get back to being strong and fit. It may take a little longer and it may hurt a little more but be patient and kind with yourself. You just have to start 🙂