First Exercise After Having a Baby

How do I get physically active again after having a baby?

I’m often asked for the big secret to postnatal exercise and fitness:
How do I get the body I want after pregnancy and childbirth?
How do I get strong and agile so I can play with my kids?
How can I improve my physical and mental health with exercise?

Over the years I’ve worked with thousands of mums, and I’ve noticed there is one single most important thing they must do if they want to start and stick with actively embracing motherhood – they themselves must choose to do it.

Yes, that’s it: make a powerful choice about exercise, it’s only you who can choose to do it.

I’ve talked about setting fitness goals, sharing your goals with supporters, getting outside, committing to meet up with friends, getting the right advice on what exercise is safe and balanced…. and we’ve got an array of free sessions for you to follow on this site including guidance for your first session back post baby.

This all matters, but one thing I have found is that, not I, not anyone, can make a mum fit and healthy unless she chooses to do it.

Out for a walk with my 3-week old baby in his buggy

Out for a walk with my 3-week old baby in his buggy

I hear about a lot of sympathetic, even apologetic, encouragement for mums to “try to exercise”. The focus is often on showing a well-meaning understanding of how difficult early motherhood can be. But ultimately, the mums who get out there and reap the huge benefits of being physically active, relate to themselves as capable women, the see themselves as being in control and will themselves choose to exercise.

I’m not disregarding the challenges, goodness me right now my third son is 8 weeks old, I’m exhausted, disorganised, my pelvic floor is trashed and I’m on an emotional roller coaster!!!… But I just don’t choose to focus on this stuff. For me, exercise is irresistible. Oh the power of the right mindset!

So I invite you to look at yourself in the mirror, see the capable powerful women in you, and make a choice. Declare it to yourself as often as you need to and get out there!

The bottom line: you can do anything if you really want to.

How to Communicate Brilliantly as a Group Leader

As a GL you want a simple way to connect with group members. You might need to remind them what to bring and where to meet, welcome a new member, cancel a session one week, or just all celebrate progress as a group.

We are often asked for advice on how to manage communications, and how to make it easy, so you can build a thriving and fun group without too much admin.

What we find is that successful GLs often choose to:

  • Remind the group the day before each session
  • Ask for confirmation of who is coming or not that week
  • Keep the group membership up to date (who is actually attending sessions?)

Here are some of the platforms the groups commonly use:

  • Facebook
  • Whatsapp
  • Email mailing list
  • Twitter

To choose which one works best for you and your group, think about your personal priorities e.g.

  • Do I want the members to be responsible for joining the group or me sign them up?
  • Do I want to allow/expect quick messaging by all members each week to say “I’m in” so i know i won’t be the only one turning up?
  • Is there a technology I am already used to using?
Being a Ready Steady Mums Group Leader - "It's all about great communication"

Being a Ready Steady Mums Group Leader – “It’s all about great communication”

Whichever platform you choose, follow some top tips from GLs and their happy members:

  • Only communicate about relevant, useful things (no spamming!)
  • Be positive
  • Be concise
  • Invite members to be part of the conversation and share their own ideas

You can put a note on your group on the map telling new group members how you communicate and how to join your group.

We are here to help with your communication in a few other ways too: GLs are welcomed as guest bloggers on the RSM website; we will share, retweet and like your social media posts; we can help you get local media coverage; and we can include your news in RSM email mail outs. Just ask!

Finally, your GL community on Facebook is a supportive forum to ask for and share advice and ideas on everything related to running your group. Join in!

What can doctors do to help mothers with safe postnatal exercise?

In a recent interview published in Medical Women, I shared my advice with Dr Sara Khan on the important role doctors can play in helping mothers get started with safe pre and postnatal exercise.

Doctors (along with midwives and health visitors) are the professionals we really rely on and trust, to explain what exercise is safe and effective during and soon after pregnancy.  I am passionate about supporting them with this important responsibility.

You can read my full interview with Dr Khan here: Advice for doctors on postnatal exercise: Medical Women’s Federation

And here are some high-lights of what we discussed…

First, we talked about some of the very real challenges facing mothers

Mums often confuse “self-care” with “selfishness” falsely believing they must put every moment into their baby to do a good job.

Every man and his dog has an opinion on how a mother should give birth; feed her baby; and balance work with family commitments. The pressures are astonishing.

One of the most important things for mothers to hear is acknowledgment of the challenges they face.

I shared some of important messages doctors can give their patients to overcome common concerns about postnatal exercise

Research published this year in the Journal of Pediatrics by Dr Esther van Sluijs, found that the amount of activity that a mother and her child did each day was closely related… so we can now confidently tell patients “being active makes you a better mother”.

One valuable reassurance for mothers is that exercising and breast-feeding is safe. Dehydration can reduce milk supply, but exercise itself does not. In fact, the benefits of being out in the fresh-air, building self-confidence and reducing stress are all thought to improve breast-feeding.

And I suggested how best to advise patients on getting started with postnatal exercise (in the tiny amount of time doctors often have for this)

Two of the most important things to start with are improving posture (especially addressing lordosis) and pelvic floor muscle training. Most mothers can attend to these areas immediately after birth.

A good goal will motivate the patient over an extended time period, the best ones are specific and positive.

Read more in the full article published in Medical Women this month:

At Ready Steady Mums we are committed to supporting medical professionals with the vital role they can play for mothers getting active. Visit our page for midwives, health visitors and GPs, for advice on helping new mums set up walking groups.

 

Posture Correction and Pelvic Floor Activation

Today we’re going step-by-step through posture correction and pelvic floor activation. You can do this in pregnancy and postnatal.

We’ll begin by checking your posture.

Stand up, put your hands on your hips, and consider your pelvis position. During pregnancy many of us end up tiling the pelvis forward under the weight of the bump and compressing the lower back. This is called lordosis. Combined with pregnancy hormones including relaxin – which loosens the joints – it can be a major cause of lower back pain and last well into the postnatal period.

pre-and-postnatal-posture-correction

We are going to imagine our pelvis is a bucket of water, Try tiling your pelvis the other way and tipping water out the back. Now tilt forward. Tilt each way a few times and end in a comfortable, neutral position.

Pelvic-tilt-300x224
Now think about your shoulders. The hunched over position we get from breast feeding or working at a desk is called kyphosis – another posture problem that can cause back, shoulder and neck pain. Pull your shoulder blades back and down your back, lift your chest, chin in.

Good-posture-for-pelvic-floor-muscle-training-300x201

Now we are ready to find the right muscles and activate the pelvic floor.

One way to learn how to activate your pelvic floor is to stop midstream in urination, but this is no longer recommended, certainly not something to do regularly due to the risk of bladder infections. It can however help to imagine you are doing this.

Another great visualisation is to imagine sucking spaghetti into your vagina. Squeeze and lift. Engage the muscles, breathe, relax your shoulders. Now relax.

Next try to same thing with the back passage. Squeeze and lift. Maintain good posture. Relax.

Now let’s do both together. Imagine you are closing a zip, starting with the back passage and working round to the front. Squeeze, lift, hold.

That is the pelvic floor active! Now you are ready to do a full pelvic floor muscle training session, and kick-start your exercise programme.

Your Date with Exercise: Fun For Busy Mums?

Remember the feeling? – Fitness is the thing. Our goal is inspiring and positive. Motivation is high. We are excited about our new exercise programme…

But now what if today, a week or so in, we haven’t stuck to our promises, we feel despondent and guilty, and we want to chuck in the towel?

We’ve all been there, and as mums we have an extra load of challenges to contend with like tiredness, busyness, and a postnatal body we might not be too happy with.

Well, I’ve got good news! You can get unstuck, and here’s how in two simple steps:

1. Firstly, focus on success. Celebrate the small victories, shout from the rooftops when you have a good session. Tell your friends and family and ask them to give you a cheer. On the flip-side, remember that missing a session – or even a whole week of sessions – doesn’t mean a thing. Get right back on the horse and remind yourself of your goal.

2. Secondly, armed with this unstoppable attitude to exercise, make a date with exercise. Book your sessions in your diary (and into the family diary, the babysitter’s diary, your supporters’ and cheerleaders’ diaries….) You need the structure there to make it a habit.

You know when you plan a holiday, a night out, a dinner party, or anything else fun? By focussing on success and making robust diary plans for exercise, you can to make your exercise as irresistible as those things!

Personally I like to train with friends, so I make an effort to get them excited too (aha now we see why Socialcise was born 🙂 ) I also enjoy wearing nice kit (aha that’s what all the prancing around in cool exercise kit in the videos is about 🙂 ) Whatever does it for you, get that in place so you can love your sessions and look forward to them.

Please come and share your success with your Facebook community when you turn your exercise routine into one of the most fun activities you have planned into your diary.

Happy training!

Katy x

 

This is supposed to be me "committing to my exercise plan". I'm not much of an actor, but you get the idea?!

This is supposed to be me “committing to my exercise plan”. I’m not much of an actor, but you get the idea?!

How to Set a Fitness Goal

If I have two minutes with a mum to support her with exercise, I always encourage her to set a goal. There is plenty of evidence from psychology research that having a clear goal makes a task more enjoyable and keeps us human-beings motivated. And my personal experience of working with mums and other fitness clients is that an inspiring goal can make the difference between success and giving up with an exercise regime.

The more specific the goal the better – for example, doing a 5km on a specific date is far more effective as a goal than wanting to be able to run better. Even more importantly your goal should be positive. Again, extensive research shows that we’re not motivated by avoiding something bad but by something we actively desire. So banish “be less fat” and think “wear a dress I love”. Have fun and love your fitness goal!

Lastly, once you have your goal, share it. Lots of mums find great support from loved ones when they share an inspiring goal and ask for some specific support with it. “Go for a walk with me once a week, buy me a new sports top, congratulate me when I make progress… ” The more people you tell about your goal the more people you have to be your cheerleaders when the going gets tough.

So, tell me, what’s your goal?

We are talking about goals in the Ready Steady Mums Facebook community group this week so come and join in! I’d love to support you.

Happy training!

Katy

Personal Trainer Advice For Mums – Ready Steady Mums

Expert Advice from Ready Steady Mums Personal Trainer Lucy Howlett

Screen-shot-2013-10-29-at-15.39.47Lucy Howlett is one of the experts behind the Ready Steady Mums exercise programmes. She is an advanced kettlebell instructor, dancer, has trained in postural correction and is an expert in post-natal exercise. I love working with her, she is incredibly creative and is constantly developing new ways to help Ready Steady Mums members to actively embrace motherhood.

Today Lucy offered to share some of her experience and expertise as a personal trainer just for mums

Q: What challenges do mums most commonly ask you to help them overcome?

Lucy: Most commonly, my post-natal ladies are looking to get their pre-baby body back as fast as healthily possible. They simply want to reinforce regular fitness training into their life again and with the knowledge that they are doing the right exercises as well as following a healthy diet with the guidance of a fitness professional.

Q: What are the most effective tips you give new mums to help them get started and stay motivated?
Lucy: I advise them to have a healthy diet and do little bits of exercise each day; even just stretches and gentle mobility work. A great initiative is to place post-it notes around the house with words on (pelvic floor, posture: shoulders back & chest up, squats x 10) to encourage adding exercise into your day when you have a minute or two. (Try it and let me know how you get on!)

Q: What parts of the body do mums like to focus on most?
Lucy: I like to train the body as a whole and to use functional training wherever possible as well core conditioning but generally clients ask to focus on …

  • Stomach — to lose weight, tone up and help get the abdominals back in shape.
  • Arms — to have shapely shoulders when wearing nice tops and dresses.
  • Pelvic floor — to condition the muscles again and regain control.

 

Q: Which mums are the most inspiring?
Lucy: I think each Mum who sets time aside to train while bringing up children is inspiring. Also those who are at peace with what is going on in their life with a new baby. Yes, the body is out of shape and that can be very hard to accept but your body has done this amazing thing of growing and giving birth to a wonderful baby. Relax and enjoy the journey towards your goals, however distant they may seem. Little steps still make progress and perseverance is key!

Q: What benefits do your clients most value about getting active?
Lucy: The benefits they enjoy are numerous; increased confidence, feeling invigorated, improved energy levels, relieving tight muscles and postural imbalances (due to lifting children, sitting lots, breast feeding, etc), getting fitter, stronger and healthier for greater vitality! Do contact me if you have any questions or if I can help with your training goals!

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Lucy provides virtual personal training by phone, Skype and email, providing extra motivation and support – in particular if you are following one of the free Ready Steady Mums programmes. Mums who work with Lucy report seeing their energy go up and their spirits soar! She is passionate about helping you to fulfil your potential and you can get in touch and find out about her services and pricing by emailing lucy@liftpersonal-training.co.uk.

Are You Supermarket Savvy?

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Last week a few Ready Steady Mums hit the supermarket with dietitian Laura Clark to myth bust their way through the aisles. Laura our nutrition expert shares the highlights from the tour.

Laura: Supermarkets bombard you with a variety of messages from the minute you walk in. The choice can sometimes feel over-whelming especially when you have a baby in tow and you might be feeling a little sleep deprived.

Give yourself the best chance of making it out the other side with the right foods for your family with these simple tips:

Fruit and vegetables aisles

Variety is the key here and aiming for the magic 5 a day. A portion is generally what you can fit into your cupped hand.

Carbohydrate aisles


Bread/ bread products

  • Choose wholegrain/ wholemeal.
  • Don’t worry about calories – any unadulterated carbohydrate food should take up a 1/3 plate as a portion. Carbs should form part of every meal and there’s no need to stop eating them at a certain time of day.
  • Try a variety of ‘breaded’ products e.g. wholemeal pitta, tortilla wrap, crispbreads e.g. ryvita, bagels.
  • Breaded products with lots of seeds will have a higher calorie content – not a problem unless you’re trying to lose weight.
  • Remember bread isn’t evil but adding salted butter to it doesn’t make it quite so saintly ☺

Cereals

…Can be very confusing. The best advice is to not let the label trick you!

General guide – always compare products per 100g as manufacturer’s portion size will differ:
Per 100g:
Total fat – high >20g; low <3g
Saturated fat – high >5g; low <1.5g
Sugars – high >15g; low <5g
Salt – high >1.5g (0.6g sodium); low <0.3g (0.1g sodium)

  • Look for the words wholegrain.
  • Be aware toasted cereals and those with a high quantity of nuts are going to be high in fat.
  • Some cereals have a surprisingly high amount of sugar but as long as they aren’t coated in sugar or containing a lot of dried fruit, then this isn’t a bad thing unless you’re conscious about calories in an effort to lose a few pounds.
  • Making your own muesli is a good idea – oats, handful of dried fruit, handful of seeds.

Dairy aisle

Dairy is a really important food group for women to maintain peak bone mass. Dairy is high in fat but is an excellent source of calcium and vitamins. Women need 3 serves of dairy a day to meet their calcium needs. A serve is 200mls milk, 1 pot yoghurt or a matchbox of cheese.

Yoghurts

  • Choose low fat or fat free yoghurts for you as these have a lower overall sugar content.
  • Choose full fat dairy foods for baby but still aim for saturated fat to be under 5g per 100g.

Cheese

  • A matchbox size of cheese is a portion – the highest fat ones are the hard cheeses e.g. Cheddar, Babybel, Stilton and Emmental.
  • Healthier cheeses include Edam, feta, Haloumi, half fat cheddar, ricotta, mozzarella, cottage cheese and soft cheese.
  • Cheese is very nutritious and part of a balanced diet but you do need to be a little careful of how much you have.

Protein aisles

Eggs 

A nutritious protein food – no need to limit amount over the course of a week.

Pulses 

An excellent source of protein and fibre which can be added to soups and main meals for extra nutrition.

Meat/ fish

Variety is key – palm of hand is a portion for you and it’s good to have oily fish at least once a week. Do not avoid red meat but choose lean cuts.

Treats!

A few high fat, high sugar foods are part of a balanced diet. Don’t rely on them for energy – ensure you have regular balanced meals instead. But indulge guilt free once in a while and as a general guide aim for no more than 150kcals worth in one go! ☺

Advice From Katy’s Doula

Screen-shot-2013-10-29-at-15.20.55Becca Wickham was with me for my son’s birth, and she’s amazing!

She is a qualified and recognised Doula, having trained with Paramana Doula, and supports mums before, during and after childbirth.
Today Becca shares her advice on coping with, and recovering from childbirth. She draws on her experience helping women to prepare for birth, attending the birth and following-up with mums to make sure they are recovering afterwards.

Q: How does a Doula support mums before, during and after childbirth?

Becca: I provide advice and guidance on how to prepare for birth, physically, mentally, and emotionally. This can include devising and writing a birth plan, giving massage or yoga tuition, and talking through fears, concerns and wishes. Then I offer emotional support and act as the mum’s protector during the birth itself. Then afterwards I help women to regain control and feel like themselves again.

Many mums find their attitude to themselves changes throughout pregnancy and birth. Often they feel an instinctive need to look after themselves more, even if they’ve never focused on fitness, well-being and health before. On the other hand, lots of women who are used to having a lot of control in their lives can find motherhood entirely unfamiliar, and even feel quite lost. My job is to help mums navigate through by being a consistent, caring support.

Q: How do mums usually feel after giving birth?

Becca: Birth is a challenge, physically and emotionally, whether yours is a walk in the park or an absolute slog. It’s the most amazing thing your body will ever do.

Mums may feel overwhelmed by the experience of birth – then add to that the challenges of breast-feeding, a lack of sleep, rushing hormones… Most women say they never predicted how much their body would feel it had changed. They want to do something to feel better again, but it’s often tough just to get started and get active.

Q: How can mums actively embrace motherhood from day 1?

Becca: Most of the mums I have worked with are really grateful for a massage or a hug. It sounds really simple, and it is! Just a way to help mums start to feel better in their new bodies. I also always recommend getting out for a walk as soon as mums feel able (even if it’s snowing like it was when your baby was born Katy!).

Mums need to understand that the more relaxed and happy you feel in yourself the better you’ll get on with motherhood. Give yourself the time and space to do whatever you love doing. Ask for help and take time out to walk, sing, cook, surf the Internet, read – whatever works for you. If you can find activities you enjoy to do with baby too you’ve solved a key early problem. Try dancing round the kitchen?!

Just because you’ve had a baby don’t think your needs no longer exist. I’ve seen women act like they’re under siege. They think they’re solely responsible and guilt is such an issue. Loved ones and friends are critical in many ways, ask them to help. So many mums neglect themselves because they feel that their entire raison d’etre is baby. Keep up friendships and positive activities.

Q: What is your top body tip for new mums?

Becca: Be proud of yourself, your baby, and your body. Stay positive and don’t beat yourself up! If you’ve put on a lot of weight, or think your body has changed beyond recognition, don’t worry. You’ll build it back through progressive exercise and healthy eating. Just take the time to do it properly.

 

Diet? ‘New’ – trition for New Mums…

Eating and exercise BOTH need attention in our quest to be fit and healthy – as we all Screen-shot-2013-10-29-at-15.06.14know very well. Laura Clark is a registered dietitian specialising in nutrition and women’s health including weight management. She combines her nutrition consultancy with part time work in the NHS, and actively embracing motherhood.

Laura’s recommended approach to eating is very effective, and best of all it’s really do-able. She believes that you’ll take care of yourself better with a practical, realistic attitude.

Q: As a new mum yourself, what advice would you give to mums who are keen to get back to their pre baby weight?

Laura: Most importantly, keep it simple!

You constantly need to put your little one first, to think of a hundred things at once, to survive on less sleep – and now is not the time to also be trying to follow a complicated diet that involves any sort of mathematics.

Q: Great, so what simple changes to our diet would really make a difference?

Laura: Here are my top 4 tips that WILL make a difference:

  1. Have breakfast!

    Yes this old chestnut but it really does work ☺

    It has been proven without doubt that people who eat breakfast are leaner than those that don’t. Breakfast time tends to disappear in the foggy haze that is the first few hours of the day with a baby, but it is essential to make grabbing something a priority. If you’ve no time to sit with a bowl of cereal or toast, go for something a little easier to eat whilst multi- tasking – a cereal bar, banana or malt loaf. Breakfast literally breaks the fast and kick starts your metabolism for the day.

  2. Eat 3 meals and 2 nutritious snacks a day

    Have you noticed as a new mum that there’s no such thing as a meal time anymore and that you are tending to graze on food throughout the day? This may also be because you have easy access to the kitchen? Or maybe it gets to 7pm and you realise the last time you ate was morning?

    Grazing might seem like a good idea but in actual fact, you are likely to consume more as unbalanced snacks and ‘a bit of this and that’ will lurch you from one sugar high to the next. Going long periods of time without food isn’t great either – if you’re not hungry for food about every 3-4 hours, it’s a sign your metabolism isn’t working efficiently leaving you more prone to overeating when the sun’s gone down.

  3. Count to 3!

    I know I said it’s best to avoid mathematics when making dietary changes, but hopefully our sleep deprived brains can still manage to count to 3!

    Try to include a food from the 3 most important food groups at each meal – a carbohydrate such as wholegrain bread, pasta, cous cous or rice, a protein such as fish, chicken, eggs or baked beans and some fruit and/or veg. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just balanced for improved well-being and satisfaction! For example, try cream cheese on toast with some cherry tomatoes or hummous with pita bread and carrot sticks. When looking at your plate the 3 food groups should cover equal proportions and to help with portion size, choose a smaller plate!

  4. Notice how many cafes you have been in this week

    Calories we drink often get forgotten. The average milky coffee contains over 200kcals with the ‘skinny versions’ containing over 100kcals. This can soon add up over the course of a week, especially if you have a lot of friends!

Q: I love the common sense of it all! And you’re saying we SHOULD have 2 snacks a day? So snacking is not all bad?

Laura: Excessive unhealthy snacking will of course make you prone to weight-gain, but planned, healthy snacks are essential to keep your nutrition topped up and help to keep your metabolism pumping until your next meal. Good snacks include plain popcorn, fruit, low fat yoghurt or a crumpet with low fat spread.

Q: When is a good time to start dieting? Lots of breast-feeding mums worry about their milk supply for example.

Laura: If you are a very new Mum now is not the time to be restricting your calorie intake too much (can you hear me celebrities?!).

However, it is a myth that you should over-indulge with doughnuts and cakes to boost your milk supply. All Mums need a healthy, nutritious diet to give them essential fuel and nutrients and when breastfeeding additional calories are needed.  However, this additional energy can be achieved through a slightly larger carbohydrate and protein intake at meal times and nutritious snacks such as cheese and biscuits or a milky drink. Medical evidence suggests the most important factor for milk production is in fact hydration. Drink a glass of water every time you feed and whenever you are thirsty in between.

Indulging in high calorie treats might be ok for a while – there must be some perks for new mums surely! But getting into habits where these foods become a significant, ongoing part of your diet will make it much harder to get back on track…. and back into those pre-baby jeans! ☺

I hope you enjoyed my expert nutritional advice just for mums – I provide consultations in Earlsfield or by phone for busy mums, for more check out my website www.lecnutrition.co.uk.