Before falling pregnant with my second child I wasn’t happy with my body. After I had my baby I wanted to slap some sense into that woman! I despised my new reflection in the mirror, my new body shape and the extra weight. I wished the scales were telling lies.
My Facebook feed taunted me with headlines like, “Blake Lively looking glamorous after having her second child.” Or, “Sign up now to lose the baby weight in just 10 weeks”. And so began the body image and confidence issues that were soon at the top of my mind, every minute of the day. I decided to do something about it straightaway.
I wanted to lose the baby weight straight away
Before falling pregnant with baby number two I did a ‘learn to run’ course. I went from being a terrible runner who did not enjoy running at all, to someone who actually looked forward to running and could run 5km.
A rocky start to my pregnancy, followed by severe back pain and pubic symphysis pain meant that running, and exercise in general, were put on the backburner. I simply couldn’t move or do anything as basic as vacuuming or grocery shopping. Even getting out of my car was tough.
But once I had my baby, most of the issues disappeared and I was determined to run 5km again. I felt good. I felt invincible. I wanted to lose the baby weight straight away, so I signed up to ParkRun at three months postpartum. I thought it was a brilliant idea.
I rocked up to my first ParkRun, I took selfies at the start line. I was back! This was my first step to getting back to my normal me. But my pride crumbled fast after completing the run. My over-zealousness caused me a lot of pain and injury to both knees. My physiotherapist told me that with no muscle tone due to a long period of little exercise, I had absolutely nothing to support my knees when my feet pounded the pavement. It was a long road to recovery which I could have avoided if I didn’t go on that run and was easier on post-baby body.
The safe way to ease back into exercise
I had a chat with Annaliese Carter, Owner & Club Manager at Snap Fitness Redcliffe, who put a lot of things into perspective and provided some advice I wish I had taken beforehand.
“The pregnancy journey is a gruelling one. Women need time to bounce back mentally and physically and for the muscular and skeletal structures to fall back into a less stressed state. Muscles need time to correct their balance,” says Annaliese.
Simple movement sessions to ease back into exercise
Annaliese recommends a few simple home exercises to help mums ease back into a physical routine. She suggests that only when you feel up to it should you start increasing the speed of your exercises and reduce your rest breaks.
- Shoulder presses
- Child lifts
“Activation of core muscles as often as possible during and post pregnancy is essential,” says Annaliese. It helps to remove pressure and tension from the lower back as well as helping to reduce the amount of abdominal separation.”
But in trying to gain your pelvic and abdominal strength back, Annaliese advises against jumping and bouncing exercises as they put excessive pressure on the legs and lower abdomen. “During pregnancy, joints are a little laxer and flexible to accommodate a growing baby which is why avoiding high impact exercise soon after birth will help you avoid injury,” says Annaliese. I wish I had listened to this advice.
“Work within the limits of your body and don’t expect miracles, says Annaliese. As much as it is important to maintain your fitness levels post-pregnancy, new mums are the only ones that know their own limits. It’s also important that mums have received the go-ahead from their doctors and specialists too,” she says.
I stopped rushing to lose the baby weight
My over-determination, constant negative self-talk about my body and subsequent injury has been a wake-up call and less than subtle reminder to take the pressure off myself to lose weight. Putting things into perspective has helped me change my view on post-pregnancy weight loss. What use am I to my family if I’m hobbling around in pain, depressed and unhappy?
I’ve lost five kilos with light exercise and healthy eating and although I have another 10 kilos to go, I’m not in a hurry. I feel a lot better for taking it slow. I regularly remind myself how my extra weight got there in the first place – not because I indulged in fast food, cake, chocolate and ice-cream for months (well, maybe I had a few cravings), but because I had a baby. I remind myself what an amazing feat I achieved in carrying and birthing both my children. I remind myself that I’m alive and healthy, I have two wonderful kids that I’d do anything for, I have great friends and family and no one else is judging me on my appearance but myself. I am my own worst critic.
So if someone tells you to take it easy on yourself after having a baby, listen to them because being physically and mentally healthy is so much more important than the number on the scales.