You don't have to join a gym to start getting back into shape - in fact, you can even take your baby along for the ride!
By Emma Redding, Personal Trainer and founder of Buggyfit
I believe the most ideal way for a new mum to get back into shape is by walking. And by that I don’t mean a gentle stroll or a meander around the shops. I mean power walking…
Trainers on and stride out with good posture. You should walk at a pace that allows you to cover between 3-4 miles in an hour. For those of you out exercising with a friend or a group, you need to be able to hold a conversation- just! Make it a weekly or twice weekly date, or join your nearest Buggyfit class, as pictured above.
These simple exercises are suitable once you have had your 6 week GP check, and have clearance from your doctor to exercise.
Because some of our muscles weaken greatly during pregnancy and childbirth, we are often keen to re-tone and strengthen those muscles. It's important to do all these exercises with correct posture.
- Squats (avoid these if you suffered pelvic pain or symphisis pubis dysfunction in pregnancy)
Squats strengthen the butt, thighs and hamstrings – i.e. the backs of your legs. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Keep your spine in a neutral position. Draw your belly button back to your spine; bend your knees to a 90 degree angle, exhaling as you bend. Inhale and return to standing without locking your knees. Repeat 15 times and do 3 sets.
Start on all fours. Place your hands on the floor, slightly wider than your shoulders. Ensuring you keep your belly button pulled back to your spine, lower your upper body to 2” off the floor. Your nose should be in line with your fingertips to get a good position, and to work your chest muscles. Your belly button needs to be pulled back all the time. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Repeat 10 times and do 3 sets.
- Oblique side bends
Hold a food can or small water bottle in one hand. Take the other hand over and rest it between your shoulder blades (elbow pointing to sky). Inhale and pull your belly button back to your spine, allow the weight of the can/bottle to tilt you sideways, bend as far as you can directly sideways, exhale as you drawn your stomach in a return to the original position. Repeat 15 times and then do the same on the other side. Repeat the set 3 times on each side. This works the muscles at the sides of your stomach, called the obliques.
- Pelvic floor exercises
The pelvic floor muscles are a collection of muscles rather like a hammock, and they are made up of slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres which benefit from being exercised at different speeds. The exercises you do should therefore be a mixture of simple lift and release muscle contractions, and gradually lifting the pelvic floor section by section (as slowly as possible – which isn’t easy) then slowly returning to a relaxed position. Do as many of these each day as is possible. Once you get the hang of it, you can even do them in the supermarket queue!
- Pelvic tilts
These can be performed with additional pelvic floor exercises. Lay on your back on the floor, feet flat on the floor by your bottom, knees bent, arms by your side.
Contract your pelvic floor and then tilt, lifting your bottom up and pushing your pelvis as high towards the ceiling as you can. Start with 3 sets of 10 and work up to 3 sets of 20.
Start out lying on the floor in the same position as above, hands on your thighs. Keeping your chin away from your chest and your eyes on the ceiling, breathe out as you raise your upper body towards the ceiling in a slow single count. Before each sit-up, make sure your abdominal muscles are contracted.
Once you have had your GP check (usually around 6 weeks) you can join a class lead by an instructor who is fully qualified in postnatal exercise. This instructor will know all the implications of exercising at this stage of your life, and will be the best person to help you begin your mission to get back in shape.
Buggyfit classes are outdoor exercise classes with a mix of cardio-vascular (fat burning), strengthening and toning for mum - and baby can come along for the ride and fresh air! See www.buggyfit.co.uk for more details.