Posts

First of all, I love high impact exercise. I am a big fan of running and plyometrics (jumping). A long time ago I used to think that you couldn’t a good workout in if you didn’t go full on high impact.. I know now that high impact just isn’t appropriate for everyone and particularly in pregnancy and in the postnatal period it is sensible to protect your weakened pelvic floor and core by switching to low impact strength work. After years of teaching pregnancy and postnatal exercise classes, it’s become second nature to offer low-impact, safe variations of the “normal” types of exercises we do. I should also add here that if you ever attend an exercise class and the instructor can’t (or even worse won’t) give you a modification to an exercise then please don’t attend that class again! And continue reading to arm yourself with the knowledge to adapt the exercises yourself..

Anyone who has done one of my “low impact” classes knows that they are JUST as challenging, yet much kinder and more appropriate for the body, especially  during pregnancy, after having a baby, recovering from injury, or those who just want to avoid jumping/impact in general.  Mama on the Move’s strength and fitness online programmes are ALL low impact.

Here are some (video) examples of modifications of your beloved impact exercises without taking down the intensity:

Burpee

Star Jump

Squat Jump

Jump Lunge

Push ups

Plank

Side Plank

High Knees

NOTE: Please make sure you get the all clear from your midwife/doctor before commencing on any exercise programme. We would not advise doing the “step out” burpees or frontal plank if you are suffering from diastasis recti or in the 3rd trimester. In addition if you suffer from Pelvic Girdle Pain you may find some of these exercises (even the modified ones) not appropriate so as always listen to your body and stop if you feel any pain/discomfort.

Tips on how to decrease impact and modify exercises:

  1. Keep at least one foot on the floor. If you want to change a traditional jumping movement, keep one foot on the floor at all times.  For example – see our star jump alternatives..
  2. Step it out…. Break the exercise out into separate segents… See our burpee variation

3)  Arms up! By raising your arms above your head, your heart rate will increase. If you’re keeping the moves low-impact, try to think of some ways to add in controlled arm movements to increase your intensity (light weights can also be added..)

4) Instead of jumping, rise up onto your toes. See our squat jump alternative -  Come down into a squat and rise up onto your toes (getting calf workout in too), reaching your arms up. Move quickly and your heart rate will soon start pumping!

5) Pulse it out…. Instead of jumping, add a pulse to ramp up the intensity  -see our jump lunge variation, you will really feel the burn with small movements but without the impact..

6) Decrease the range of motion.. For example, don’t go so low in the squats/lunges, start with small movements and build up from there.

7) For planks and push ups try using a wall or slight incline (like the back of a sofa) to avoid excessive pressure on your core. If you have no diastasis recti after having your baby then you can start to build up to floor work for side planks and push ups but always start on your knees..

Laura x

Pushing your baby in their pram may seem like a relatively simple task, however, many mothers are potentially contributing to injury on a daily basis in the way that they are pushing their little one/s around in their prams. If you compare this to doing exercise using bad technique you know that over time other muscles will compensate and you are more than likely to get aches and pains from the repeated movements.

Incorrect buggy pushing

Rule 1: No creases in your wrists
Next time you are pushing your pram just glance down at your wrists - do you see any creases? If you do you will also see your hand sitting at an angle anywhere between 45-90 degrees from you wrist - this is putting constant pressure on your wrist joint especially when you add load (pushing up hill or a second child in a double pram). Adjust your wrist so that there is a straight line running from your arm down to knuckles - you will notice that that the creases at your wrist now disappear. Keep glancing down and checking for those creases and feel the tension ease from your wrist joints.

Rule 2: Keep your hips near the handle bar
Lower Back Pain is a common complaint in many new (and not so new) mums. The head down, bum out, bending over position many mothers take when pushing a heavy pram uphill is huge in contributing toward lower back ache. The Solution is to keep your hips close to the handle of your pram when you are pushing your baby uphill. Next time you are pushing your pram uphill then stay standing tall, aim to keep your hips relatively close to your pram and find your glutes! Take big strides up the hill and drive through the bum to propel you up the hill. You should start to feel your glutes working when walking like this. Your back should hurt less AND you'll be getting a much better workout.

Rule 3 - chest up shoulders down
A lot of tension is held in our neck, upper back and shoulders when we are tired, stressed and looking after little people that need our constant care and attention. We often walk around with our shoulders by our ears and don't even realise it - add to this a handle bar of the wrong height and you will surely exasperate the problem. Next time you are out for a walk stand upright next to your pram - make sure your chest is up and shoulders are down, allow your hands to rest on the handle and see how you feel. If you adjusted it down a few inches would it take some pressure off your upper body and allow you to maintain that chest up, shoulders down position more comfortably? As a general rule your hands should be a little above hip height.

Correct buggy pushing

These may seem like pretty simple things to implement - and they are BUT they might just change the way you are moving on a daily basis and help to relieve some of those aches and pains that don't have to go hand in hand with motherhood.

At Mama on the Move you will never read anything about how doing our programmes will make you “bounce back” to your pre baby body, how following our programmes will get you “beach body ready” or any of that rubbish. Because, quite honestly that is NOT what we are about. Yes, you will lose weight following our postnatal programmes and nutrition guidelines BUT you will also feel stronger, healthier and fitter during your pregnancy and in the postnatal period and THAT is more important than focusing on the weight loss. In our opinion. So if a “body shred” (what does that even mean!?) or a “bikini body programme” (we fully support the – have a body, wear a bikini approach) is your thing, then you won’t find it here….. Mainly because most of those types of training are NOT suitable for someone who has just had a baby and can do more harm than good..

However before you dismiss us, I’d like to talk you through our postnatal programme and what it IS about:

  • Holistic, SAFE Postnatal Pilates AND Fitness programmes that will help you recover from the birth of your baby and start to strengthen your core and pelvic floor, work on your alignment and posture and are also diastasis recti (tummy separation safe)
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking the above programmes will be easy because they are postnatally safe and low impact….. they will absolutely challenge you whatever your fitness level and you can make them harder or easier by changing the repetitions and sets… they are also all suitable to be done in the comfort of your own home or garden as they don’t require equipment.
  • Healthy snacks and recipes and meal planners suitable for breastfeeding mothers

I’m aware that as co-founder of Mama on the Move my review of the programmes is slightly biased(!) however, I just wanted to share with you my personal postnatal fitness and weight loss journey after having my 3rd child in late September last year.

I started the Strength and Fitness programmes around 6 weeks postnatally, prior to that I had been walking a lot (my daughters are at school so school runs were compulsory!) and following the Pilates programme such as activating my TVA and pelvic floor – pelvic tilts, leg slides, and focusing on my breathing – which I found really helpful in re-connecting with my core.

As a personal trainer and fitness professional, I don’t mind telling you I felt incredibly weak when I first started the strength programmes and although they looked “easy” on paper, they really challenged me and I felt the effects the next few days! But in a good way! Like I had woken up my muscles! I found the programmes great to fit around when my baby was sleeping as they are pretty short – 20-30 minutes maximum. I would often do the school run in the morning and then come back and do a workout so it was done for the day before the endless feeding and changing would take-over!

I didn’t really feel my strength returning until around 3 months postnatally, by 4 months I was feeling much more like my old self. The photo is taken at 4 ½ months postnatally and whilst I never weigh myself, I am back into my pre pregnancy clothes comfortably although not as toned as I was… but that’s ok! It’s still early days! I did NOT follow any restrictive silly diet, I did eat healthily and followed the nutritional guidelines on the programme.

I’m now back doing more high intensity training as I am feeling strong, I have good core and pelvic floor function and I know how to exercise safely. I still do the Mama on the Move programmes, they are still challenging – I just increase the reps!

Clients often ask how long it takes to get back to their pre pregnancy weight and fitness and the answer is it’s just so different for everyone. It really depends on how active you were in pregnancy, how much weight you put on, what you pregnancy and birth were like and how well you have recovered from it. For some, they may lose weight and be fit and active again relatively quickly, for others it may take much longer. It’s important not to put any pressure on yourself, to focus on healing from the birth, address any issues such as disastais recti and pelvic floor problems by seeing a women’s health physio and just enjoy your gorgeous new bundle. When the time is ready and you want to start to safely working on restoring you core and building up your fitness again then check out Mama on the Move’s online postnatal programme (they are low impact and DR and pelvic floor safe!)

Laura x

While I was having coffee and <ahem> eating cake with my lovely Pregnancy Pilates group the other day we were discussing the subject of the “mum bum”. How during or post pregnancy many of us find that our bottoms feel rather soft and lacking in muscle tone! It’s expected to have a squishy tummy post baby but the bottom too?! Why is this? Well, during pregnancy your centre of gravity shifts and as a result, many women try to counterbalance that shift by tucking their tailbone.  This means that you end up underusing your glute muscles and overusing the posterior pelvic floor muscles. This results in a flattened backside that can’t fill up or hold up a pair of jeans.

While it might seem a bit odd, the next time you are with your mum friends... check out their derrieres (surreptitiously of course!) – what do you see?  Chances are you will see a lot of flat bums, flat backs and jeans that are continuously being pulled up. The ‘mum bum’ epidemic is out of control; if you want to avoid it then read on for some advice and exercises to help keep your bottom bootylicious, and, as an added benefit your pelvic floor will thank you too!

1.Sit Less

Sitting does nothing to build the glutes and everything to make your bum as flat as a pancake. This is tricky in the early postnatal weeks as we are often glued to the sofa feeding our little ones. However, in between those feeds minimizing the amount of time spent sitting is critical to maintaining a healthy backside!

  1. Walk

One of the best exercises out there is walking, and something that all new mums and mums to be can and should do as often as possible. It is a low impact form of exercise, so kind to the pelvic floor as well as a good way of getting the endorphins flowing. Hill walking is particularly beneficial, as when you add in the incline of a hill, it really blasts those glutes into high gear along with elevating your heart rate.

  1. Glute Bridges

The simple route to a perfect posterior is to master the glute bridge.  As well as helping your bum look fabulous this exercise will also help improve your hip flexibility and mobility. To increase the challenge, try raising one leg off the ground and keeping it steady as you bridge, or move both feet on top of a table or box.

Action

  1. Lie on your back on an exercise mat or the floor in a bent-knee position with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your feet hip-width apart with the toes facing away from you. Gently contract your abdominal muscles to flatten your low back into the floor. Attempt to maintain this TVA activation throughout the exercise.
  3. Gently exhale. Keep the abdominals engaged and lift your hips up off the floor. Press your heels into the floor for added stability.
  4. Inhale and slowly lower yourself back to your starting position.

Watch points: Avoid pushing your hips too high, which can cause hyperextension (arching) in your low back. Keeping your abdominals strong helps to prevent excessive arching in the low back.

During pregnancy you should be cautious if you choose to exercise while lying on your back due to supine hypotensive syndrome, particularly after 16 weeks. Exercise on the back for short durations only and watch out for feelings of dizziness. If you experience dizziness, stop exercising immediately.

 

  1. Squats

Squatting is a great bum builder and is also a functional movement as you will be always bending down to pick up the little ones or the paraphernalia that comes with motherhood. Squatting can be done (and should be done) during pregnancy and within a few weeks postnatally.  The range of motion can be modified but you want to aim for a nice deep squat with the tailbone un-tucked and your pelvis in neutral (keeping the small curve in your low back). Squats are one of my favourite exercises and there are many variations that can be done to keep things interesting.

Action

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than hips. Keep your back straight, with your neutral spine, and your chest and shoulders up. Keep looking straight ahead
  2. Toes should be slightly pointed outwards and engage your core by sucking your tummy button into your spine to work your transverse abdominals. (The girdle that holds everything in your abdominals together.)
  3. Slowly bend your knees and lower yourself to the ground as if to sit in a chair position – pushing your bottom back and down. As you squat down, focus on keeping your knees in line with your feet.
  4. Stop when your thighs are parallel with the floor.
  5. Push back up through your heels, exhaling at the same time.

Watch points:

Inhale when lowering body, exhae when pushing back up. Keep your toes pointed forward. Don't allow your chest to drop and sink onto the tops of your thighs.

During pregnancy there are times though when squats are not beneficial. You should avoid squatting when baby is not in an optimal position after 30 weeks, as squats help descend a baby deeper down into the pelvis. If there is any pain when you perform a squat then you may need to have your technique assessed to correct your form or you can choose from different variations to reduce any discomfort. There are some scenarios when you don’t want to induce early labour, a couple of examples might be Vasa Previa and multiple pregnancies under 35 weeks.

 

  1. The Oyster

The oyster helps to open up the hip joint, as well as strengthening the glutes and stabilising your pelvis. The opening and closing of the leg are also a great way of working your pelvic floor muscles.

Action

  1. Lie on your right side with your shoulders and hips aligned on top of each other. If you are pregnancy you may wish to use a pillow under your head and bump for comfort.
  2. Place your left hand on the mat in front of you and bend both knees so that your heels are in a line with the back of your pelvis.
  3. Inhale to prepare and then exhale and keeping the feet connected lift up your top knee. Keep the pelvis still and stable and move from the hip joint.
  4. Inhale and control the leg back to the start position.

Watch Points

Only open the top leg as far as you can whilst keeping the pelvis still. Keep your core engaged and your waist lifted off the mat throughout the exercise. Try and place as little pressure through the top arm as possible

  1. The Glute Pulse

This exercise focuses on building strength in the glutes and hamstrings. Completing the move in four point position will also challenge the core muscles as you work to keep the torso stabilised and the spine in neutral against the movement of your leg.

Action

  1. Start in four point kneeling position with wrists under shoulders and knees under hip joints.
  2. Inhale to prepare. Then exhale and keeping the core muscles engaged, slowly lift the left leg.
  3. Your knee should stay bent as you press your foot up toward the ceiling.
  4. Inhale and lower the leg back to start position.

Watch Points

Keep your spine in neutral by engaging your core muscles, and avoid rotating your hip s by keeping the shoulders and hips squared to the floor during the entire exercise.

We've created some short tabata workouts to get those glutes working:

Pregnancy:

Postnatal:

Hello ladies,

I hope you are all well and the year has started in good spirits for you. It has been one month since I made a public pledge to make time for me. "How is that going?" I hear you cry, well let me tell you while I sit here eating my personal stash of 'after the kids have gone to bed chocolate covered peanuts'. I know, probably not the best way to set myself up to write about exercise and healthy living, but we are all living in the real world here and a mum has to do what a mum has to do.

So other than the indulgent peanuts, I thought it was time to let you know how I have been getting on with the postnatal Mama on the Move programme. In short, OK.

I have to be honest and tell you that I had every intention of doing at least either the Pilates or strengthening programme three times a week, but in reality I have only managed it about once or twice a week alongside any crèche time I can get at the gym on Mondays and Fridays. I have managed it a few times at home, but usually have to have “help” from the little’uns.

The first time I set myself up to follow the routines set out in phase one, I got myself in a pickle. I wasn't entirely sure how to do each exercise or how to breathe, so it was a case of going back to the instruction sheets and videos to check my technique, then rechecking how many reps to do. But I put that session down to a trial session, and got ready for my first "real" go at it.

So there I was ready to do both the Pilates and strengthening sessions and prove to myself that I could find 45 minutes to myself in my house with children around. Things started off so well, I was flying through the strengthening programme and it only took 15/20 minutes to do. Great, let's crack on and do the Pilates. Oh no wait, the littlest little has woken up from her nap and needs a feed, there is no chance I will get to come back, because that is how it goes and there is no point getting het up trying to force these things. Our babies are only babies for a short time, so let’s not miss it by focussing in the wrong places and I was very happy to have done the strengthening work out.

I have to admit, I was feeling a little bit smug with myself afterwards, not only did I get to actually do it, but I didn't think it was that hard, so I must be in much better shape than I thought I was. That was until the next day when it hurt to sit down! I could not work out for the life of me why my body ached so much. It was like I had done a full day of HIIT. It took a little while to work out it was due to those innocent 20 minutes. So hats off to Laura and Tamsin for creating that combination of exercises. It took me about three days to stop whincing every time I moved. Even my little boy offered to rub my shoulders (with his pirate sword, but the thought was there)!

Not fazed by this, I went for it again a few days later and it was a bit easier. Only this time, I had my two gym assistants supervising. I say supervising, but what I actually mean is sitting on me when I was doing the bridge work, demanding I do it again and again and again… as well as laughing when I was doing some of the squat work. It took a lot of persuading to stop Oli sitting on my lap while I was doing the wall squat! I have now started fitting in at least one of the routines after my gym classes when I have time. That way I can be safe in the knowledge I can get it done properly, without being the in-house entertainment. Although I have to admit, it made me smile and spurred me on.

Last week, I promoted myself to the next phase and completed it straight after a circuit class. I avoided repeating any of the exercises we had covered in the class. I really enjoyed it and even managed to complete most of the Pilates session too.

The programme comes with recipe suggestions, which I am sure don't include chocolate covered peanuts, and I am going to start dabbling in the kitchen. My first attempt to create a culinary delight will be a chocolate ice cream made with bananas. Go figure!

I have to admit there have been a couple of side effects of this programme and that is the reigniting my desire to start running again. I say running, I really mean jogging! So I have got as far as downloading a Couch to 5K app and opening it. I just need to get my jogging shoes on and give it a go.

In my last post here, I made a promise to make more time for me and I have been trying keep this promise bit by bit. Not only am I committed to following this programme, I am also making time to get back into my amateur hobbies and tick off my biggest project of late which was to make a memory bear with my boys baby clothes and to weight it to his birth weight. Big by importance, not size, it felt like such an achievement, and an unexpected bonus is that there are a few people who would like me to make the same for them. That is very exciting and has really inspired me. My next task is to make a prate waistcoat for my pirate obsessed boy and re-cover his little armchair. I am sure that will be the beginning of many fancy dress outfits I will need to create over the years.

Anyway, my next steps with the programme is to keep going with phase two for a couple of weeks and then promote myself again. I will also get on with the C25K and report back on progress. I am also going to have to start fitting work in as I start my keeping in touch days this week. I can't quite believe the last six months have gone already but here I am ready for the next chapter in my book.

Carole x

The term “core” is really a fitness buzzword and its actual meaning can be debated to no end. If you have read Tamsin’s blog you know about the ‘Power Four’ as the main inner muscles of the core that Mama on the Move focus on: The transverse abdominis, (TVA) the pelvic floor (PF), multifidus and the diaphragm.

For pregnant and postnatal women the process of carrying and delivering a baby can place a significant strain on your core muscles, meaning that we often suffer from conditions such as pelvic floor dysfunction, hernias, diastasis recti and low back pain. Quite often it is not just the case that these muscles have been weakened but our brain may also have forgotten how to connect with and communicate with them. If you are pregnant – click here to read our blog on connecting with your core in pregnancy…

  • How to engage TVA:

I personally use the cue of “gently drawing your tummy button towards your spine” with my clients, and I believe if you really understand that this is NOT sucking your tummy in as hard as you can then it is an effective cue for lots of people, myself included!

So, we know it isn’t sucking your tummy in hard – WHY? Well think of a tube of tooth paste, if you squeeze it hard in the middle - all you’re doing is displacing the paste. Yes, the centre where you squeeze is thinner, but the paste is still in the tube, it’s just moved. Sucking in your stomach and pulling air up into your diaphragm or pushing air down into your pelvic floor isn’t going to do anything for you.

You also want to add in the correct breathing and connect with the pelvic floor at the same time as “gently drawing your tummy in towards your spine” on the EXHALE and release these muscles on the inhale. When the muscles of your Pelvic Floor turn on, your TVA can engage properly. This is drastically different from simply “sucking in your stomach”. Making a ssssssssss sound as you exhale can sometimes help find the deep core muscles you are working.

  • So, how to engage your Pelvic Floor?

This is going to sound a little strange, BUT - imagine using your vagina like a straw. Imagine sucking up a smoothie or trying to pick up a grape. It’s a gentle upward lifting action. Note, it’s gentle, not forceful.

Don’t forget your posture:

Good posture and alignment is crucial. Make sure your spine is neutral, your chest should not thrust – so lower ribs stay back, stacked directly over hips. Your shoulders are relaxed and not up by your ears and your tailbone or bottom doesn’t tuck underneath you. When you engage your TVA, you should not see movement anywhere else in your body.

REMEMBER:

  • Simply drawing/sucking your stomach in doesn’t do anything. So don’t waste time trying to active your TVA independently
  • Your Transverse Abdominis AND Pelvic Floor muscles activate together
  • Think about your posture, shoulders relaxed, chest not thrust forward, bottom “untucked”
  • Proper engagement of your TVA and Pelvic Floor feels like a gentle upward *and* inward pulling
  • Don’t forget the BREATHING. Inhale to prepare, EXHALE as you gently pull upward on pelvic floor and inward with tummy to spine. INHALE to release the muscles.
  • DON’T FORGET to relax these muscles too -you CAN overuse them– don’t go around trying to hold in your tummy and pelvic floor all day – this will not make them stronger, they need to relax.

When to “engage” the Core:

  • Before you lift anything… your baby, the car seat, the buggy…. Prepare and protect your back by properly engaging your core. I know this sounds like a lot to remember but if you re-train yourself to do this then it will become second nature…
  • Before you perform exercises such as squats, lunges, press ups etc. Remember also to EXHALE on the EXERTION – which in squats, lunges, press ups is as you push back up
  • When you are doing your pelvic floor exercises, don’t forget these muscles work best when worked together so activate your TVA as well.

Our pregnancy and postnatal programmes include Pilates workouts that will help you reconnect with and strengthen your core and pelvic floor. Click here for more details.

Laura x

 

I thought I was totally prepared for motherhood. I luckily got pregnant with my first daughter very easily and sailed through my pregnancy, relishing pretty much every moment. I am one of those “weirdos” who love exercise, and even though 8 years ago I wasn’t then teaching fitness classes I was participating in them religiously and being pregnant didn’t stop me! Nope, I wanted to continue throughout my pregnancy and even the funny comments I used to get “Shouldn’t you be swimming instead of spinning?” didn’t stop me. I was newly qualified in the fitness industry and amazed by the lack of knowledge of pregnancy exercise so started to do my own research into what was safe and what wasn’t… sowing the seeds which would later become Mama on the Move.

So, I kept up my fitness routine, embraced pregnancy, scoffed when people told me I looked so well. How stupid, I thought, I’m just PREGNANT, I’m not ill for goodness sake! I read the pregnancy books, and booked me and OH onto an Antenatal course. I decided I was going to have a “natural birth” and breastfeed my baby exclusively for at least the first 6 months. I had an image of maternity leave being a bit like a holiday (YES I KNOW, what was I thinking?!) where I would sit around being all cosy playing with a cute baby whilst watching This Morning.

I remember as the D date got nearer I read some more books about labour and birth, I listened to a hypnobirthing CD in the car on my daily commute (yes,not really ideal, especially when they told you to close your eyes and relax” – I didn’t by the way) and dismissed everyone’s birth horror stories, putting my hands over my ears “tra la la not listening, not going to happen to me”. I nodded sagely when a work colleague who had recently had a baby tried to tell me about the terrible sleep deprivation. Yes, yes I get it, I’m going to be TIRED for a little bit…

I was fit, young and strong, this baby was coming out no problem and I was going to be a great mum.

Hmmmmm, cue a 3 day labour ordeal, back to back baby (even though I literally did not sit on a sofa for at least the last 4 weeks but bounced on the sodding ball), labour did not “progress”, induction, EVERY drug going, ending in episiotomy and forceps in theatre and THEN a 3rd degree tear….

My daughter’s birth left me feeling utterly exhausted, battered and bruised and I could barely walk. I was also mentally very traumatised from the whole experience. This was NOT how it should have happened.. Oh yes, and then I had a newborn to look after and feed which, is NOT as easy as whipping a boob out and offering it to your baby(like I thought). My baby, it seemed, was also not feeling great about the birth and being “earthside” and proceeded to cry for the next 5 months solid. She cried pretty much all the time, except when a boob was in her mouth and even then she would fight and cry.

Ok, so it turned out I wasn’t much good at being a mummy after all. My baby hated me because she cried ALL THE TIME. I hated myself too – or specifically my body. It had failed at giving birth (it hadn’t by the way) and it was failing at breastfeeding. My body also felt pretty broken. I felt great in pregnancy but afterwards I just felt like my body belonged to someone else. Actually with the stress and constant walking (my daughter, when not feeding, had to be outside, in the sling to even consider pausing in her screams) I lost my baby weight pretty quickly, but it wasn’t about the weight loss, it was about how weak and achy I felt, like a little old lady AND the pelvic floor damage from the brutal forcep delivery.

So I cried every day alongside my daughter, the two of us howling together. I had deep dark thoughts, I hated being a mum, I wasn’t any good at it and it was like a “prison sentence”. I was stuck with this screaming baby forever and I was FAILING her. How could I tell anyone these thoughts, when so many new mums that I met seemed to have babies who didn’t cry ALL THE TIME and who somehow were ENJOYING this experience. It only added to me feeling like there was something wrong with me. I remember vividly listening to my mum friends talking “baby talk” to their little ones, calling them adorable pet names and generally acting like I thought I should be. I stared at my screaming baby during a nappy change and tried for the life of me to think up a cute “nick name” to call her so I could be like my friends… but my mind was blank and I felt completely empty and emotionless towards this little bawling creature. I knew I had to look after her, because that was now my job, which only exacerbated those feelings of suffocation and panic that I had ruined my life…

I am by no means alone in my experience; around 1 in 8 mums will suffer from either antenatal or postnatal depression and anxiety. Becoming a mother for everyone is a massive life change, probably the biggest change a woman can go through, and I think every new mums goes through periods of feeling down and feelings of anxiety because a) it’s bloody hard work and there is NO guidebook b) in a way parts of your old life does end and you start a new one as mother and need to find your feet. But for those suffering from PND, these feelings are amplified and you need help to get through it. And you will get through it and out the otherside, even though at the time you don’t believe there is any light at the end of the tunnel.

There were many ways I got better from my PND, and there is no “one fit for all” when it comes to recovering from this horrible illness. But for me personally, exercise was an absolute life line in my recovery. It helped lift the fog (even if to start with it was only temporarily) and it cleared my mind so I was able to think straight. It also gave me a break from motherhood and let me feel “free” and more like myself again. There have been many studies done on the benefit of exercise and depression and so even if you weren’t particularly into exercise being having children, it may make all the difference now. It’s great for the MIND and the BODY.

See below my tips on how to Exercise with PND and get the endorphins (happy hormones) going!

  1. Try and get out and about WALKING as much as possible. Being confined to the house can increase the negative and self destructive feelings and getting some fresh air benefits you and baby. Plus if you have a “Screamer” like I did it’s less condensed in the open than in the house! Walking is also a safe postnatal exercise that everyone can do. Just try and avoid stopping and chatting with any well meaning old ladies - I used to get a lot telling me (loudly, above the piercing screams of my baby) to enjoy this “precious, precious time” as it goes by so fast…. I would have to walk away again very quickly.
  1. Try a postnatal exercise class such as Buggyfit. You are outside exercising AND meeting other mums in the process. Being a new mum can be isolating, even more so if you are suffering from PND and meeting others and exercising together can be beneficial
  2. Find a gym that has a CRECHE. That way, you get some time away from your baby and can purely focus on YOU. As soon as my baby was old enough I would go to my local gym pretty much every morning and put my baby in the crèche. The ladies who worked there were SO lovely (to me as well as my baby!) and it meant I got my workout and a shower in peace and then felt ready to take on the rest of the day with my baby. Or, if you have family living nearby, ask them if they are able to mind the baby for an hour or two whilst you go to the gym, take part in an exercise class or just go for a walk without the buggy! It’s amazing how free you will feel!
  3. I understand that sometimes it can feel like an effort in itself to even leave the house with a baby anyway, but particularly if you have PND. Everything seems to be overwhelming and sometimes you don’t even want to see other people. I found that working out in the safety and privacy of my own home or garden when baby had a (rare!) sleep suited me better sometimes, and actually gave me more confidence to get out and about the next time. I would do my own fitness programme, or you could do a postnatally appropriate fitness DVD.
  4. Try to avoid running in the early postnatal period. I love running to clear my head, but after such a difficult birth, when I went out for a run (too early postnatally) I thought my insides may fall out! My body was not recovered or strong enough to cope with the impact of running and that made me feel very upset. You can get back to running BUT it’s so important to let your body heal first and to focus on deep core work and non impact exercise until you are strong enough to run. I would advise self-referring to see a women’s health physio who can help enormously by checking your pelvic floor activation. See Tamsin’s blog here on more details on when it’s safe to run after having a baby
  5. A postnatal Pilates or Yoga class can be very beneficial as both concentrate on the breathing which can help you feel more calm and focused. These types of classes are especially helpful if you don’t feel ready for anything more upbeat. There is also “mindfulness” linked to these forms of exercises where you can “switch off” and be in the moment which has been shown to help alleviate feelings of depression. Please note that many yoga and pilates exercises are actually NOT safe in the postnatal period as they can stop an ab separation from healing or actually make it worse. Try and find a specific class for postnatal women and if you can’t check first that the instructor is qualified and knowledgeable in adapting exercises for you.

Other things that helped me:

  1. Friends & Family Support. Talking really helped – talk to your partner, family and friends. To start with it may take some time to find those “mum friends” who really “get it”. The ones that can empathise with you, who don’t judge you for your choices and who support you. Having said that sometimes even well meaning family/friends don’t understand what you may be going through and if this is the case, don’t give up. Keep trying until you find someone you can talk to, a GP/health visitor or a try a postnatal depression charity. Avoid those who don’t make you feel good about yourself and/or don’t seem to understand. Most people are fantastic but sadly I have had “but you have a beautiful baby” comment when I confessed to feeling “a bit down”. If family or friends say or do un-helpful things, just for the time being whilst you are getting better, avoid them and spend time with those who do help. You need to protect yourself during this time as you are especially vulnerable
  1. Get some professional counselling – talking to people who are experienced in dealing with the issues you are facing can be so helpful and make you feel less alone. Speak to your doctor/health visitor or contact a PND charity for further advice
  1. Good nutrition is key! All new mums need to be eating well, you have been pregnant for 9 months and gone through the labour and birth and now your body needs nutritious food to nourish and heal. Now is not the time for diets, and feeling depressed can either make you lose you appetite or “comfort” eat the wrong foods. Neither is helpful for recovery so please make sure you are eating a healthy balanced diet. Enlist the help of family and friends and ask them to cook a meal for you and drop it round.
  1. Yes this one’s annoying. How on earth do you sleep with a baby who literally is a SLEEP THIEF. And yes, the old “sleep when the baby is sleeping” too can be annoying too as a) when the baby is sleeping sometimes you need to eat (see above) or b) despite being utterly exhausted, sometimes when you are depressed it can be very hard to sleep as you have a million negative thoughts whizzing around in your head. I remember trying to sleep when the baby was sleeping and I lay next to her, wide awake thinking she was going to wake up at any moment. Anyway, 2 hours passed and I still wasn’t asleep and she WAS, so I had a panic attack because I realised I had wasted 2 hours when I could have been asleep and freaked out. I found the best chance I had for sleeping was if my husband took the baby out in the sling/pram so I knew she wasn’t even in the house and I could sleep uninterrupted for an hour or two. If your husband is at work, ask a friend to take your baby out for a walk. One of my lovely friends once took my baby out in the buggy whilst hers was in the sling and that gave me some much needed time out. There is No doubt that lack of sleep is torture and exacerbates depression and so try and get as much help as possible to prioritise YOU getting some sleep.
  1. Anti-depressants. There is NO SHAME. They are there to help you and sometimes you need them to even address the counselling, exercise and sleeping that needs to happen for you to get better. Talk to your doctor. Get someone to go with you to the doctors, as quite often you will not be able to do this by yourself and need a loved one with you for support. Stay on them for as long as you need (they take a while to kick in) and I promise you you won’t be on them forever because you will get better.
  1. Having time away from the baby/children not just to exercise, but to have a coffee, go shopping, have your nails done, go out with your friends, have a nice dinner with your other half, WHATEVER makes you feel good, do it as much as you can and do not feel guilty about leaving the baby/children with a delighted grandparent/aunt/friend - everyone will have a good time!

If you are reading this and suffering from Postnatal Depression or Anxiety then I urge you to get the help you need and deserve because you can and will get better. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength. I have a very special and loving relationship with both my daughters, and although I feel sad that it was so difficult when they were babies it has not affected the close bond we share now.

For more details on our online safe Postnatal Fitness and Pilates programmes please click here.

For more details and help and support for postnatal depression see below resources/charities:

  • For those Bristol based Bluebell Care is a fabulous charity working with those suffering from depression in pregnancy and postnatally. http://www.bluebellcare.org/ - it also has usefull links to other organisations that can help.
  • The Samaritans - http://www.samaritans.org
  • Mind helplines - http://www.mind.org.uk/help/advice_lines

 

 

One of the most difficult things for me about the postnatal period was the changes that occurred to my body. I’d read quite a lot during my pregnancy about how the body changes as the baby grows and positively enjoyed the excuse of eating for two! However, I rather naively assumed that my body would get back to normal after the baby arrived, obviously not in six weeks like the celebs manage, but definitely in a few months. Unfortunately, for me this was not the case and it was even worse after our second child. I really struggled to accept my new body and my self-confidence was at rock bottom. There is not a single photo of me in the year after our daughter was born and I avoided mirrors like the plague.

As mothers we’ve learned to do for our children things which we have been unable to do for ourselves, and this was definitely the case for me in terms of learning to accept my body. As my daughter started to grow I started to think about what I wanted for her future. I stated to think more critically about the popular media message that when it comes to our bodies aesthetics are to be valued over function. I wanted my daughter to value herself not because of how she looked but because of who she is and what she can achieve. It was liberating when it came to my relationship with my own body, as it felt like I was being given the chance to have a fresh start.

A mother’s influence over her daughter is not just in what she says, but also in what she does – how she relates to food, diet and exercise, if she makes derogatory comments about herself. Many of our attitudes about our bodies are learned from our mothers. If we want our daughters to feel good about their bodies, we must model that behaviour ourselves. One of the reasons that I love exercising is because of the sense of achievement I get after a workout and the way that my body feels so much stronger now. So many people see exercise as a punishment, or as a necessity to help control their weight. But again, if you think about if from your kids perspective, exercise is just movement. Our children are constantly on the go, they love challenging and testing their bodies and are open to new experiences and activities.  At Mama on the Move we are passionate about the power of exercise in helping to empower women and get their sense of self back after having children.

 

If you have ever engaged in any put downs of your own body, decide to end it right now. You know what I mean, “My thighs are huge” or “I hate my stomach”. Try instead to think of your body in terms of the miracle that it is. Yes, I’m still not happy with the way that my stomach looks right now – but it enabled me to grow and give birth to my two children. You don’t have to love your body, you just have to accept it and be comfortable in your own skin. If you think back through some of the things that you may have said about your body and then imagine your daughter feeling these things about her body it can help us realise just how toxic these thoughts are. As Marcia Hutchinson said, “If you talked to your friends the way you talked to your body, you’d have no friends left”.

Another thing that having kids has made me think about is the manic non-stop way that many of us live our lives. Our never-ending to do lists and hectic schedules can lead our children to view us as little more than hired help and adulthood as some sort of purgatory. However, I want my daughter to look forward to growing up and be excited about her opportunities as a woman. Therefore, it’s important that you learn to slow down for a period of time each day and take time out for yourself. Too many of us have been raised to believe that taking time for ourselves is selfish, but to properly look after others we need to make sure that we are also taking care of ourselves. When I first started exercising I felt so guilty about taking half an hour out on the weekends to do a workout. Now I know that I will come back energised and refreshed and a much better mum!

Being a mum is not easy but we need to try to be a source of positive power for our children. We need to help them learn from us, draw from our strength, appreciate their assets and learn that the power to love their bodies is theirs and theirs alone.

Tamsin x

 

 

Hi All,

When Laura and Tamsin asked me to write a guest blog for their Mama on the Move programme I was instantly honoured and said yes without a moment's hesitation. I love writing but have never really written about something personal, so this is a great chance to stretch those legs. Then I started to panic; what do I write about, how do I stop myself from gabbling on (those of you who have met me know I can go on if given the audience!)? Will I be able to find the time to give the programme the dedication it deserves? and so on. The answer was clear, just get on with it and stop procrastinating. So here goes. I hope you enjoy what you read and more importantly, I hope you can join me on the quest to "relearn how to love my own body and the skin I live in".

As we are the beginning, I reckon it is a good place to let you know a little bit about me. My name is Carole and I am 36 years old. I have two beautiful children, Oliver who has just turned three years old and Isabelle who is almost six months old (where did that time go?). I have been with my other half and dad to these "cherubs" for 15 years and we live in Bristol.

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I have always struggled with my weight and being 5'2'' with a generous bra size doesn't help how I see myself. I am usually able to keep my weight under control and at least within half a stone of my target weight. My biggest issue is my self image and even when I lost 2.5 stone with a slimming club, I could only see the difference by looking at the label in my clothes, not in the mirror. I have always been quite physical and fit, but let myself down with food choices. From as young as 14, I used to be on the school netball and hockey teams, I was in Army Cadets and I used to work at local stables to get horse riding lessons in payment but was still overweight, and bullied for it. It is only recently since becoming a mum that I understand where my issues with food came from and how I can avoid history repeating itself. It is mostly to do with eating times, portion sizes and how I teach my kids to see other people without judging others by their physical appearance. I can't tell you how many times I heard "she was lovely but fat", "it was full of fat people", "you would look beautiful if you lost weight" etc, excuse me while I reach for the cake! It is noones fault, it is a generation thing for sure, but I have control now and I will be damned if my kids will be subjected to the same.

When I was pregnant with Oli, I made a promise to myself: "I will NOT project my poor self image on to my kids". I have to remind myself of this on an almost daily basis and is the only real reason I get myself into a swimming costume. I put on an astounding five stone with my first pregnancy and it took me two years to lose that weight, only to find out the day after that I was pregnant (happily) again. I made myself another promise: "NOT to put on more than three stone with that pregnancy if possible". So far I have kept both promises, but now it is time to make myself another promise "to relearn to love myself and the skin I live in" and yes, that means losing weight, but mostly be fit and healthy so I can run after the kids without holding on to the wobbly bits, because let's face it, there are more wobbly bits that I have hands, and then how do I catch the little munchkins to tickle when I get there if I am too busy trying to keep things together. It is also about feeling good. When I do excercise, I feel good, I sleep better and I eat better. I have more energy, motivation and drive.

I am one stone off my pre-pregnancy weight as I write this, with an extra half a stone to lose on top of that. I also have a big tummy gap which needs to be fixed.

I am using my keeping in touch days to ease my way back to work from February and when I go back properly in April I will be there four days a week. I will have very little time to stop then, and need to have fitness part of my routine before adding more to the diary. I am a member of the local gym and use their creche on average twice a week to get some me time, but I am missing out on the other five days of the week. I always seem to have laundry, or lunch to prepare, or nursiing the baby, or making beds, and washing up, and on and on and on. NOW is the time for me to make time for me at home. the kids can wait 45 minutes for me to put their socks on. I want to lose the mum tum, I want to feel good again, I will love myself as much as my kids do. But I want to do it for me and because I enjoy getting a sweat on. I enjoy reaching new levels of fitness and mum prowess, and I want my kids to see me take time for me occasionally. Everyone in the family is entitiled to "me time", mum included.

There is so much more I could waffle on about, but I am going to reign it in. I am going to get on with it now. This week, the first week of 2017 seems like a good place to start, so bring it on Mama on the Move, let's do this.

One of the most common questions I get asked by new mums is when they can start running again after having their baby. Of all the exercise options available to new mums, running definitely seems to be the most popular and I can completely understand why:

  • It’s free, which after shelling out for a lot of new kit for the baby is an important consideration.
  • It’s convenient, no need to worry about scheduling childcare or booking into a crèche, you can fit in your exercise as soon as the opportunity arises.
  • It’s easy, when you are living in a sleep deprived fog you just want to be able to do something that does not require a lot of brainpower.
  • It’s uplifting, even a quick run provides a surge of endorphins and some much needed headspace.

However, probably a lot of mums would also say that part of their reasons for running were to help lose the baby weight and to improve their cardiovascular health. Sadly, running is probably one of the least effective forms of exercise for achieving these goals and that is especially true for new mums.

In terms of weight loss, running is not a particularly effective form of exercise for a number of reasons. Studies have consistently shown that strength training is far more effective at targeting fat and boosting metabolism than running. An exception to this is if the running is done in the form of short sprints in interval training. (This would be completely inadvisable for postnatal women for reasons I will come onto later.)

One of the reasons why strength training is so much more effective than running is that the average person gains 1 pound of fat and loses 1 pound of muscle every year after 30.  We tend to lose muscle each year because we aren’t showing the body that it is necessary to maintain it (by doing things like strength training). This decreases our metabolism and reduces our daily calorie expenditure (body fat burns 2-4 calories per pound per day compared to 6-10 for muscle). We have included low impact strength training in our postnatal programme to help you tone up and safely lose weight. You do not need to worry about ‘bulking up’ - women naturally have higher oestrogen levels that prevents bulky muscles.

Regular cardiovascular exercise may actually cause the body to drop muscle in order to become more efficient, as the lighter you are the faster you can run. It could also cause extra calorie consumption (your body tries to maintain homeostasis so if you burn more energy your hormones tell your brain your body needs more energy so it increases your hunger signals – this is quite often why a trip to the gym is accompanied by an increase in appetite!  This is fine if you are maintaining a regular exercise schedule, but quite often this is tricky during the early postnatal period in particular. Also, studies have shown that most people tend to overestimate the calories they have burned through exercise; yet underestimate the calories they have consumed.

So, running does not score great points in terms of weight loss. For new mums in particular it is also one of the worst ways that you can improve your cardiovascular health. During pregnancy a hormone called relaxin is released which helps make your ligaments stretchy and elastic in preparation for childbirth. Relaxin affects every joint in the body and it can take up to five months for your ligaments to get back into their original positions and stabilise. As a result, your joints may be weaker than usual, increasing the risk of your ankles, knees, hips, pelvis and spine weakening under impact. Therefore you are at much greater risk of injury then previously, particularly for high impact sports such as running.

Another reason to be cautious about running is that any high impact activities increase intra-abdominal pressure. This pressure needs to be contained within the abdomen by the coordinated action of the core muscles – the pelvic floor, diaphragm, deep abdominal and multifidus. These muscles have been weakened during pregnancy, meaning that the increased intra-abdominal pressure often leads to increased stresses on the linea alba, the connective tissue running down the centre of the abdomen. This can exacerbate a condition known as diastasis recti (see our blog about it here).

One of the main muscles that has taken a hammering during pregnancy and delivery is the pelvic floor. Even if you had a caesarean section these muscles will still have had to support the increasing weight of your baby over the last nine months. Your pelvic floor muscles stretch up to 3 times their normal length during birth, and you may have sustained deep muscle tears, particularly if you had a surgical delivery. Running places huge stresses on these already weakened muscles. To put it into perspective you could think about the g forces involved. Standing is a 1-G activity, walking is a 1.5-1.75 G activity, whilst running is a 2-3 G activity. If you load these lengthened tissues too early, you will damage them further leading to pelvic organ prolapse (POP), stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and low back  and pelvic girdle pain. It is NEVER ‘normal’ to leak and this is a very clear sign that you should reduce the intensity and start focusing on improving your core strength.

At this stage I should admit that I love running and completely sympathise with those of you who cannot wait to get back to it. If this is the case here are Mama on the Move’s guidelines on returning to exercise:

Firstly, it is important to check with your doctor, midwife, physiotherapist or continence professional before returning to sport or exercise after the birth.

0-3 weeks postnatal

  • Walking
  • Postnatal abdominal hollowing
  • Pelvic floor exercises

3-8 weeks postnatal

  • It is recommended you wait until your six-week postnatal check before starting a group exercise program or going back to the gym
  • Walking
  • Low impact aerobics or postnatal class
  • Low intensity water aerobics class and swimming (once bleeding has stopped)
  • Gym program (maintain posture, light weights, no breath holding)
  • Postnatal abdominal hollowing
  • Pelvic floor exercises

8-12 weeks postnatal

  • Follow the guidelines for 3-8 weeks, gradually increasing your intensity and weights
  • Progress your postnatal abdominal hollowing

12-16 weeks postnatal

  • Consider visiting a physiotherapist for a postnatal abdominal muscle check and pelvic floor muscle testing before returning to high-impact exercise, running, sport or abdominal exercise programs.

After 16 weeks postnatal

  • You can return to previous activity levels provided your pelvic floor muscles have returned to normal and you are not experiencing any back pain, vaginal heaviness, or urine loss during or after exercise.
  • Seek further advice from a health professional if your symptoms persist

Other factors to consider

You may feel more tired in the first few months after having a baby due to interrupted sleep, the extra demands of motherhood and breastfeeding. Fatigue and over exertion during exercise can increase the risk of injury. It is important to listen to your body and how you are feeling. Be aware of any warning signs of pain or discomfort and, slow down if necessary to allow this to subside, rather than pushing through the pain.

While you are learning to breastfeed (if you are breastfeeding) and looking after your baby, you may not have the desire to exercise in the first few weeks or months. During this time you can still be strengthening your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles in preparation for when you do feel ready to return to exercise. You may find that walking is an exercise that will get you out of the house and one that you can do with your baby, and maybe your partner or a friend.

Tamsin x