my maternity leave fitness bucket list

If there’s one thing on which many parents can agree, it’s that finding time to get your fit on can be a struggle when you’re juggling kids, work and running a house. I know my own fitness efforts have always been pretty sporadic, going from a few months of 5.30am alarms for pre-work gym sessions, to only managing one evening Clubbercise class a week, to all-out couch potatoing…and all sorts of variations in between.

As I sit here, over a week past my due date with baby number three, I’m about as far away from getting on a treadmill as you can be (though maybe a wee jog might get labour started…?). I haven’t even touched my pregnancy workouts for a few weeks now, as the mere thought of pulling on my leggings makes me want to go for a nap. But there is a small part of my brain that is actually quite looking forward to getting back into fitness once this little guy is here.

I am not a natural sportswoman, and my relationship with exercise can often be more guilt-fuelled than from a place of genuine passion. But I’ve found that if I keep shaking things up, set myself challenges and look for things that are fun then I can get quite into it. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of things I’m hoping to take a stab at.  Obviously I’m not going to rush into it, and I have a postnatal DVD I’ll use at first just to get used to owning a non-pregnant body again, but I don’t want to pass up the golden opportunity maternity leave offers to whip my body into a shape other than blob-of-Playdoh.  I’ve tried to put them in some sort of order, but I’ll see what takes my fancy when the time comes.  And it goes without saying that I will also be hitting up my incredible Clubbercise class each week too!

 

Lots of walking

This is a double whammy of good, because it’s just as important for my sanity as it is for my body.  I walked a lot, miles a day, last time I had a baby.  It helped me drop the huge amount of weight I’d put on in pregnancy but it also got me out of the house and out of my own head for a part of each day – invaluable when dealing with post natal depression and a colicy, refluxy baby.  I’m hoping to walk our four year old to and from school on days when it’s dry, but even on days when it’s raining I’m not adverse to getting on my waterproofs and getting some air when it’s just me and bubs.  Plus, it will give me some time to listen to podcasts too.

 

30 Days of Yoga – Yoga with Adriene

I stumbled across Adriene and her free yoga videos last year, and she is perfect.  Her attitude is amazing, she makes yoga so accessible and for all levels, and has so much content on YouTube.  I dabbled a bit with this challenge when I first came across her but wasn’t able to commit, and so I think this could be my time.  I’ve loved my yoga practice in pregnancy and tapped into the breathing and mindfulness through hypnobirthing too, and would be keen to keep those things as part of my lifestyle.

30 Day Shred – Jillian Michaels

This is a classic, which means you can grab a DVD of it really cheap*.  I did this workout a few years ago, and found it was a great way to get my head into strength-mode (I followed it up with Insanity and getting into weights).  I have continued with strength and weights-based exercises during pregnancy so I’m hoping this wont be a shock to the system, and more like a gentle re-introduction to some muscles I’ve maybe forgotten I had!

 

C25K

Or “couch to 5k” to give it its full name.  This is a game changer – it was for me and I’ve seen so many other people sing its praises.  Basically, you follow a programme (and there seem to be about a million to choose from) which starts you off from walking and progresses you until you can run a full 5k route.  Different programmes work through the progression at different rates, so there’s bound to be one out there that works for you.  I’ve done it twice before, the first was a Race For Life training plan for Pretty Muddy, and the second was a programme on my Microsoft Band.  I was amazed with my first attempt – I literally couldn’t run the length of myself and yet in a matter of weeks I completed the Pretty Muddy 5k in 35mins.  Told you – game changer.  My issue is I often fall out of a routine once I’ve got up to the 5k distance and then have to start all over again, so I’m hoping to make it a regular thing and then progress to 10k (eventually!).

 

The Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training – Girls Gone Strong

Whilst I’m working on my cardio, I also want to get back into my weight training.  Girls Gone Strong are an amazing collective of inspiring women who aren’t afraid to lift, and were my first introduction into what is probably my favourite form of exercise.  GGS is about so much more than lifting weights though – body positivity, acceptance, health and supporting your fellow woman are so core to this movement.   I bought their programme, and this is where I’ll be building up from again because it is such a great approach and the tutorials for every move make sure that you’re as safe and effective as you can be.  I want my sexy shoulders and butt back!

 

Blogilates calendar – Cassey Ho

I came across the whirlwind that is Cassey Ho in my last maternity leave and I love her!  It’s amazing what she’s achieved since I first started doing her workouts – she’s now a fitness megastar and has built quite the empire.  She has about a bzmillion free workout videos on YouTube and compiles a new workout calendar each month.  I’ve never completed a full month of her workouts, but I’d love to give it a proper try.  Her energy is infectious, but don’t be fooled by the bubbly personality and pop music – she is hardcore!

 

Insanity – Shaun T

Speaking of hardcore…  I’ve left this one until last because to be honest, the thought of it right now makes me want to puke!  Hubs and I have attempted it twice, and although we got close we have never quite finished the 60 days.  But this works.  I’ve never pushed myself so hard or impressed myself so much as when I was doing Insanity.  I think if I get my cardio and strength up, and tick off a few of these other challenges then maybe (just maybe!) I might stand a chance at finally getting to the end of this.

 

I’m aware this is a big ol’ list, but nine months is a long time.  My approach to fitness has always been to do what I enjoy, so if any of these things don’t turn out to be as fun as I’d hoped/remembered I’ll just ditch them.  But the world gym is my oyster, so lets just see what I can achieve!

What are your current fitness goals?

 

 

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the workouts which have kept me fit in pregnancy

 

I’ve been really feeling the effects of being heavily pregnant and about to pop these past couple of weeks. I feel heavy and uncomfortable all the time, and even finding a comfortable way to sit has become a struggle. My pelvis feels tender, my lower back is sore and I’m constantly feeling crampy or dealing with the hell that is trapped wind. I’ve sailed through this pregnancy, but it feels that as soon as I hit 37 weeks it all caught up with me.

Yesterday though I did something I’ve not done in over a week – I worked out. And I felt like a new woman afterwards! Admittedly by the time evening rolled around eight hours later I’d started to feel like an injured whale again, but I do think how good I felt after doing a bit of exercise is proof of how important it is to stay active even when you’re due to give birth any day.

Before I got pregnant, my exercise levels were a bit inconsistent. I the months before we got our positive test, I’d gone from three 5.30am weight training sessions a week to cancelling my gym membership and just going along to one Clubbercise class. I’m not sure now what the reason for the drop in my commitment was, but I wasn’t the fittest I’d ever been.

It wasn’t until I got to about halfway through this pregnancy that I made a real effort to make fitness my focus.  I kept up the Clubbercise until 30 weeks, when I started to worry about impact levels and balance, and at around 18 weeks I dusted off the antenatal DVDs I bought in my last pregnancy.  Last time around I only used them halfheartedly, but this time they have been the basis for my exercise levels. I’ve used a couple of online workouts too, so I thought I’d share what’s been working for me in case anyone else is wanting to exercise during pregnancy but doesn’t know where to start.

 

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Keep in mind that I’m not a fitness professional, and this is just my experience.  The Royal College of Midwives advises that:

“The exercise pregnant women take should reflect their previous exercise regime. So for example it would not be appropriate for a woman who has done no exercise for many years to suddenly start running long distances in pregnancy. If women exercised regularly before pregnancy, they should be able to continue with no adverse effects.

“If women have not exercised routinely they should begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, three times per week, increasing gradually to daily 30-minute sessions and if they any questions we advise them to talk to their midwife or GP”

So that doesn’t mean if you were inactive before that you shouldn’t exercise now, but that you should build up gradually.  Particularly if you’re a mum who isn’t used to exercise, pregnancy-specific programmes are the best option as the moves in them should safely take into account the changes going on in your body.  But if someone is used to a certain type of exercise (like I was with weights and dancing, and other women are with running) then pregnancy is no reason to stop outright.  It’s all about personal preference, health and ability, and keeping an open mind to the fact that what you can handle is likely to be different by the time you hit the 3rd trimester than what it was at 12 weeks.

Take the time to read up on your exercise of choice and about your body in pregnancy to make sure you’re always keeping yourself safe and doing the best for your body and baby.

 

Pregnancy Yoga

Probably the best place for anyone to start is yoga.  It’s a great way to activate your muscles, but also to quiet your mind and work on breathing and relaxation.  If you’re lucky enough to have a class in your area I’d definitely recommend heading along.

Unfortunately budget, work and location meant I couldn’t get to classes, so the yoga I do is one of my DVDs.  It’s by Desi Bartlett, but I don’t think it’s sold as a DVD any more.  Amazon have it on their streaming service though, and she has released another one since.  I like this one because it’s quite relaxing but it has a good lower-body focus.  It also doesn’t get too hippie/spiritual, which works for me (a reason why I’m a fan of another yogi called Adriene), but includes enough explanation of the names behind the moves to make you feel connected.  This is the workout I did yesterday, and I plan on trying to do it most days until this baby is ready to come join us.

 

Swimming

I wont labour (*boomboom*) this point, because I already wrote a whole post on why I think swimming in pregnancy is awesome.  But again, this is a great for everyone from beginners right up to the superfit.  You can do it alone, but again if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where aquanatal is available then definitely head along.  You’ll meet other mums and also have the support and guidance of an instructor which is always very handy to have.

 

Strength training in pregnancy

If you’re a little more advanced, or you’ve built up your fitness during the pregnancy so far, strength exercises are a great addition to your routine. Building muscle gives you the strength needed to carry around your ever-growing body and to support you to be active during labour.  This is also the type of exercise which you’ll find no end of options for, either as DVDs or online videos.

And a confession?  I’m a weights girl, so this is my thing.

The first workouts I started with this time around were some I found on Popsugar Fitness (which is a great site with lots of free videos, whether you’re pregnant or not).  They’re short, so they were a good place to start as I’d been out of the habit for a while.  I could then combine them for a longer workout.  The two I used were a total body one and an arm one, but there are others available on the site.

I then moved on to some other DVDs in my stash.  The first is Lean & Toned by Suzanne Bowen, which is a low-impact body weight programme.  It focuses on high reps of mainly leg and arm movements, with some core work in the mat section.  My only bugbears with it is that you need to figure out your own water breaks and keep your core and pelvic floor engaged (as you should be doing anyway!) without being reminded as she doesn’t really mention it.  But it’s a good total-body workout with a chilled pace.

My other DVD is Erin O’Brien’s Prenatal Fitness Fix, which I love.  I’ll start with the bad point – the music is godawful.  Thankfully during the workout it isn’t as noticeable as the title/menu music, and if I can ignore it (and I have to leave shops if they’re using those cheap cover version CDs) anyone can.  But Erin herself is motivational, explains a lot about how to exercise safely and is just really fun to workout with.  The moves in this can be quite tough, but they are mixed with easier ones to create a workout which is challenging but achievable.  It also comes with a postnatal workout, which I obviously haven’t used this time yet but I think I used it last time and enjoyed it just as much.

Once I felt my strength had built up again, I threw some of my true love into the mix – weights.  I used this great free programme on BodyBuilding.Com called Lifting for Two by Nicole Moneer.  Obviously, this is one for those who are used to working with weights and equipment.  But the video, article and the moves themselves are brilliant and I think this is a great resource.  We have a home gym with free weights and a pulley machine, so I was able to do all but the thigh moves, and the feeling of strength and confidence this workout gave me was worth it’s weight in gold.

And although not a workout, I can’t mention weight training without linking to one of my all-time favourite resources for women.  Girls Gone Strong have a bunch of great articles on exercise in pregnancy, as well as articles on general pregnancy health and postnatal stuff too.  I can’t sing the praises of this site enough, this is where my weight training interest was sparked back in 2015 and I love that the site doesn’t ignore pregnancy.

 

So what you waiting for?

A fit pregnancy is the best gift you can give yourself.  Along with managing my weight gain, being active has made this my easiest pregnancy so far.  I’ve avoided the SPD and back issues I had in my last pregnancy and the high blood pressure I experienced in my first, and there is a ton of research out there to support that exercise reduces those and other pregnancy complications as well as helping you to have a shorter and complication-free labour and birth.  What isn’t there to love about that?

 

What exercise worked best for you in pregnancy?  Let me know if you’ve tried any of the types of exercise I mention, or used any of the resources I’ve linked to.

The Amazon product links in this post are affiliated, but the opinions are my own.  I genuinely bought these products and have used them myself.

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why i love swimming when pregnant

 

Last weekend Hubs and I look our youngest to the pool.  I was ashamed to realise how long it’s been since we took him…it was only the second time we’ve been this year, lets put it that way!

It’s funny the difference between my two boys.  The teenager is a competitive swimmer and at his brother’s age was already competent and fearless in the water.  But the four year old point blank refuses to do much more than walk around the splash pool.  And it isn’t because he doesn’t go often enough, as my parents take him most weeks and he did a block of lessons with the nursery at the end of last year.  But despite seeing some of his friends swimming, and us pleading with him, he would only hold on to the side and kick his legs just long enough to prove he could do it.  I don’t know if it’s fear or stubbornness, but I’m hoping the next block of lessons he’s about to start will build his confidence. He’s going to look a little silly if he’s still hanging out in the baby pool by the time puberty hits!

 

Swimming in pregnancy

I was just happy to be in the water.  Well, I say happy…as happy as I could manage whilst wearing the world’s most unflattering item of clothing.  Me and swimsuits haven’t ever got on, but my maternity swimsuit is beyond disgusting.  It’s a throwback to my first pregnancy, so at over 15 years old it’s the oldest item in my wardrobe.  Quite frankly it makes me look like a bunch of deflating beach balls shoved into a shapeless sack, but I’ve had such a drama with maternity clothes as it is that I didn’t have the energy (or budget) to add swimwear to the shitstorm.  Mind you, I regretted that decision as soon as I was faced with the walk of shame between the changing room and pool, and even more so when I had to make the walk back to the splash pool after swimming lengths to find Hubs had struck up conversation with a skinny mum in a bikini…

Hurt pride aside, it was good to be swimming again.  I’ve always loved swimming – it was the only sport I would bother with as a kid, and I was always pretty good at it.  As an adult I’ve not been able to make regular time to get to the pool, but I always make sure I do a few lengths whenever we do take the kids.  I did the Great Scottish Swim in Loch Lomond a few years ago where I found a love of open water swimming too (and a wetsuit is so much more flattering than most cozzies!).

I’ve always made a point of swimming in my pregnancies, even in my first where I was obese and vastly out of shape.  Especially at the end of pregnancy, when maternity leave kicks in and I’ve had a little bit of time for myself before my new baby arrives, I’ve been known to swim numerous times a week.  No wonder I’m planning a pool birth this time around!

 

Why I love swimming in pregnancy

  • I find there’s something about the support water gives my pregnant body that makes me feel normal and human again.  Suddenly I don’t feel so heavy, and I get my freedom of movement back.
  • Being in the water also helps to give me a break from any aches and pains – they just melt away.
  • It’s also great for helping to avoid collecting more of those aches and pains, as it’s a low impact form of exercise.
  • I find it quiets my mind – once I get into the rhythm of movement and breath it’s almost like meditating.
  • I always think it prepares me for birth too – building stamina to get me through labour, and reminding me how to control and focus my breathing.
  • I’ve been able to keep swimming right up until my due date before, which isn’t always possible with many other forms of exercise.

Keeping safe whilst swimming

I’m not an expert, and of course you should always check with your midwife if you are unsure whether swimming is for you, but I have picked up a few helpful tips to make sure I’m safe in the pool when pregnant:

  • Bring a bottle of water.  I drink tons when I’m doing any sort of exercise, but it can be easy to forget about dehydration when you’re soaking wet!
  • Be mindful of overheating.  This is something we are warned about when pregnant, but it’s harder to assess when you feel as if the water is keeping you cool.  Don’t over exert yourself.
  • Breaststroke is probably the best stroke to use.  It’s good for your back as you don’t twist as much as you would in front crawl.  It  also avoids you being on your back, which even in the supportive environment of water can still put pressure on vital blood vessels.  Just be mindful if you suffer SPD, as the leg movement may not be the best option.  In my last pregnancy I switched to a more crawl-style of kick, or focused on using mainly my upper body.
  • Use flip flops or at least hold on to hand rails when walking around the pool area.  A slip or fall is never nice, but in pregnancy you need to be extra careful.

 

I’m getting a bit too tired come the end of the day to make it to my weekly Clubbercise class, so I’m thinking now is the time to add swimming into my fitness plan.  I wish more than anything there were Aquanatal classes near me, as I think they’d be a great thing to get into, but I’m happy enough churning out the lengths.  Even in my nasty swimsuit.

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searching for maternity gym wear

As part of my efforts to keep on top of any pregnancy weight gain, I’ve been trying to keep active.

I still go to my Clubbercise class each week, though particularly in the past few sessions I’ve noticed a need to really reduce the intensity I work at.  I dug out a boxset of pregnancy fitness and yoga DVDs I used in my last pregnancy so I do two or three of those a week, and last week I found a bump-friendly weight circuit to throw into the mix.  I initially thought I’d keep up the lunch time walks I’d started too (around 1.5-2k), but walking is a real issue for me as I’m plagued with painful stitch-like pains which force me down to a snail’s pace.  I’m motivated to keep this up – the will is there and amazingly so is the energy.

What I hadn’t considered would be a real barrier to keeping fit is my wardrobe…

I actually laugh at my naivety as I write that, as clothing my growing body has been nothing but a headache so far.  But for some reason I thought subbing my gym clothes would be a piece of cake – the gods of leggings and sports bras obviously thought they’d prove me wrong.

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