I caught up with Kev Toonen, a renowned Strength & Conditioning coach in Sydney to ask the questions that were on my mind during pregnancy…It was hard as a woman who always felt relatively fit and healthy, to have my body change in such a dramatic way. Not only that, but just learning to give myself a break, understanding I wasn’t capable of everything I was doing before pregnancy, but I definitely didn’t want it to stop me training either! It really is all about balance. Sounds simple enough, but how to put that into practice?
What’s the biggest benefit of being fit – specifically for mothers
Without a doubt its your ability to keep your baby safe, healthy and secure whilst pregnant. What do I mean? A healthy, fit, strong mother will ensure her baby is under as little as stress as possible, your HR, temp and blood pressure will all be a more controlled during everyday normal tasks. This will keep your little one focused on its only job while in the womb, to grow and develop ready for the big day. Another point to mention is your recovery after birth. For a strong, fit and healthy woman it is much easier to recover from the rigours of child birth if you’re healthy. You tend to bounce back a lot faster!
What’s the hardest part for women in terms of fitness – starting from scratch
Getting back into training after having a baby is a big ask. The key is not to rush it or try to start training too early in the piece. If it’s toss up between sleep and exercise…for the first few weeks I would always say choose sleep. Recovery is the key in the early stages. Once you’ve decided to get back into training it’s really important that you don’t try a measure yourself off where you were prior to pregnancy. Setting a REALISTIC goal for 3-6 months down the road is best. Don’t force things, you’re probably running off less sleep, food (and sanity) than usual. Get moving again, walking, eating right; start small and work up to things. Most importantly, make sure you see a Dr/physio before you start training again as your body takes a beating during the early stages and if you train too early without being fully recovered, you risk getting injured.
How often should we find time to train – and what kind of training?
Time-wise it’s completely up to you, How much time you have will depend on your schedule and your own situation. Walking is best at the beginning, 2-3 times per week, increasing the distance or time you spend by 10-15% each week or fortnight depending on how you’re feeling. Once you’ve got the OK from your doctor to start training my advice is to start getting strong again. Being a mother requires you to carry a baby, bags, push prams, eat and try and steer your baby in the right direction. Now when I say “get strong” I don’t mean get big and grow massive arms… I mean get fit and strong so life is easier day to day. Strength will make your running better, it will improve you bone density, your ligament and tendon strength, make your core, lower-back and upper-back strong. You’ll feel better, move better, and start looking better as well. So to get back to the question, what type should you do? Strength training is best to begin with, this will ensure when you go running or anything else that you are less likely to get injured.
What small things can we do each day, during very busy schedules to get fitter and how quickly will the results show?
While you’re at home start with some push ups, start doing them on your knees, or against a wall if needed. Add in some body-weight squats and some banded glute and hamstring work as well. You’re the best judge when it comes to how you feel and what you’re capable of doing with exercise. Never work to pain, just muscular fatigue and remember doing something is better than nothing.
What kind of foods should I be eating on a daily basis?
Foods to focus on after pregnancy will depend on a few factors, but you should look for real foods, and remember that if you are breastfeeding whatever you eat your baby will be ingesting as well. I think one of the biggest mistakes, and this goes for most people, is that they don’t prep food or don’t have the right food in the house to eat when they are hungry. So what happens is that they get so hungry they eat crappy, nutrient deficient food that is full of sugar. As much as you can, stock healthy food in the cupboard, this will curb overeating.
What will the hurdles be?
The biggest hurdles will be your time, how tired you are and your food choices. To overcome this I think you should try to plan as much as you can; cook extra food for dinner and store it for the next day. With your exercise try to be active for 20 mins a day: walking, running with or without the pram. If you have access to a gym, increase your training slowly and remember that it will take time, but it doesn’t have to take a long time. As long as you are doing the right things 90% of the time the consistency of eating and training well will pay off. See a coach/trainer for help, this is what we do, we are here to make the journey back a bit easier, we take the guess work out of it all and make sure you are safe along the way. Saying that, make sure you pick a good, qualified coach/trainer. You get what you pay for.
Anything you’d like to add?
The only thing I would add to all of this is take your time, but don’t let too many excuses get in your way. You are in control of what you eat, you know if you are really tired or just “not feeling it”. Exercise is great for your body and mind and will make you feel awesome at the end. It’s about creating a habit; exercise shouldn’t be something you “have to do” it should be as normal as brushing your teeth.
Thank you, Kev!
NB: It’s important to remember that every person and every pregnancy is different. Make sure you speak to your doctor before starting any kind of training during or after your pregnancy.
You can get in touch with Kev over at Strength Elite for online programming or one on one coaching.