This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.
Please remember that this is my own fitness journey and that any exercise regime you start should be only in agreement with your doctor—and only after your six-week check-up when your doctor has given you the thumbs up to start exercising again. I can’t stress the importance of this: it’s not worth setting yourself back by trying to do too much too soon. It could also be dangerous to your health.
Well, here is my journey to reclaim myself!
For anyone who doesn’t know me, I used to be part of the Twitter IVF community. After I had my baby, our miracle Mia back in 2014, I left the community. It wasn’t because I didn’t care or want to support my friends that I had made over the past four years, but because I needed to leave for myself, to close that chapter, which had mostly been painful but thankfully ended. I kept my friends who wanted to stay in touch. I think after seeing my umpteen fitness tweets, they know I have well and truly left. My main goals are my fitness ones, which I am happy to share with you.
It’s been a year since I had Mia, and I am down three stone [Editor: 42 lbs or about 19 kgs], sat here in UK size 12 trousers and feeling the fittest I have for a very long time. During my teens, I was heavily into aerobics, especially Step Aerobics and cross training. In my 20’s, I trained nine hours a week for four years as a Thai Boxer and Kickboxer in Hong Kong. I could do so much then, weighed nothing (although I thought I was fat at the time!), and took for granted the boundless energy that only the young have!
During most of my 30’s, I was always involved in some sort of sport until I met my husband and our infertility and IVF journey began. Then came a big slump in my training and mental well-being. I was so scared of doing anything that could affect my chances of conceiving or, later, carrying the baby—I miscarried Mia’s twin and was petrified for most of the pregnancy that I would lose her, too. (Thankfully she stayed with us, the little fighter that she is!) I’m now in my 40’s, and feel in great shape—possibly even back to where I was in my 20’s!
If you’ve had a baby and want to get back into some sort of exercise routine, then you should consider what you can practically do, how much time you have, and what will keep you motivated. Think about whether you need a workout buddy to stay motivated, or a personal trainer, or just more time. Here are a few tips:
Community: I highly recommend joining a social media community in your area. For me, it was the running community. I follow UK Run Chat on Twitter and Run Mummy Run on Facebook. Both have been great for making contacts, gaining support, and learning some priceless tips from those who have been where you are—as in starting off—and will cheer you on, pick you up if you need it. I do regular virtual runs with a lady from Run Mummy Run, and also have a meet up coming up with some of my UK Run Chat friends and I can’t wait.
Scales: Ignore these as much as you can! Although I mentioned my weight loss earlier, I rarely weigh myself now. Not because I am at goal weight or anything like that; it’s just not a great reflection on true fitness progress. A tape measure is your best guide—make sure to measure yourself say once a month. Plus, use your clothes as a measure, too! It works, really! When you start exercising, your muscles will weigh more and this will affect the scale. It’s not a true reflection of how much work you are putting in.
Start off small: After I got my six-week all-clear from the doctors, I started doing long walks with the baby in the pram—wow, what a shock to the body! A month or so later, it had laid the foundation to start gentle Zumba a few times a week. As I had a c-section, I made sure I just did the cardio option rather than anything core-related and it was enough to get my heart rate going, sweat flowing, and muscles sore!
Seek professional advice: I had a bit of maternity money [Ed.: a government stipend paid to pregnant women] left over and decided to spend it on a personal trainer. This has been one of the best things I could’ve done. Sian, my trainer, is qualified in training women post-baby, and if you have the money, I would highly recommend going down this route. Sian has been very careful with how she has trained me. We’ve only just started doing major core work—10 months after I started training with her. Another plus is that the trainer can advise if you have the right posture/form to get the most out of your training—something a DVD can never replace. I continue training with Sian once a week over Skype now that I have moved, and we do circuit-type training, which is very challenging. The sense of achievement afterwards is immense!
Set yourself a goal: For me, it’s booking races. I have three half-marathons coming up—one in September, one in March, and another next June. It keeps me focussed and continually training. Goals can also come in the form of clothes: buy trousers in a smaller size or splash out on something like a massage or whatever your favourite treat is—it spurs you on! New workout clothes can also be a great incentive: now I have a Garmin watch and good trainers to run in, I feel like a proper runner. This helps with mental attitude, which is as important as physical fitness. My favourite quote is, “Your body can do anything: it’s your mind you have to convince.”
Lastly, feel grateful for what you do have. At the end of my pregnancy, I didn’t recognise my body—but it carried me through the toughest time of my life and then carried a baby… (just!) I am writing this on the last day of my 42nd year and since I had Mia, I’ve run a half marathon and two 10k’s. I have much to be grateful for, and every day I learn how to better myself—something which benefits my family, too.
I’ll finish with something my mum told me. All her life she said she hated her legs—until she worked in an artificial limbs unit and was then very grateful for what she had. If you’re looking at yourself now, wanting to change a few things, know that the support is out there to achieve those goals. Be grateful, be accepting, be patient and with everything, be yourself. Good luck. xx