I’ve experienced this moment twice before. Blood pumping loudly in my ears. Pain screaming from every inch of my tired body. The sweat dripping down my forehead running into my eyes and making me temporarily blind. Tears building in the back of my throat as I realise I’ve achieved something I’ve always wanted. On the first two occasions I was handed an olympic gold medal as a reward. This time, my arms are filled with a slippery pink wide eyed baby. And this time, the after party continued until 2am, 3am, 4am…for the next 9 months!
Making the switch from competitor to mother was both a physical and mental change. The last 8 years of my life has been spent with my world revolving around my Olympic dream. Living the life of a selfish athlete, leaving no stone unturned in my pursuit of Olympic excellence. As a parent the world can no longer revolve around me. However, after a few weeks of blissful bleary-eyed cuddles with Logan I found myself yearning for physical activity. I also physically and mentally rely heavily on daily training and felt ready to pull on the (slightly tighter) lycra. After getting the all clear from my doctor to start training I slowly started to get back into exercise.
The first complication was one of time. With the unpredictable napping schedule of a young baby I was left with small pockets of time throughout the day where I wasn’t sleeping, eating or changing nappies. In these early months I created 10 minute circuits that I could do without equipment. An example of this would be a minute on glute bridge, front plank, side plank L, side plank R and bodyweight squats repeated twice. Before having Logan I would have turned my nose up at the value of a 10 minute session. However, sustaining a daily, or twice daily habit of using small pockets of time is a great first step to getting back into training.
Apart from time, location became another barrier. Gone are the days of leaving the house for a 4 hour bike ride, swim, run, climb, kayak… In order to be around for Logan I’ve adapted my training to allow me to train from home. Setting up my bike as a turbo trainer or using an indoor rowing machine excitingly seem to have the added benefit of lulling Logan to sleep with the white noise they generate! But when Logan is awake and in a playful mood it’s also possible to include him in the circuit. Squats, sit ups, lunges and side lunges can all be made into playtime with Logan as added resistance (and a growing resistance as he steadily grows)!
The biggest change in getting some exercise into my day is probably the most enjoyable – creating opportunities to get out and about with Logan as part of our routine. Walking or jogging with the buggy, hiking with baby in a sling or backpack, getting a baby seat on a bike and going for a cycle ride. Getting fresh air and simply getting out of the house in the first year can be fantastic physically but also psychologically.
Looking after your emotional health in this period is incredibly important too. I consider training or exercising as part of being the best mum I can be. Time taken for myself at the beginning of the day energises me after a sleepless night and revives my ability to make the rest of the day about the new centre of my universe! For me, exercising isn’t about returning to a ‘post baby body’ or ‘getting back into shape’. Getting stronger, fitter and more in touch with my body after Logan is all part of feeling the happiest and most confident mum I can be. Logan watching and being part of this can only put him in good stead for a love of exercise when he grows up.
My top tips to stay fit as a new Mum
- Use ‘tummy time’ to get on the floor with your baby and have a stretch.
- Be kind to yourself, don’t expect to be at the same level you were pre baby.
- Don’t feel selfish, you need a window of time for you.
- Join a mother & baby fitness group. A double-whammy of social interaction and exercise.
- Simply getting out of the house for a walk in the fresh air is great for mother and baby.
- Get your little one to join in, money can’t buy a weight that increases week-on-week!
- Make the most of small pockets of time. 10 minutes is enough!
- Take your time. Don’t rush back into exercise, you’ll know when it’s right.
- When your baby is older get out and about on a bike or hiking with baby in backpack.
- Be proud of what your body has achieved and don’t compare yourself to other mums!