I don’t know about you – but exercise wasn’t top of my priority list in pregnancy. It placed several places below macaroni and cheese and was way below the daily warm bath and ‘One Born Every Minute’ routine (FYI I haven’t watched a single episode following the disaster zone that was my birth story, but we’ll cover that another time). When I was expecting, I felt like I had an alien taking over my body and I basically just stopped exercising (apart from walking) and then I felt like I had another brand-new body after my baby arrived, so I again felt clueless and out of touch with my body. But since becoming a single mum, exercise has become a huge part of my wellbeing routine, both physical and mental. I spoke to MAMAWELL founder Rosie Stockley (who was four days overdue when we chatted and still very active) about how to navigate fitness in the pre to postnatal stages.
Can You Exercise When Pregnant? Yes! Rosie Stockley Explains How…
How important is physical wellbeing throughout pregnancy and into motherhood?
Looking after your physical health in pregnancy is really important for two reasons. Firstly, you’ve got your birth upcoming, which is a physical, fully visceral kind of experience, and secondly, I think staying strong physically helps you stay strong mentally.
It doesn’t just come from a place of the aesthetic, that is the big thing: people seeing their body changing, but the metaphysical thing you feel first of all, you’re growing a baby, something that’s inside you. And it does sort of take over your whole life, mentally and physically. It is something that you’re so thankful for, most of the time, and it’s so amazing. But equally, it’s sort of taking away what you were, in a way. People can feel that it’s the old you and the new you, and it’s okay to feel a bit like that. Because it needs to change, and we’re going to have a big change physically, emotionally and mentally. All at once. It’s really important to recognise the changes.
Firstly, I try to educate on what’s happening. Some people are scared or unsure what they should do. A few years ago, people felt they couldn’t exercise at all when pregnant. Now, thankfully, we’re in a position where there’s really good, well trained people who are empowering women to listen to their bodies to support the changes.
What exercise would you recommend in pregnancy?
In the run up to birth you are quite literally carrying a big weight on you, on the front of you. You’ve got pressure on your pelvis. You’ve got pressure on your immune system, your heart, your lungs, your life! All parts of your body. You can find something you like doing. It doesn’t need to be a crazy exercise class, it could be walking, swimming or a little bit higher end, high intensity. You may want to try different things throughout pregnancy.
Why is there so much pressure on women to have a ‘post-baby body’ of a specific type and to a specific time frame? And how can we overcome these pressures?
I have no idea why! There seems to be this fascination with pregnant women’s bodies. You have this uninvited commentary throughout. And I know, most of it does come from a really kind place but you know, equally there is no other point in life where people would just so openly discuss your body.
I have no idea in this day and age why there is this focus on the ‘bounce back’, which is just my least favourite phrase ever. I think as an individual, everyone’s journey is very different. People are criticised for not ‘bouncing back’ into shape but equally for being ‘too slim’ too quickly. Even the media praises women for their post-baby bodies but it just adds to stressing women out. The reality is, it’s a massive change and you have to go at your own pace.
What advice would you give to new mums who want to work some exercise into their lives but are feeling a bit overwhelmed and don’t know where to start?
I think you’ve got a couple of different types of people; you’ve got people who maybe did keep exercising during their pregnancy and sort of have an idea of what they might get back into. They know what motivates them. So, they might schedule a yoga class or know that they want to start running, eventually, so they’re going to start walking fast, you know, they have a bit of a plan. And that’s a great start.
However, not everyone can exercise in their pregnancy for various reasons and others simply don’t, so they may have had a year or longer of nothing. They really may feel that they are at square one. I always advise people to just start like you’re at square one. You could be the fittest person in the world but your body will have massively changed after pregnancy.
Always wait a minimum of six weeks post birth and if you need longer, take it. Then I always say, get started and see how you feel. Scheduling things that are for you, and not the baby, is a massive help. Schedule a walk, a run, a class with a friend, and you’re more likely to do it. With my programme you have a workout in your pocket at all times and you can put it on the tablet, on your phone, whenever you have time and you’ll get that rush of endorphins. It’s non-judgemental, you can get a good burn on, and you can build it up at your own pace.
Thanks Rosie; hopefully after reading this a few of you may prioritise exercise and physical wellbeing just a couple of places higher than macaroni cheese in your own pregnancies!
Rosie Stockley founded MAMAWELL to provide women with education and insight into their bodies in the pre and postpartum period (and beyond), and the benefits that exercise can bring, both for strength and energy.
She is well known for her holistic and intelligent approach to training the body, and the individual needs of each woman. She writes extensively, speaks and sits on panels highlighting the importance of fitness for mental health, the benefits of being strong throughout pregnancy and thereafter, and how to find balance and energy in our busy, multi-faceted roles as women. Rosie is respected for providing quality information, from her professional experience whether this is on fitness, wellness, pregnancy, postpartum or motherhood.
Rosie is a mother to Charlotte, 4, and an impending new arrival and her motherhood experiences adds to her approachable appeal for women wanting to be inspired to be strong and healthy throughout this time. www.mamawell.org