My son is now two years old, it has been the most incredible two years watching this little creature growing up - but also seeing the changes in me as I have journeyed through the challenges of motherhood.
During my pregnancy I found myself in a very unexpected position where I needed new work - and as a pregnant fitness instructor I was not holding high hopes that anyone would take me on - but my previous 10yrs experience and determination to continue through this period, plus the most amazing employers and clients, gave me the opportunity to work right up until the day before I popped.
While I had a background in pilates, both a PT qualification and group fitness cert, plus numerous other fitness qualifications like crossfit, and experience with hundreds of mums in group fitness classes - I felt unequipped to train myself SAFELY. To experience for myself the crazy feeling of pregnancy was an absolute eye opener and has changed HOW I TEACH WOMEN forever.
Obstacles I didn't really understand about pregnancy until I experienced them:
1. No feeling of physical connection in my lower belly very early on - the need to 'visualise'.
2. Anxiety around the safety of my baby (I'd suffered a miscarriage before this pregnancy).
3. Dizziness/nausea when lying down (not every mum experiences this).
4. A tightness and heaviness across my lower belly (that often made wearing fitting clothes feel very uncomfortable!).
5. A lack of appetite. I had visions of cream buns and McDonalds before becoming pregnant haha but I actually struggled to find foods I could stomach and really had to force myself to eat, especially during the first trimester. (This was my experience, I have heard of BOTH lack of appetite and extreme hunger during pregnancy - no pregnancy is ever the same, which is why unqualified mum trainers can fail us if they are only going off their own experience!)
I did every workshop I could, used my evenings to research safe and effective exercise and also worked on my pre and postnatal certification.
This UPDATED and comprehensive knowledge allowed me to train comfortably through pregnancy - I experienced NO BACK PAIN, I didn't get any diastasis recti which is an exaggerated ab separation, no pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms, and I felt mobile, fit and healthy.
The first concerning point was a TOTAL LACK OF GUIDANCE from my midwife and obstetrician (...read on). The only advice I was given during pregnancy around exercise was to continue doing what I was doing - which at that time had been HIIT, crossfit and pilates - all of which would not have been suitable performed how I had been training (YES, EVEN some of my PILATES CLASS).
After birth, the advice was to wait for your 6 week check up and then you can get back in to training. I received a pelvic floor pamphlet at the hospital with no verbal instruction on how to actually do them, when, or how often and was sent on my way - thankfully I knew what to do.
- Their job is to help you grow and deliver your baby, which they do very well!!! We need fitness professionals and OTHER health care providers, such as our wonderful womens health physiotherapist's to be the SAFE, RELIABLE and ACCESSIBLE source for this whole other topic - and when it is not their area of expertise (i.e PT's) to know they will refer on.
A confusing CHAOTIC mix of exercise advice on youtube, social media and even mum classes!
Instagram celebs working out through through their pregnancies and early postpartum and influencing thousands/millions of women - despite no real understanding, qualification or knowledge about the safety.
A disturbing amount of youtube videos for 'pre/postnatal' promoting really inappropriate exercise for the majority of mums - with no guidance on how to perform movement safely.
Mums classes everywhere that have the whole class in full planks and performing jumping, boxing and running drills - unrealistic new mum goals given the statistics of 1 in 3 of us having pelvic floor dysfunction.
......NOTHING could have prepared me for the sleep deprivation, unbelievable love, exhaustion, aches and pains and anxiety that being a new mum brought!
Obstacles I didn't really understand about being postpartum until I experienced them:
1. The 6 week check up point IS NOT a realistic time frame for the majority of new mums to be ready to get back in to their old training - including sports like netball!
2. Any leaking, even if it is only a tiny bit when coughing, is considered pelvic floor dysfunction and IS NOT NORMAL.
3. Breastfeeding can be HARD to do!! While learning, when my son would actually latch on I would stay in whatever position I was in so that I didn't risk him coming off! That meant I was often curled over with terrible posture and contributed to upper back pain.
4. My fitness level had dropped drastically, even despite being relatively active throughout pregnancy. Things I would have found easy before, for example a glute bridge, were all of a sudden quite taxing and it was disheartening to feel so unfit!
5. Exhaustion. Sleep deprivation. Everything felt harder than it normally would have!!
6. A lack of physical connection with both my pelvic floor and my lower abs early on. Again, the need to 'visualise' while the feeling wasn't there or was very weak was highlighted. I realised that asking a mum to connect with these muscles, that they may not have even thought about before pregnancy and now quit possibly cant even feel, could be a tough ask and really needs detailed explanation!!
7. Car capsules, prams, babies and other kids are HEAVY and often awkward (i.e lifting baby out of cot or putting the capsule in the car) - it can be hard to rest as a new mum and we constantly need to remind ourselves how to move safely!!!
8. The desire to get back in to your old training can be really strong... which for me at times felt frustrating, inconvenient and isolating.
9. Time to yourself can be non-existent - I found the continual cycle of feeding, changing and settling left very little time for any down time - fitting in workouts was often not high on the list for the very limited time I had available. BUT when I did gentle exercise (that didn't exhaust me further) I felt more motivated, happier and more energised.
.... The bottom line is I GET IT. I was a very active, fit and strong person before becoming a mum and I was determined to return to that level. It can be easy to overlook the obstacles we face as new mums - it is really tempting to rush back to what we know! There can be a really strong sense of lost identity and our fitness, or lack of, can absolutely contribute to that! BUT the reality is our body has changed pretty drastically and we need to give it the time and help it needs to regain STRENGTH and FUNCTION. I needed my body to function as a group fitness instructor - I literally rely on my body for work - so I knew that I couldn't sit back and hope for the best - and I don't want you to have to either.
My main purpose for running qualified mums and bubs classes is to EMPOWER WOMEN with the tools and knowledge they need to maintain their quality of life postpartum - that means being able to run after their children, jump on the trampoline with them or simply play, without fear of often embarrassing accidents. It means not experiencing life long back or hip pain, or pelvic floor pressure/pain. It means having the confidence to safely rejoin their previous activities without the risk of causing lifelong symptoms, whether it be playing netball or joining in their crossfit class.
My main drive behind these classes is to CHANGE THE STATISTICS for postpartum issues (such as pelvic floor dysfunction, which is currently 1 in 3 women - not great odds!!!), and to make POSTPARTUM AFTERCARE a normal and expected part of having a baby - currently a very forgotten side of becoming a mum!
You can find all the info on our classes here!
I am a CERTIFIED Pre and Postnatal coach and registered 'Pelvic Floor Safe Fitness Professional' (Incontinence NZ). I am so passionate about helping mums feel strong, confident and healthy!! Any questions please don't hesitate to get in touch.
ONLINE CORE RECOVERY 6 WEEK PROGRAM!
A comprehensive 6 week program designed to assist Mums with postpartum recovery - including healing ab separation and improving pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms.
Click on the link for more details and to register for our next 6 week online course.
ONLINE TRAINING for mums further on in your recovery that you can do ANYWHERE and ANYTIME
Our ONLINE WORKOUTS have fitness level options - including modifications (for example, to suit pelvic floor dysfunction) AND progressions to suit advanced athletes looking for a challenge!! This means it is suitable for both you and your partner to do together working alongside each other. No separate video necessary, I talk you through it all just like I do in my gym group fitness classes that have up to 40 people of ALL DIFFERENT ABILITIES. Join me!!