It’s no secret that I struggled to return to exercise postpartum. 

Exercise was a huge part of my life before I became pregnant, and even throughout my pregnancy, so it was hard to come to terms with my struggling body and major lack of motivation due to sleep deprivation.

Early mornings had never been my strong point and they were now taking their toll more than ever.

Besides my daily walks, which helped to keep me active, it wasn’t until around 5 months postpartum that I finally plucked up the courage, and the energy, to attend a fitness class (and in all honesty, I’m glad I didn’t rush back into it). 

My friend and fellow Mum, Liz, started her own Fit Mum business after having her baby Samson, and it seemed like the perfect fit. A Crossfit inspired class which would support my return to fitness and work with my new ‘Mum bod’, whilst helping to build up my confidence under the bar again.

So in honour of my return to fitness, this weeks #fitmum interview is with the lovely, super fit – Liz. We met at the very start of our Crossfit journeys around four years ago in Manchester. I was a newbie to the fitness world but Liz was already a professional Dancer, teacher, and all round fitty!

Your son, Samson, is two years old now – can you remember what it was like returning to exercise after giving birth?

After having Samson I was desperate to get back to working out and exercising. Training was a huge part of who I was and I suppose I was trying to prove something to myself. I did my first workout 12 days after labour following an app which involved some core work and press-ups and by day 25 I was clean and jerking heavy-ish weights during weightlifting classes!

The fact that I was even taking part in a weightlifting class 3 weeks after birth is ridiculous. Looking back, and knowing what I know now, I was so lucky I didn’t hurt myself. I was trying to bounce back way too soon. I felt weak, frustrated and was constantly pee-ing. Throughout the first few weeks I would go from huge highs to crying whilst working out. Frustrated that my body wouldn’t do what it could and that I didn’t look the same. 

 

Did becoming a Mum change your attitude to exercise and your body?

100%. Firstly I appreciated being able to workout. Any new mum will know the overwhelming feeling of ‘holy crap my whole life has changed,’ so an hour of normality and ‘me time’ was brilliant and needed.

And also the reason and focus for exercising changed. Pre-baby I spent a lot of time frustrated at what my body couldn’t do as opposed to now, where I am in awe of what it can do, especially after having a baby. I have taken the pressure off myself and it’s resulted in becoming fitter and stronger than before. I am more body confident than I have ever been. Don’t get me wrong, I have days where I miss my pre-baby boobs and sometimes complain about my lose skin, but I love my body. I eat well (mostly) and train roughly 3 times a week. This is how my body is supposed to be and I am happy with that. 

Tell us a bit about your new business venture…

I run BreakThrough Fitness, taking the usual fitness classes and PT sessions, but we specialise in FitMum classes. Mums can come and train whilst their babies and children nap, watch and play. 

And what led you to set up your business after having a baby?

I originally started the FitMum classes as a way to keep busy during my maternity leave (I was a full time teacher at a college at the time but also coached CrossFit classes on the side). When planning for a baby I really worried with how I would cope on maternity. I knew I wouldn’t do well stuck in the house full time and so FitMum was a project to keep me active and focused. It was brilliant. I managed to miss the baby blues and rarely felt low or down. It meant I was surrounded by like-minded mums and it helped me feel like me. I enjoyed coaching these classes and continued doing so when I went back to work.

Unfortunately, just after my son’s 1st birthday my partner and I split up. This meant everything was turned upside down. This was an extremely sad time, however, after a low there is always a high, a silver lining. Being a single mum (with the support of some amazing people of course), I decided to go for it, quit my job and launch into my new passion full time. I started BreakThrough Fitness. I chose the name as it represented a Break from the normal mum image, a Break from mum life, and a Break from the pressure to give up ‘you’ when becoming a mum. I wanted to be a strong female role model for my son and to help others feel the same. 

How do you structure your classes to ensure they are suitable for women at different stages of motherhood?

My own training and background is CrossFit (constantly varied, functional movement at high intensity). Within this training every move is scaled up or down depending on a members ability. This lends itself perfectly to mum classes. For example if the program has squats in it, a new mum would do body weights squats by sitting onto a box and standing up, whilst focusing on developing the pelvic floor/core strength and hitting the correct movement patterns. Whereas a mum with older children would have a heavy barbell on their backs and hitting several reps. 

Each class consists of a fun group warm up, a skill/strength section tailored to each individual and finished with a sweaty workout. Everyone works at their own pace, no scores taken and NO competition. The class goals are simple: move well, stay safe and get sweaty! 

The babies and toddlers watch on and mums tend to them when needed. It’s not unusual for a mum to be feeding in between exercises or for me to be running round with a pram and toddler on my hip. The group helps each other to get the best workout possible. And one of the added bonuses is the children grow up seeing this. They copy us. We have toddlers performing burpees and perfect squats and wanting to learn more. 

So, how long after having a baby, should a woman wait to work out?

The general rule is to start the classes or light exercises 6 weeks after birth (as long as there haven’t been any complications). I always advise Mums to ask for a 6 week check-up. At this point the focus is on building core and pelvic strength and being aware that your muscles and joints are looser (due to the hormone Relaxin) so heavy weight should be avoided. Also you should be checked for ab separation (diastasis recti) as this would mean some exercises should be adapted. 

Are there particular exercises you recommend to most new Mums?

Squats, lunges and hip raises! Through pregnancy you often lose strength around your core and butt. It is vital to regain this to help improve posture, reduce back pain and to look good naked!!

What three tips would you give to any Mum returning to exercise after giving birth?

1. Time is a healer. Do not expect or want to get into your pre-pregnancy jeans quickly – it’s biology (unless you’re one of the lucky few who ‘bounce back’). Your body has just grown a person. Your hips have widened, you ribs have moved further apart, your nose may have even grown (yes that’s a thing). Give your self time to recover! At the beginning ensure you see exercise as a healer and a way of building strength rather than fast track to slim. 

2. Take a picture in your underwear before you start! This may seem odd but you’ll have days when you need to see how far you have come. Remind yourself what you have achieved. 

3. Find a class / sport that you enjoy. Mum life is hectic, unpredictable and exhausting. You need to find your love of exercise or it will easily become last in your priority list. If you feel your motivation lacking, try something else. Do not stop moving. You may find a love for running, an hour by yourself letting your mind wander. You might, like me, enjoy throwing heavy barbells around in a busy class whilst listening to The Greatest Showman soundtrack – too distracted to think about what else I have to do that day. There are so many options……but try FitMum first obviously!

If you live in the Greater Manchester area and are looking to start working out again post birth, don’t forget to check out Breakthrough Fitness’ Fit Mum classes.

sustainable gifts

Sustainability has been a hot topic for 2018. You can’t turn on the news, scroll through Instagram or read a magazine without hearing/reading about it. First we had the war on plastics, quickly followed by the rise of the flexitarian and the backlash on fast fashion. 

Never has there been a better time to consider how much you consume and how it might be affecting the planet.

So this year, instead of my usual health and fitness gift guide I wanted to do something a little bit different and think about how we can buy more sustainably at this time of year.

So this years ‘gift guide’ won’t contain the latest Lulu or the next fitness fad (unless a months subscription to your favourite fitness class is your thing!). Instead it’s full of gift ideas for the eco warrior in your life and tips on how you can consume more consciously this season.

(don’t forget to click on the links to shop)

  1. Give your gift receiver a head start and encourage them to be more sustainable in 2019 with an Eco friendly tool. I’ve personally got a Swell water bottle on my Christmas list this year but other ideas include a Keep Cup for the coffee lover in your life, reusable straws for your smoothie loving sister, or a slogan tote bag for your fashionista friend. 
  2. Sustainable Beauty products. I’ve been swapping some of my favourite personal products for more sustainable options this year. My favourites are Lush cosmetics shampoo and soap bars but there are so many more popping up on the market this year.
  3. This was mentioned by This Life and Me on her Instagram stories and I’m in complete agreement. Babies don’t need a sack full of presents when they are still young – Christmas is just another day to them. So don’t go mad – a few gifts in a stocking are sufficient, or why not create a Christmas Sensory Box to keep them entertained on the big day itself – you’ll thank your past self when you’re running around making drinks for guests and trying not to burn the roasties.
  4. But, if you do decide to buy your baby a toy this Christmas why not ditch the plastic and opt for a wooden toy instead – I love these stacking jungle animals. And lets face it, they look better and won’t ruin the aesthetics of the nursery you unleashed your inner interior designer on.
  5. Secret Santa has been an office staple for years but why not bring it into the family home this year? Set a budget, pop names into a hat, and go get your chosen name something they’ll love. You could even use an online generator such as Draw Names which allows you to add a wish list or ‘hobbies’ and ideas to help the gift buyer out.
  6. Give the gift of experience. For my friends 30th this year I bought us tickets for a pottery class in Manchester, we had so much fun together and both got a jug to take home with us at the end. Fitness events, class pass, afternoon tea vouchers, gig tickets, and massage/beauty treatments are some of my other personal favourites.
  7. Fancy yourself a bit of a baker or lover of homemade beauty potions? Then go handmade this Christmas. There’s nothing better than a gift that has had a lot of time and effort put into it – you could even make my delicious, healthier gingerbread men from last year. 
  8. As a child I would spend hours flicking through the Argos catalogue, making a list of my favourite toys to leave on the kitchen table for my Mum to see. So why not make a list as an adult – it might not be very British of us but it means that if someone wants to buy you a gift, then at least you’re receiving something your really want and need, rather than an item that could end up in the bin come January 1st. (I’m not going to lie, I still tell my parents what I want at 31!)
  9. Something to last. One of the few gifts I’m buying my daughter this year (alongside a wooden toy and book) is a personalised Christmas stocking that will last her for years to come. I’m already looking forward to pulling it out every year and making it a tradition.
  10. Donate to Charity. If you’re a true Christmas angel then you might want to think about asking your friends and family to donate to a chosen charity this year instead of buying you a gift.
  11. This ones more of a top tip than a gift idea but did you know that wrapping paper isn’t recyclable? No? Me neither. I’m using last years leftovers to wrap my presents this year but next year I’ll definitely be jumping on the brown paper trend – you can find some stylish wrapping ideas on Pinterest (but please don’t throw any leftovers out for a sustainable version, that’s just missing the point).

How are you being more sustainable this year? Let’s chat in the comments below 🙂 

It seems like every (fitness) influencer is announcing their pregnancy at the moment – with the lovely, Australian vlogger, Sarah’s Day, being the very latest to break her news and share her journey to the ultimate “milflife” (Congratulations Sarah!). 

As a new Mum myself, it’s amazing to have so many likeminded women in the industry who are going through a similar life stage, which is why I’ve decided to launch my very own fit Mum series just for you. 

As part of the #fitmumdiaries I’ll be speaking to some of my favourite health and fitness influencers to bring you everything from working out during pregnancy to returning to exercise postpartum. 

So to kick us off, I got in touch with the beautiful Carly Rowena, to catch up on her fit Mum (to be) journey and to help me dispel the myth that working out when pregnant can be harmful to your baby.

Carly Rowena

Welcome Carly.

I’m so excited to have you on my blog to impart some of your wisdom on my readers. You’ve been a favourite fitness influencer of mine for years now and I, along with thousands of others, can’t wait to follow your journey into motherhood.

You’ve famously exercised throughout your pregnancy and I’d love to find out a bit more about what you’ve been doing differently at the gym and how you feel about your new body and beyond…

I Crossfitted myself for years so know how brutal some of the wods can be, how have your workouts changed since you became pregnant?

I am so thankful for my CrossFit box as in all honesty I feel so supported and lucky that I am still smashing WODS at 32 weeks pregnant. To be completely honest you judge your body, your mind and the workouts daily. During trimester one I felt nauseous and light headed so kept the same weights but increased rest time, during trimester two I felt like superwoman so reduced the rest time, upped the weights but removed core movements and now in trimester three I feel much more breathless, less energy and of course my bulging bump gets in the way so most of my exercises have been scaled, no core, gymnastics or overhead heavy movements.

You’re trademark abs have become infamous online, how have you coped with the constant changes pregnancy has made to your body? 

I remember when i first found out that I was pregnant that I had a little panic about ‘who’ I was going to be on social media, not because my abs define me but because to be totally honest Im not a model, I don’t know how to pose and that body was all I’d known since being on social media so I worried that I didn’t know what my identity was going to be moving forward. I think the first trimester is hardest because you’re trying to keep it a secret, you’re permanently anxious and feel ridiculously bloated, I was so aware that someone would comment. Then once it’s public I think you’re just itching to have that first sign of a bump, I’m truly going to miss it and somedays think that perhaps I don’t want to go back to abs! 
 

carly rowena abs 

You’re a PT yourself, so what advice do you have for anyone wanting to workout during pregnancy?

Simply put, do as you always have. Once finding out I was pregnant all I did was adapt and scale the workouts I had always done, I maintained my daily dog walks and added a couple of swimming or yoga sessions as the pregnancy progressed. So if you have always ran, loved a certain class or gone to the gym keep doing it throughout your pregnancy as it will help you maintain routine, boost endorphins, mental health and of course maintain a strong, healthy body for labour. If you didn’t do any exercise prior to falling pregnant then I wouldn’t recommend starting CrossFit or marathon training, I would however book yourself into some pregnancy yoga classes or perhaps invest in a pre & postnatal qualified trainer. 
 
 
I love your 360 approach to health and fitness. 

Outside of the gym, which three things do you think have helped you to maintain a strong and healthy body throughout your pregnancy?

I’m all about functionality and for me exercise isn’t a chore, it’s as important to my day as eating, sleeping. Exercise is simply movement so if I can’t make it to my CrossFit box or to the gym I’ll go for a longer walk, park further away from my next meeting so that I can walk there or follow a routine online when I get home. Since falling pregnant I’ve definitely noticed that your back, glutes, shoulders and pelvis need a lot more love so I’ve been focusing on moving those parts as soon as I wake up and before I go to bed which I think has really helped. 

I received some negative comments about how I might be harming my baby by working out whilst pregnant, this must have been especially hard for you being online. 

How do you cope with these type of comments?

It was something I new was going to happen and to be honest it’s only 0.01% of my following yet for some reason those comments always stick with you the most. The thing is that pregnancy and motherhood is something so many people have gone through so EVERYONE has an opinion and it’s very easy to type it from behind a screen or phone. I had people telling me that I was killing my baby, that I was putting pressure on women, that all I cared about was keeping my abs, these people simply don’t know me and I just had to brush it off and focus on the positive. 
 
And finally, what are you most looking forward to about being a Mum?
 
I’m just so excited to be a kid again, i always think that children bring back your fun, carefree side and I’m so excited to be silly, switch off from social media and grow with him or her. 

Thanks Carly, I’m sure all our readers will be wishing you all the best in the final stages of your pregnancy and we can’t wait to be introduced to baby Bustin!

Did you workout during pregnancy like Carly? We’d love to hear your experience below… 

‘You’re eating for two these days’.

Growing up, when I was first starting to become conscious of my body, weight and looks, I used to think to myself, ‘man, I can’t wait to be pregnant so I can eat anything I want and not care’. Fast forward 10 years with a real life baby growing inside of me and I’ve realised that simply isn’t the case. 

Yes, I may let myself have a few more treats than I did before I was preggers, but I’m conscious that I need to be nurturing my body, and my baby, as much as possible, so aim to keep my main meals full of veggies!

Breakfast

I’ve always been a breakfast person, but these days I wake up absolutely ravenous. 

My breakfast would normally consists of a bowl of oats, mixed berries, honey and peanut butter; all consumed at my desk. But as I was working from home on this particular day, I decided to make use of the extra time by making a nutritious home cooked breakfast (it’s always nice to mix it up a bit midweek).

So for breakfast today I had a 2 egg turmeric omelette with mashed avocado mixed with lemon, salt, and chilli flakes. Accompanied with a banana, peanut butter, and nut-milk shake. 

Snack

I’d love to say that breakfast filled me up, and it did for a while, but as I had my breakfast early (around 7am) I was hungry again by 11am so I decided to make myself a little snack. 

I had an Alpro soya yoghurt, and a small tangerine (I am obsessed with all things orange at the moment, in fact, it’s the only craving I’ve had during this pregnancy).

Lunch 

Most days I have lunch already prepped, ready to pop in the microwave and go, and today was no exception.

I had a small bowl of vegetable Paella from one of my current favourite books – ReNourish. I’m hoping to do a full review of this book once I’ve read from cover to cover, but for now I’ve tried several recipes and can honestly say I love each and everyone one of them.

Some healthy eating recipes contain an insane amount of ingredients, some of which simply aren’t store cupboard friendly, but this book contains a variety of easy to make recipes. This Paella recipe in particular will last you for days, I can easily get 6 or more meals out of it.

…today I topped it off with some rocket – gotta get those greens in.

Dinner

Today we had some friends over, so ate quite late. We had another recipe from the ReNourish book – a delicious Shepherd’s pie topped with sweet potato and a side of veg. 

What I love about this book is that most of the recipes can be made with meat, or without. The Shepherd’s pie is a prime example and details the substitution. As you know I don’t eat meat, so made this with Quorn mince and lentils.

Choc O’clock! 

Before I fell pregnant I used to be quite strict with my treats, only allowing myself a square (or two) of dark chocolate during the week, but allowing myself to relax a little at the weekend.

Now I’m pregnant, I have released the chocolate fiend inside of me and allow myself to eat some everyday – without feeling guilty.

Today’s treat came in the form of a Malteser’s bunny – one of my favourites.

What do you eat in day? Do you allow yourself to have daily treats?

Should you be doing that? Are you harming the baby? You should be taking it easy… are just a few things I’ve seen bounded around the internet when browsing my favourite fit mamma’s Instagram accounts.

It seems that exercising whilst pregnant is still a contentious topic, with many questioning whether or not it can have a negative effect on your body and that of your unborn baby. 

Now I must add a disclaimer to say I’m not an expert and the following is just my opinion. If you want to learn more around the subject then please undertake your own research and always consult your doctor before taking up a new exercise routine, especially whilst pregnant.

Personally, I am of the opinion that exercising whilst pregnant can be beneficial. Providing you are fit and well, and are already well versed in your chosen exercise or sport, I see no reason to stop training.

As you all know my exercise routine consists of a high volume of weight training supported with short circuits, mainly made up of kettle bell and bodyweight exercises, for quick cardio bursts.

Now I can’t speak for all types of training and sports, but after doing and learning more about my preferred training style over the last five years, there are several things that I have taken into consideration since becoming pregnant. If you’re pregnant, and want to continue to exercise throughout, then the following points may be things you want to consider too…

  1. Listen to your body – This has to be top of my list… if something doesn’t feel right, I simply stop and don’t do it. You know your body better than anyone else, so tune in and listen up.
  2. Make modifications – Certain exercises require modifying. For example, burpees are now performed to a box and chest exercises are done upright rather than lay on my back.
  3. Decrease weights – When it comes to compound lifts I try not to go any heavier than 50% of my pre-pregnancy weights. Most days this seems to work, however, sometimes I need to listen to my body, rather than my ego, and go even lower than that. So take it day by day.
  4. Don’t max out – If I need to use a weight belt, wraps or ask for a spot then I’m probably pushing myself too hard. There’ll be plenty of time to smash some PB’s after the baby is born.
  5. Focus on form – Rather than smashing out weights as hard and as fast as I can, I try to make sure that my form is correct and I’m feeling the movement in the right parts of my body. So set yourself up properly and take it slow.

To finish off this post I thought it would be nice to reach out to my fellow bloggers (some of which happen to be excellent Personal Trainers) to get their thoughts on the subject. Find out what they had to say below.

Blogger, PT and personal friend, Emma, from Weights and Wine says: “As a PT currently qualifying in my pre and post natal I’ve seen a lot of advice and guidance on training intuitively and listening to your body. I think that’s key in pregnancy. Adapting your workouts and being confident in knowing what your body can do.” 

Blogger and Mum, Mary, from A healthier Moo commented: “I discovered that there were quite a lot of people who were not so keen on me continuing to run during my pregnancy last year. Mainly those from older generations. I wrote a post called ’14 things you should know about running during pregnancy’ on my blog at the time.” Find out more here.

Blogger and PT, Vicki, from Vicki Mellard PT advised: “As a PT that is qualified in Pre and Post Natal I think it is really beneficial both for the mum and the baby for her to keep as fit and healthy as she can, and exercise plays a part in it. It all depends on the individual and I would always say seek advice but if someone has trained before pregnancy they can do so whilst pregnant it’s all about making modifications and listening to your body. I have come across ladies who are scared to train because they are unsure of what to do but with my guidance they are able to do so with no harm. So yes it is ok as long as all is ok with the pregnancy & the mother feels confident and safe to do so, ask for help if needed.”  

PT and blogger Elizaflynn.co.uk said: “I work specifically with pre and natal clients and I’ve found with pregnancies, everyone is different – from their attitude to what they’ve previously done, to how fit they are currently, to their expectations etc. I agree that it’s wise to listen to your body but I would also say that one thing people can under-estimate is how much they should be stretching. it’s so easy to ‘over-stretch’ when you’ve got loads of relaxin in your body and you often don’t realise it until after. Anything which puts pressure internally is a big no-no.”

Blogger Helen from HelsBels commented: “I don’t think that there should be anything controversial about it – it’s beneficial to keep fit and healthy, it’s simply about respecting your limits and being a bit more cautious.”

GP and blogger, Jess, from Twins in Trainers says: “I’m a GP and find there’s not that much useful information for patients on exercising in pregnancy – it also definitely seems to divide opinions!”

Discover her awesome blog post on exercising and running in pregnancy here.

In a recent blog post blogger and fellow Mum-to-be, Alana, advised: “Don’t worry if you feel unfit. There’s various things going on that mean your heart might race just walking up the stairs and even one press up could feel hard, and that’s ok. In my case this didn’t really come as a surprise given the dramatic change in my exercise routine. My advice would be to not be disheartened and just take your time during your workout.” 

Check out her post on exercising in the first trimester here.

Are you a Mum-to-be? If so, I’d love to hear how you’re finding working out whilst pregnant in the comments below 👇👇👇