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.

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… 

For the past few years Crossfit has been a big part of my life and I’ve loved (nearly) every second of it. I loved pushing my body out of it’s comfort zone; making some great friends, challenging myself at competition level and building some much deserved muscle.

When I started Crossfit I was already in love with fitness but craved something more exciting than squats, deadlifts and bench. I was ready to push my body to the extremes and learn some badass new skills like the amazing Crossfit women I’d been obsessing over in recent months. I was also in a different space to where I am now: I lived in the city centre, had less responsibility at work (and home) and was simply of a younger, dare I say it more selfish, mind-frame.

Lately I’ve been questioning whether Crossfit is for me anymore. Do I love it as much as I used to and will I miss it if I turn my back on the community?

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feature-image-mbfdAre you up for a challenge?

2016’s New Years resolution was to learn how to love my body (which you can read here), and even though I’m still not 100% there I can definitely say that I have learnt to embrace, and love, my body shape more than this time last year. I think this partly comes with age, having spent the last 30 years in my body I’m only just realising that the time I spent fighting against my natural body shape and genetics, is time I’ll never get back. And although I don’t regret those years (what use are regrets anyway) I know that I’ll never again have the body of my early 20’s – but that’s okay. The other part comes with training for goals rather than aesthetics.. I admire my body more for being strong than I do for looking good naked. And the best thing, the more functional my body, the better it looks! 

So this year I thought I would go down a different route when setting my New Year’s resolution. Instead of resolving to have a better body, get rock hard abs and hit a certain weight, I’m resolving to have more fun with my workouts by mixing it up a little and trying something new each month.

I’ll still be Crossfitting several times a week but at least once a month I will take on a new challenge. I’ve always wanted to try boxing, aerial silks, stand up paddle boarding, reformer Pilates and pole, and 2017 is the year I plan to make this happen.

So where do I start?

A couple of months back I heard about a brand new company, MagnaPass, through which you can book on to various classes across Manchester without having to be signed up to a membership. Now those of you in London are probably already familiar with the concept with the popular class pass but this is something brand new up North and has opened my eyes to a world of fitness classes and motivation that I never knew existed.

I caught up with founder Adam to find out more…

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What is MagnaPass?

MagnaPass allows you to discover new and exciting active experiences near you, for a more boutique and better quality way to be fit and healthy! We are the central platform for everything our wonderful partners have to offer, whether it’s yoga, rock climbing, HIIT or water sports, a MagnaPass will allow you access to it in your city.

What inspired you to start the business?

Me and my co-founder Sean were frustrated with our experiences in budget, chain gyms, and always thought there must be an alternative to them. The level of training is pretty poor with the majority of budget style chain gyms instructors, we knew there must be better quality elsewhere. You see on social media all these weird and wonderful ways of being active and fit that we’d love to try, but thought there wasn’t anything like it close by.

The fact is, there is plenty of cool activities going on around you that you’re just unaware of! Unless you do extensive searches and a lot of deep digging, you won’t find any of them! So we thought, let’s partner up with the hosts and get more people along to their sessions, and help people get access to better quality fitness experiences to reach their goals!

How does it all work?

We try and be as flexible as possible with our members. First you sign up as a member (completely free), and you get the option to just pay-as-you-go for classes or for block bookings, or purchase a MagnaPass that can be used for over 200 classes at a better rate, which can be redeemed at any time. Classes range from £8-10 on PAYG, but with a MagnaPass, you’re able to get a rate of less than £5 per session.

Why choose a MagnaPass over a regular membership?

Well, with a regular membership, you get access to cold warehouses with no guidance, and nothing motivating you to actually go. Chain gyms make their money by people purchasing a membership, and tying you into contracts without you actually turning up. They advertise classes but over 90% of them are just videos on a wall. There’s so many things wrong, and you won’t reach your goals in the process.

With us, you get guaranteed access to all the sessions we host, covering a wide range of activities and experiences. We have a much more flexible membership structure which can work out cheaper for you, and essentially gets you what you want. Plus, the range of activities on offer is insane! All from better quality teachers and studios that are all in your area – we didn’t know that there is that many quality studios and facilities in Manchester until we got them to Partner with us, and we’re adding to this list weekly!

We’re much more geared towards independent and boutique, quality offerings over poor quality budget locations. I mean, would you much rather go to a session where you’re pushed to your limit and people high-fiving you after, or sit on a machine feeling demotivated, and wondering why you’re there?

What type of classes do you offer?

We feel there is such a great mix of classes and sessions that anyone can find something that they’d enjoy. We’ve got a wide range of good quality sessions in yoga, HIIT, strength and conditioning, to more adventurous activities such as rock climbing, water sports, animal movements – there’s a lot of diversity we want to incorporate into our MagnaPass and hopefully shock people across the country to realise that these activities actually occur nearby!

Your website also has a great blog, what inspires and motivates the team to write this?

I actually chain them to the laptop until they write something good….

… I’m kidding – I think we all have a passion for the vision we’re trying to create. We’re all about quality, healthy and boutique offerings that are going on nearby. Whether it is healthy eating joints, events, new classes and Partners, we want to let the world know!

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into fitness for 2017?

My advice for 2017 is to make the experience enjoyable. No one really enjoys going to the gym on their own, so try new activities and get fit in alternative ways; you don’t have to follow the status quo which we know leads to nowhere. Your body and mind will thank you for experimenting and finding something new to achieve.

I’d also say persistence is key, it doesn’t happen overnight, and surround yourself with like-minded people who will push you to your goals! This time next year you’ll be thanking yourself for allowing you to try new experiences too.

If you could only do one MagnaPass class for the rest of the year, what would it be?

You’ve caught me off guard, this is a tough one! I enjoy a number of different things, last year I really got into my water sports, kayaking in particular at the Helly Hansen Centre, but I also like deep stretching at yoga with any number of our Partners. But, to choose one in particular, I’d have to go with some HIIT with the Lean Fitness guys, they know how to make you put a shift in!

Finally, what more can we expect to see from MagnaPass in 2017?

2017 is where things will really start to take off. You can expect plenty more features on our site, mobile apps loaded with more ways to break a sweat and engage your lifestyle with the fitness community. You can expect plenty more activities we can give you access to that will leave you with no doubt that you’ll leave that cheap gym membership to rest. We’re also throwing plenty of events with our Partners throughout the year, across the country – it’s going to be a hell of a ride and we’d love you to be involved!

2016 was our warm up, 2017 is our cup final!

If you’re based in Manchester and would love to find out more about MagnaPass you can visit their site here. Plus exclusively to My Big Fit Diary readers we have a special offer code. Simply use ‘MYBIGFIT20’ in the MagnaPass store for 20% off – and maybe I’ll see you there!

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If you’ve ever competed in a Crossfit competition then you’ll know it’s tough. 

First there’s the months of hard work you’ll put in at the gym; training once, or maybe even twice a day. You’ll spend that time honing your technique and working on your engine, ready for what ever wod gets thrown your way. Then there’s the time spent in the kitchen, dialling in your nutrition to help fuel your body through this brutal training (and to get lean as f***, of course). Not to mention your daily rom wod, supplementation plan and potentially some hours spent in the pool trying to learn a new skill – tires me out just thinking about it!

But have you ever planned for your recovery?

I’m guessing not (I’m speaking from experience here). In fact, you’ve probably thought about your post comp treat meal more than you’ve thought about your post comp recovery. 

So what should you be doing to make sure you’re well rested post comp and ready to get back to the gym (and training for your next competition) in no time.

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