A post this week about our friend Jo sparked a comment from another friend, Louise. Louise has a six month old baby so was reassured (although slightly disappointed) to hear it was possible to fit exercise in as a new mum and you could only use your baby as an excuse for so long. Hearing Louise’s perspective made me realise this is a big issue for a lot of women (still feel weird calling us that) our sort of age so I thought I’d speak to a few people and get some ideas together on how to make it work.
Jo is an excellent example of someone who has a busy job, toddler, hectic home life and a naturally lazy outlook so if she manages to cook from scratch and run four times a week, I genuinely believe most people can find the time.
Now, Chaz and I aren’t mums ourselves but we have a lot of friends who are so we’ve drawn on their wisdom rather than ours as we are not about to start preaching something we know very little about, so trust us that we’ve consulted the experts here rather than lounging around in our child-free homes thinking of ways to punish all the busy, hardworking mums out there.
Whether you have quite a bit of weight to lose or just want to tone up and take some time for yourself, we’ve rounded up a few tips and ideas from friends which may be helpful – please share your own ideas in the comments…
1. Rethink your routine
Thought you weren’t an evening exerciser? Could be time to reassess. Maybe you hated mornings but now it’s the only feasible time you can find for yourself.
Kirsty says she found it virtually impossible to get to the gym in the evenings before having her daughter Hollie because drinking wine while Keeping Up With The Kardashians was a far more pleasing prospect. Now faced with an evening spent dealing with the aftermath of teatime and getting Hollie off to bed the gym seems like a tempting haven so she’d much rather leave her boyfriend to it and take some time off from mum duties to get to a class or a solo training session.
If nights are too busy for you, could you get up before everyone else and do a morning run or DVD before they’re up? Once you’ve begrudgingly dragged yourself out of bed you’ll thank yourself for the time to yourself to get some space, all that early morning peace and fresh air can set you up for a happy day ahead.
2. Listen to your body
Even fitness freak Kirsty waited seven weeks post baby to get back to the gym but she was in for a bit of a surprise. She said: “After I’d had Hollie I couldn’t wait to get back into my fitness regime! I got to the gym, tried my pre-pregnancy workout with much less weight but felt tired and weak and couldn’t imagine ever getting back to what I was before!”
Rather than sacking it off, she decided to take a different approach and enquired about specialist classes at her local leisure centre in Darwen. She found out they ran classes you could take your buggy along to and they were just the thing to ease her way back to fitness and make some good friends along the way.
3. Walk this way
Hannah walks everywhere and Jo’s running routine actually began with some long walks with the pram – lots of mums say it’s too easy to drive everywhere when getting out and about on foot is a leisurely and enjoyable way to burn off extra cals and get some fresh air for the both of you. Take a friend and make the most of nap time, if you can add hills into the mix even better for the burn!
Treat yourself to a really nice pair of trainers to celebrate getting through the dreaded labour, they’ll make you feel cool even if you’re venturing out in stained leggings and holey tees; they may help get you out of the door in the first place too as you might just feel that bit better about yourself.
If you think you don’t have time, could you incorporate walking into journeys you’ll be making anyway? Could you walk your little one to nursery and run home? It may not seem much if it’s only a mile away but a few times a week will make a difference.
4. Look at your options
Most local authorities run classes for mums where you can take the buggy along or use their creche facilities while you work out; many are cheap or even free so do your research and get yourself out there. Speaking to friends Kirsty and Hannah, they made the most of every class they could find and it helped with making friends and staying sane as well as the fitness side of things.
Active Mums in Hyndburn is our local initiative, there are similar things everywhere.
Kirsty was a particular fan of the buggy buddies type of class. She described it as circuits incorporating cardio and strength training which worked well because everyone could work at their own level. She also went to an outdoor bootcamp at a local park in Darwen which saw her and fellow mums walk up a killer hill then do circuits including press ups, tricep dips on benches, running, jumping jacks and lunges with the prams.
She says: “Buggy buddies was every Tuesday and Wheely Fit [boot camp] Wednesday and Thursday so that was my three good sessions a week I’d decided I needed to make a start on shifting the baby weight. The gym was ditched for a while. I made friends with a really good group of girls at these classes, it became a social event as much as a workout, this was great as it made it never a chore to get myself there.
“Also great that my workout was done and dusted by lunch time which left my evenings free for sleeping! When you’re up for night feeds you’re pretty much fit for nothing but bed by 8pm! I carried on with these classes until Hollie was about 14 months old and just wouldn’t sit in the pram any more. By this point I’d also got back into Body Pump once or twice a week in the evenings.”
Kirsty does warn the classes may not be well advertised so it’s something you might have to seek out yourself. She adds: “If I hadn’t called my local leisure centre [Darwen] I’d never had known about them. It’s a shame really because not everyone would have the confidence, or even think about asking about something like that”.
5. Batch it real good
Yup, we managed to get it into yet another post but this was actually suggested by several friends we spoke to so blame them. If you have a couple of spare hours when your partner is around or you can get your mum or a mate over to keep an eye on the little one, batch cooking is a smart way to save yourself time and stay healthy during the week. Choose things you can all eat; a freezer full of homemade ready meals for you and baby will stop you convincing yourself you earned that takeaway because you haven’t had time to cook.
Kirsty has a real system going with boyfriend Andy, she works from home running her own hairdressing business so cooks and preps during the day when she gets chance then leaves instructions out for him to get everything ready for when she gets home from the gym.
6. No excuses
Fitness fanatic Kirsty is mildly unpopular among friends for pointing out where they could find time in their weekly routine to exercise when they moan they’re too busy and is a firm believer that if you want to do something, you can find time. She admits it’s not always easy, but says it’s not even about having kids – life is busy and difficult for everyone; kids are just the biggest and easiest excuse people use to avoid eating healthily and exercising regularly (these are her words, so don’t fall out with me for the tough talk!).
Our friend and running buddy Rachael wanted to get back out there after having one-year-old Danny last year so she started running with the buggy – he loved it, she got to exercise without waiting around for her husband to get home from work.
Hannah and Steff had similar thoughts on making the time for yourself without making excuses. Hannah agreed it’s as important to look after yourself as it is to take care of the baby’s needs. Steff said she was determined to get back into shape so she won’t compromise on that goal. Decide what you want and you can find a way to make it happen – the impact of a healthier, happier you on the entire family is not to be underestimated.
7. Be flexible
Pre-motherhood it was probably easy enough to set aside a certain time to run, go to a class or do a fitness DVD but things aren’t always that structured post-baby. If you’re flexible and give yourself different options like running, exercising at home or getting to a nearby gym, you can still make it work depending on your mood, the weather or whatever else is going on.
Flexibility is handy too if you find yourself unable or struggling to eat or exercise the way you did before. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, just look at all the options and find something that fits in better with your new lifestyle. Could you all go swimming then take turns to do laps while the other plays with the baby? Or could you try fitness DVDs or YouTube workouts while the baby naps if you can’t get out much during the day?
Steff said she’s lucky to have an easy baby, but chooses to work out at home around daughter Erika’s naps. Sometimes Erika will even happily lie on the sofa watching her mum sweat which means Steff can get it done with her around, whatever happens. Steff loves Shawn T’s Hip Hob Abs workout (with the curtains firmly closed) – eight weeks post-baby and she’s got her abs back and is aiming to get her six pack back in a few more weeks. Now that’s dedication – she did stress the importance of staying in shape while pregnant too (she switched from running to the cross trainer when she got bigger, but stuck to five workouts a week up to 38 weeks), she said this made it much easier to pick things up where she left off after having the baby.
8. Get everyone involved
I love P!nk (still using that exclamation mark). I think she’s a great role model for girls and whenever I see pictures of her and her family I like to kid myself I’d be as cool a mum as she seems. She seems to do things differently, I remember her proposing to her then boyfriend, now husband because she felt like it and years earlier refusing to deny she was gay when the rumourmill was in overdrive because she simply didn’t care or want to offend gay friends.
It’s similar to the point above, but there’s something to be said for getting everyone involved in your healthy pursuits. While solo exercise is great for the mind and body, doing something with your kid/s and partner/friends/other family in tow can burn cals without you even noticing and set a nice example for the little ones when it comes to healthy lifestyles. Cycling, walking, jogging, swimming, a game of football or rounders at the park – use your imagination, make a day of it and have some fun.
Our sister Sam is a mum of two who has just started running. She has started doing a weekly Park Run – as her kids are a bit older she takes son Eden, daughter Ebony and husband Pete along with her and it’s become a family routine they all love.
9. Shop smart
Supermarket shopping can be stressful and few of us can find the time to shop locally in those first all-consuming few months of parenthood as much as we’d like to. Hannah said doing her food shop online with Asda (other supermarkets are available) was a lifesaver for her in those months, it saved her so much time to concentrate on more important things than finding the most responsibly sourced tomato in town and meant she could add to her basket as she thought of things rather than tearing round the aisles missing half the essentials in a bid to get out sharpish.
10. Start small To be sustainable, any routine has to seem manageable and not overly daunting. Equally, it’s important to be good to yourself and take it easy after having a baby, especially a C-section. So when it comes to planning exercise and healthy eating regimes, start small and don’t be hard on yourself and you’re far more likely to be successful in the long run. Plenty of time to pick up the pace as you go along, the important thing is focusing on yourself, listening to your body and giving yourself a well-earned break after such an amazing achievement.
11. Embrace the changes and keep an open mind
While all the mums I spoke to said determination and focus was crucial, they also said motherhood brought a shift in attitude, priorities and goals so it was important to go with the flow.
Kirsty explains: “Before I was pregnant I was always aiming to look like a fitness model and just constantly criticised myself. My baby weight came off pretty quickly and I became surprisingly happy with myself! My aim had changed, I didn’t care I didn’t look like a fitness model, I was just happy I didn’t look like I’d just had a baby!”
She’s now got the fitness bug back, training four or five times a week and seeing the benefits to her mind as much as her body. She says: “Andy comes in and takes over with Hollie and I go out to the gym for an hour. I love the training but I also love that time out, just one hour to myself doing something just for me!”
Jo says her main motivation is setting a good example for her daughter Lottie, she wants to have more energy to have fun with her, she wants to cook her food from scratch so Lottie learns to do the same and she wants her to have a healthy relationship with food and her body.
Back to P!nk for more common sense: “I wasn’t in a race (to lose the baby weight). I was really kind to myself because I was actually really impressed with the fact that I had just had a baby, like, I made a human!”
Images taken from Pinterest unless credited