A guest post by Shakira Akabusi
It’s 2015 and with Active Pregnancy’s promoted as the healthiest way to complete your three trimesters, women are finding themselves encouraged more then ever to get out and get moving! Having always maintained an active lifestyle I knew I would need to accept certain changes in my body postpartum, However with incredible role models such as Jessica Ennis-Hill and Jo Pavey, I was inspired to not only keep active whilst pregnant, but also reintroduce a fitness programme quickly after birth.
Some women repeatedly asked me ‘Why are you so obsessed with getting back into shape’ adding ‘you’ll have far more important things to worry about after having a baby?’ They didn’t seem to understand that exercise for me isn’t just about dropping a dress size, it’s about regaining a sense of self and enjoying the renewed mobility of my body. Being a mother shouldn’t mean you cease to be an individual, should it?
THE FIRST STEP
People seem shocked when I tell them that I started working out immediately after birth but I mean it. Only hours after my son was born I began exercising by working on my pelvic floor. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) recommends that, ‘if pregnancy and delivery are uncomplicated, a mild exercise programme consisting of walking and pelvic floor exercises may begin immediately.’ I do remember feeling apprehensive that it may be too soon to start squeezing up in that area, however I soon discovered that it was not as uncomfortable as I had imagined. I worked on my Pelvic Floor 3-5 times a day for 5 minutes and definitely felt the benefits! Resuming pelvic floor work soon after labour helps to reduce swelling and speed up the recovery process.
THE NEXT STEP
I went for my first walk the day after I got home from the hospital. I strapped my baby in the sling and off we went with the dog and a group of friends. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I didn’t have aches and pains but for me keeping active has always had a healing, calming affect. Labour can be incredibly stressful and I needed to get my head into a positive space before tackling my physical objectives, and fresh air played a major role in this. My general advice for any other new mothers looking to get fit, would be not to run before your 6 week check (when you can be cleared for exercise). However, every body is different and some women can engage in exercise sooner then others, as such I actually went for my first jog only two weeks postpartum.
An important thing to note is that during pregnancy your body develops a hormone called Relaxin and this will remain in your body for months after labour and for breastfeeding mothers even longer. Relaxin’s main roll is to loosen the joints in preparation for labour meaning women who have recently given birth must be aware that their joint stability and strength will be compromised. Lifting heavy weights is to be avoided along with high impact exercise or hill climbs. My first jog lasted only 12 minutes and was all flat ground. Despite the short time frame and the very short distance covered It was good to be back on my feet and moving anywhere at a slightly quicker pace. It takes time to build back your pre-pregnancy fitness levels but these 12 minutes were crucial in reminding my body how to move and letting my mind know I could do it!
The biggest excuse I hear from women with children as to why they can’t workout is that they don’t have time to hit the gym. Honestly, I didn’t workout in a gym for months after giving birth. I stayed at home and used every day objects such as cooking pots, tin cans and even a broom to progress my workouts. Getting creative is crucial if you’re exercising at home! A quick tip is to start by using levels, For example, standing on a chair to do squats allows you a bigger range of motion then standing on the floor. My house became my gym and every day objects my dumbbells! For more at home workouts visit my Instagram or Youtube channel where I’ll be adding more videos all the time!
STRONG LIKE MUM
More recently as Rio is getting a little older and more mobile I have had to take my workouts to a new level. Picking up a chair to shoulder press isn’t cutting it as I am constantly having to look over my shoulder for Rio climbing onto the sofa or racing for the dog’s water bowl. So a few months ago an idea hit me and a new way or working out took off! I started exercising WITH my son! Using his body-weight as my dumbbell and wow how that challenged my body! Ever heard of Functional Training? Well this is it at it’s peak! Rio and I workout together 3-4 times a week and we always have so much fun! I lift Rio up to work on my shoudlers, or swing him low to target my quads. I kiss him on the nose with every press up and chase him with frog jumps as my cardio! Working out with Rio has turned exercise into a fun game for us to enjoy together, whilst allowing me to get the results I’m after physically too! Again, plenty of my Mum and Baby workouts can be found via my Instagram page, Youtube Channel or Website.
Remember, exercise has been proven to lift a persons mood, release tension and improve sleep! All of which are crucial for a healthy well rounded lifestyle. I grew up surrounded by active people and good food, and in a world where technology is evolving I think it’s so important to encourage the younger generation to think and feel active. It’s never too early to get started and what better way then to lead by example. For more tips on working out postpartum check out my website www.stronglikemum.com where you can sign up now for your FREE POSTPARTUM FITNESS GUIDE.