What a difference four months makes. The first 16 weeks, gone in a flash. Zoom! Blink and you’ve missed it. A lot has changed; my little girl is not so tiny any more. But what about my 16 Week Pick and Mix Postnatal Fitness Plan? Did it work? Here’s the low-down:
What was it?
A 16-week exercise programme that I designed for my own postnatal recovery and rehab, based on completing three circuits-style sessions per week and a core strength ritual every day. My main goal when I created it was ‘adherence’: I wanted something that I could commit to and stick with, that would take me through the early months of new parenthood. The only flaw is that now, when it comes to assessing whether it worked, there’s no inbuilt definition of success to refer back to.
So I’m sharing the top 5 milestones that my programme helped me to achieve, and the lessons I learned along the way.
Top 5 postnatal fitness milestones
1: 8 inches slimmer
I’ll be honest, one of my biggest motivators in the early days was my desperation to regain a body shape I could feel at home in. In 16 weeks since leaving the hospital, I’ve lost a whopping 20 cm from my post-natal waistline. There’s still work to do … but the early progress has gone a long way towards helping me feel happier, healthier and more confident. Having a wardrobe full of non-maternity wear to choose from feels good.
2: Return to racing
Six weeks after Rosa’s arrival, I was at the start-line of Women Run Strong’s trail run in Dunkeld. Making it round the 11k course and back to the finish felt like one of the toughest things I’d ever done! I was wobbly; I was slow; I was sore (full report here). But two weeks later I did it again, completing Vigour Events’ Pilmuir Aquathlon. I was slow again; I struggled, it was tough … but I made it (and here’s the full story).
3: Queen of the Mountain
Ten weeks after Rosa’s arrival, Ryan and I had our first baby-free ‘date’. We used it to run up Dumgoyne – our local ‘mini-mountain’ – a first for both of us! Since then, we’ve both become Dumgoyne ‘regulars’, and after three or four solo outings on Dumgoyne, I astonished myself last week by smashing the Strava ladies’ course record for fastest time both up and down the hill – surely the only time that I will ever see my name listed alongside Joe Symonds’ as a course record holder! (Speedy running ladies of Scotland: may i beg you to please stay away!)
4: A quick win
Fifteen weeks after Rosa’s arrival, I set out to race the South Tyne Railway train over 10k – and I won! My first ever out-and-out race victory. No matter that I was the only human competitor – the finish-line euphoria was sweet!
5: Planking like Super(wo)man
Sixteen weeks in, and I realised that my Superman Plank had become gloriously wobble-free! This is one mega-milestone for me: I remember struggling woefully with these exercises at least 18 months after the birth of my first child. To find myself stable and strong after just 16 weeks was a big surprise: and proof positive that my Daily Basic ritual of core strength drills had really worked.
Top 3 learnings along the way:
- The Daily Basics section of my Postnatal Fitness plan was fabulous. I’ll be carrying on with those basic core strength drills and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anybody. It’s easy to keep advancing the exercises as the simple versions grow easier, and the results have followed swiftly. Not only are they helping to reshape my waist; they’re also re-building the strength I need as a basis for stronger running, swimming, biking … all the fun stuff.
- Motivation comes easy when the goals are clear to see: I stuck to my Postnatal Fitness Plan in its purest form in the very early weeks, when every day brought an improvement and simply being able to get out of the house with the buggy and complete a workout was a goal in itself. Once that got easier, my strict adherence to the plan begin to slip as I set new goals for myself: a race; a pace; a distance; a hill – and sacrificed my circuits sessions to focus on the specific activities that would help me grasp the goals that interested me.
- If in doubt, do what you love: my failure to stick strictly to my plan was all due to temptation: each time I sacked off a circuits workout, it was because there was something more fun or more challenging that I wanted to do instead. Perhaps a run, a swim, a bouldering class, a kettle bell work out. I think that’s totally, utterly fine. The name of the game is all about enjoyment, after all: keeping fit and active should be a positive part of life, not a chore. If there’s something you love, do it. Stick at it, and the results will follow.