5 Key Considerations When Returning to Exercise as a Mum with Young Children
Lauren one of our Physio Mums shares her top tips from her experience.
What a year! I’ve been on maternity leave during the COVID pandemic and juggling two children. Can you believe I now have two babies?! My daughter turned 3 and my son has just turned 1. Funnily enough I was reflecting on my time with my new family and feeling very guilty for not getting back into proper “workouts” yet, however, I re-read my diary and realised that I hadn’t done any gym or planned workouts until my daughter was 13 months old either!
People told me that having two kids was twice as hard, I’m here to tell you that I’ve found it 4 x as hard in many ways (mind you I think I would have possibly found just having the one 4 x as hard this year with lockdowns but that’s another article in itself). I feel like I have less time and have certainly had less sleep, I have a lot more washing and I have a lot more “toddler situations” to handle which all take their toll.
But…. I’ve set a goal! I’m going to participate in the no pressure, finish lines not times women’s only triathlon hosted by Balmoral Tri Club.
How???? How on earth am I going to do this????
And I’m also going to tell you that you can too!!!!
So where am I up to? After completing some rehab in the SquareOne mums and bubs classes, I have also ventured into a few sessions of reformer Pilates. I’ve done two recreational cycles with the kids (very slow and steady). I feel ready to start doing some walk/run workouts.
I’ve been down this path before and I’ve already paid the price for doing too much too soon while neglecting nutrition, so I’ve pulled together some advice to help you avoid many common mistakes (ahem my mistakes) and get prepared for this challenge.
Tip 1: The most important things are not even directly related to physical exercise: Nutrition and sleep.
I was told “don’t diet while breastfeeding” and “sleep is more important than the ironing”. Your body needs a few extra calories and you need extra nutrients tending to a little one. Ask your health care professional if you need to take any supplements such as iron or calcium. A good GP, women’s health physio and dietitian combination is important! I’m lucky enough to have all of those people in my life, I just need to make sure I listen to them.
Tip 2: Timing is key.
Yes, you can absolutely breastfeed and be a runner. You will need to invest in a really good bra and also to feed or pump right before running. There are some not so flattering Park Run photos of my large chest which visually demonstrated these points to me if I wasn’t listening to my body and how it actually felt. Once you finish, be sure to rehydrate. If you’re not breastfeeding, it’s still important to stay hydrated in order to fend off premature feelings of fatigue and hunger. If you’re running or working out with bub with you, make sure they are well fed also! A hungry screaming baby will put an end to your workout.
Tip 3: Start slow.
Consider your fitness level and weekly activity in the weeks before delivery and use it as a rough starting point. Just because you ran 40km a week prior to your pregnancy and are once again non-pregnant doesn’t mean that you can jump back into this level (trust me). After getting cleared from your doctor and physio, starting with low impact cardio for 4-6 weeks, you could begin running the average kms you were at 7-8 months pregnant. Didn’t run in the weeks before delivery? No problem (I was wayyyy too big to run after 5 months). Simply start slowly without a weekly mileage goal but rather by listening to your body and using rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Ask your physio to recommend where you should start on the scale and, as you are able, increase the time spent running while decreasing the time spent walking. I’m going to start with a 3km distance but ill break it up into 400m jog then a walk until I start to feel more confident.
Tip 4: Be realistic.
How about trying to set aside 30 minutes a day for exercise, and also allowing yourself to miss a workout if you have to (not 7, just 1). I am going to start with my physio exercises to warm up, then jump on the bike and go slow for 10km for my bike training. For my runs the plan will be to jog for 400m and then walk and repeat for 3km until I’m comfortable running continually. I also need to consider exactly how often I might be able to fit in activity, realistically 3 times per week is all I can manage without my babies in tow, however I could walk every day, as long as it’s not raining or 45 degrees (no these are not “excuses” these are realistic considerations for my kids and our health).
Tip 5: Keep your eye on the prize.
The prize is actually your bub and your health! Yes, the workout is helpful in that you get to enjoy “me” time and mental clarity and peace but don’t become so focused on returning to pre-baby form that you go overboard and get so very worn out and stressed that you can’t care for you and baby. I love the mantra for this upcoming event “finish lines, not finish times”. It means I’ll have no pressure, no stress and the goal is to just do it!
Tip 6: Be patient.
Obviously, this is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do tip. At the end of the day, you will get fitter, faster, burn more calories, and be happier if you avoid injury and go slow. Do they run classes in being patient? I need to sign up if they do.
Happy Swim, Bike, Run everyone!