Always on the look out for top tips on how us mums can ‘regain’ our pre-baby body, or should I say ‘rebuild’ our post-baby body because who said we can’t be fitter and stronger post baby! I asked Personal Trainer, new mum and Founder of the StrongLikeMum campaign Shakira Akabusi, to share her tips on keeping fit through out pregnancy and how she got her post-baby six pack in just eight weeks!
Hi Shakira, Thanks for answering my questions. Can you tell us a bit about your pregnancy experience?
I was so thrilled on finding out I was pregnant however I suffered quite badly with ‘morning’ sickness which lasted all day! At first I felt so ill I could barely stand to walk to the bathroom! That got better after about 12-14 week at which point I was able to re-focus on an effective training programme. I felt totally comftable with my body shape changing however as a very active person I struggled with not being able to continue with all the physical activities I was used to.
Like you, I continued to exercise through out my pregnancy however I remember often receiving odd looks and comments from fellow gym members. Did you experience any negativity towards exercising in pregnancy?
For some reason people do seem to judge a pregnant woman exercising. Of course you need to be careful and there are adaptations you must keep in mind however you can still train at the gym and lift weights throughout the trimesters. Just ensure you keep the resistance low and up the repetitions instead. It’s also really important to assess your fitness levels before pregnancy and take that into account. Don’t try and suddenly start a high intensity training programme if you’re not used to it. I was used to training regularly so continued with my workouts, however I made sure not to push my cardio too much in order to keep my body temperature right down. I also made sure not to lift heavy weights as this could raise my blood pressure which again is something you want to avoid in pregnancy.
How should we adapt our exercise with each trimester?
In the first trimester you can do quite a lot however as your bump starts to grow there are various changes in your body’s weight placement, hip alignment and cardio vascular demands. Your body is quite a good indicator of what you should and shouldn’t be doing. For example demanding abdominals exercises like crunches and sit-ups should be avoided.
Make sure you don’t over work yourself. Keeping fit during pregnancy shouldn’t be about toning or sculpting your body but about maintaining your physical strength and preparing your body for labor. It is possible to work on improving your fitness levels during pregnancy but this should be done under the guidance of a professional only.
What about diet, any tips on healthy eating in pregnancy?
My diet was pretty good during pregnancy. I ate a lot of Protein and Carbohydrates. Pregnancy demands a lot of energy from your body so it’s important to stay fuelled correctly. Carbohydrates have a bad reputation but they are so important and in fact stored in the body as Glycogen are crucial to the fat burning process. Just make sure it’s Low GI Carbohydrates like wholemeal bread or basmati rice. The nutrients you eat are passed to the foetus and I wanted to make sure I was giving my baby a variety of healthy vitamins and minerals.
You got your figure back very quickly, how soon after the birth did you resume your exercise and what did you do?
I started on pelvic floor exercises within the first few days and as I had a relatively straight forward labor I was able to be on my feet, on day two I was walking the dog. I went for my first jog after two weeks and started doing some light bodyweight exercises like press ups and tricep dips. I would always advise a client to wait until their 6 weeks check unless they are absolutely confident in what they are doing but pelvic floor exercises are recommended from the start! I also just started dancing around the house with my headphones in . I didn’t want to play loud music as Rio was sleeping so i just dance around him listen to my iPod.
Another great tip is to always think about pulling in your abdominals when walking or carrying your baby. This really helped with my posture and reshaping my abdominals further down the line.
How long did it take until you felt your body was totally back?
I don’t think my body will ever be exactly the same as it was before but I don’t think that makes it any worse. I love the changes in my shape and actually feel more confident now then before! I got back into pretty good shape by 12 weeks and have still improved from there. I got rid of most of the excess fat by 8/10 weeks and then focused more on resistance training and cardio simultaneously . My son is now 7 months old and I’m lifting the same weights as before I was pregnant. In fact I might even be a bit stronger!
What advice would you give new mums wanting to shed the baby weight?
Firstly I would say don’t panic. It doesn’t have to be within 12 weeks. You’ve just had a baby which is an incredible time in your life. Before training I would say address your diet. I was breastfeeding which uses so much energy so make sure you’re getting enough Carbohydrates and a range of vitamins and minerals too. When you do start exercising except the changes in your body and work with them. Build up slowly. Don’t get too frustrated that you’re not as strong as you were. You can get back there. It doesn’t have to be a choice of being a good mum or being fit. Enjoy exercise and either look forward to it once your little one’s asleep or even train with them!
Finally, what are the best exercises we can do to get back in shape?
The best three things that helped me are;
- dancing around the house with my headphones in. That burns tons of calories and is fun at the same time.
- HIIT, When time is short interval training is a great way to get maximum results in a short space of time. Make sure you refuel with enough calories post workout though!
- Resistance training. This doesn’t have to be in a gym. When you’re ready start squatting, working on press ups, tricep dips, lateral raises and ab exercises like the plank, side plank, crunches and slow roll back. These were all regular exercises for me! I love toned abdominals and this was an area I really focused on getting back into shape post labor. Most importantly take your time. A healthy lifestyle is forever not just a ‘quick fix’ to drop a few pounds. Find the enjoyment in working out and don’t be too strict with yourself. That goes for with exercise, diet or as a parent.