Listen, I’m not here to tell you to get back into the gym. I mean, I’m here if you need me, but you’ve probably got more important things on your mind.
If you were a regular exerciser before you gave birth, the chances are you’ll be keen (or perhaps desperate) to get back to it. Exercise gives you continuity, creates endorphins, and helps you feel like you’re the same person now as you were in the beforetimes. And I can help with that, 110%. But honestly, it’s about more than burpees and barbells now.
Laying the foundations for your journey as a mother is important.
I came up with five mantras for motherhood that I believe are more important than ‘I’m getting comfortable with being uncomfortable’ or ‘I am going to feel amazing after this workout’.
1. I am not broken, I am not a delicate flower.
The fourth trimester can leave you feeling like you’ve been through the mill. Labour and birth can be tough, whether you have a section or a vaginal birth, and those first few months with a tiny person are exhausting and probably the steepest learning curve most of us have ever been on.
Firstly, acknowledge what you’ve been through and recognise that you’re amazing for getting to where you are.
Next, remember that you may have taken some knocks, but you’re not broken. Your body is an amazing, baby-building, self-repairing piece of organic engineering.
Finally, trust that with time, love and care, your body will feel even better than before you gave birth.
2. I am something new, I am a mother.
Things aren’t like they used to be and neither are you. Mothers balance their own needs with the needs of their family, and motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be times when the balance tips in favour of others, so you must never feel bad when the balance tips in favour of you.
3. My body is changed, my body is incredible.
On a daily basis, you do new, different things – getting the car seat in and out is worthy of a physical challenge on the Crystal Maze. Motherhood movement is demanding. It makes sense that your aches and pains will be different too. Postnatal knee pain is a thing, and waking up feeling like your body has been donated by an octogenarian is common.
Your core and pelvic floor have been stretched and for a while (up to 2 years) they’ll be weaker and can feel strange and disconnected. Your boobs are on the roller-coaster they were created for, and your hormones are joining them. These things are in your genetic design. Your body is doing amazing stuff and needs to be nourished with good food, movement and rest.
4. I am stronger now than I was before.
The strength and skills we forge in the fires of motherhood make us exceptional. The adversity of life with small children creates empathetic, powerful, resilient parents. Sometimes it feels like your only specialist subject is poo and the only thing you can talk about is your baby, but that’s because you’re taking on the temporary challenge of being everything to one tiny person.
Keeping your reserves topped up will give you stamina and longevity for this journey. If you can create systems where you can build in time with friends, a massage, exercise or whatever brings you joy, you’ll be unstoppable. If some sort of movement can be part of that, your body will be happier and grateful.
5. I am entitled to support from loved ones and professionals.
It takes a village to raise a child and a village to make a mother. Whether it’s your fitness, your mental health, your pelvic floor, there are specialist professionals who can help. They’re not for ‘other women’, they’re for mothers like you.
If you want to get back to exercise safely, with 100% respect to your postnatal body, I’d love to help you. But please, feel no pressure to get back to the gym or the sports field or to get your running shoes on. All these things will still be there for you when you feel ready – I promise.