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Fitness after the baby arrives. Is it possible?

Fitness after the baby arrives. Is it possible?

There’s no doubt that becoming parents means a big change in lifestyle. For those whose lives revolve around fitness or sport, there will need to be some adaptations made. The good news is that there IS an active life when two become three (or more). How can it be done?

Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill has just announced that she will not be competing in this summer’s Commonwealth Games, because she is pregnant. It seems from her announcement that this is something of a surprise, although she says that she is still planning to defend her title in the Rio Olympics which will be held in 2016. At the age of 27 there is no reason why she should not be able to do this – but like all new parents, she is going to have to make some changes.

Until relatively recently, pregnancy was kept very much under wraps. Pregnant women were not supposed to be seen in public, and were ‘confined’ for as much as a month before the birth. It is only in the last forty years or so that attitudes have changed.

Now pregnancy bumps are celebrated and put on show, and there is a strong suggestion that women should be ‘back to normal’ the moment the baby arrives. Indeed, there was some media surprise when the Duchess of Cambridge was shown with her newborn son and still had a ‘baby belly’ – as if they were expecting her to ‘deflate’ instantly. For a new mother grabbing sleep when she can, and still recovering from the birth, this kind of unrealistic image can be very depressing.

The imminent arrival of even the most wanted baby can also produce some very contradictory feelings. There’s no doubt that there are going to be big changes, and adding the fear of the unknown can produce some sleepless nights earlier than might be expected. This applies especially to those who are very active, and whose choice of activity is not one that can be shared with a baby or small child. Some have likened it to grieving for a lost lifestyle – Ennis-Hill has said that all her plans for 2014 have been completely turned upside down, and this is a natural reaction.

There is no doubt that it takes time to recover from pregnancy and birth – but if all goes well there is no reason to expect long-term effects on fitness. There are many examples of athletes who have returned to the top level after having their babies. Eating healthily and keeping active during pregnancy is also beneficial, although medical advice should always be heeded. Most people know that ‘eating for two’ is not necessary, but pregnancy must always be taken into account. A woman’s body will behave differently while there is a passenger!

Some ideas for those wanting to keep active before and after their happy event:

  • Don’t make too many plans. Some women sail through pregnancy and recover quickly from the birth. Others have an uncomfortable pregnancy or a traumatic birth. Some babies have ‘read the manual’ and sleep and eat to schedule – but many more do not and new parenthood is completely exhausting. Go with the flow and do what you feel that you can do.
  • Many sports and exercise classes can be continued throughout pregnancy as long as you feel up to it. Some activities are less advisable, so always seek medical advice. Be prepared to slow down, listen to your body and try not to get too overheated or exhausted. Softening ligaments as the birth nears can increase the likelihood of injury, so do take care.
  • During those exhausting first weeks or months, remember that things will get better. Accept all offers of help, and try to get out of the house even if it is only for a stroll round the block. It will seem like planning a military operation to start with, but like everything it gets easier with practice. As the baby grows and becomes more of a person, going out also becomes simpler, and once the buggy can be jettisoned all sorts of obstacles will just disappear.
  • Make the most of the ever-growing opportunities for parents to get some exercise. Many leisure centres and gyms now have crèches; book your child in and you have two hours for your fitness class or swim, with time for a shower and a coffee afterwards. If you are lucky enough to have relatives or friends who are keen to babysit, make the most of some ‘me’ time – forget the housework, have some fun!
  • Fresh air is essential for both parent and child. Even a baby in a pram will benefit from an outing. Restless infants can often be soothed by the motion of the pram, and stressed parents will definitely appreciate getting outside those four walls. There are even outdoor workouts that are ‘buggy-friendly’, amusing babies by watching their parents. These also provide a relaxed atmosphere where no-one minds an interruption for a feed or to soothe some yelling.

There’s no doubt that the arrival of a baby marks a complete change for everyone – but there will still be a place for fitness. Active parents set a wonderful example for their children, so it is well worth making it happen.