Mental Health and Wellbeing

The media has given a lot of coverage recently to mental health and with some high profile supporters it has come to the forefront of everyone’s minds – and rightly so. With 25% of the UK population experiencing some form of mental health in their adult years it is a lot more common than we think. A large proportion of mental health issues are around depression and anxiety, often derived from stressful busy lives or traumatic events.

Add into the mix female hormones throughout the pre and postnatal stages, baby blues and postnatal depression this topic is very important for Mums and Mums-to-be. The overwhelming feeling of new responsibilities, not really knowing what ‘to-do’ and making comparisons to others are things that I hear on a weekly basis in the coffee shops. We are honestly our own worst enemy, pretending that we are all ok, whilst feeling lonely or isolated in a new, unfamiliar ‘Mum’ world.

I felt low, I felt blue and I felt anxious that this little bundle relied on me and I really didn’t know how all-consuming it was going to be. There are so many aspects of pregnancy, labour and the postnatal recovery that no-one speaks of and I wish we would. Then I would have felt vaguely ‘normal’ in those early days, realising that everyone else was experiencing these same feelings.

With all the media coverage, I was aware that I could spiral downwards, stay inside in my PJ’s and kid myself that I was ‘chilling out’ on my maternity leave. Or I could recognise that it was going to be tough but I needed to get out and meet some new faces. One day, I got up and dressed, organised the massive nappy bag and set out with my baby for a ‘walk’ to find other ladies who were pacing the streets too! Honestly, whatever came over me that day, saved me. I walked and talked, met some Mums and found out about some fantastic things going on in the local community. That wasn’t the end of the story, it was hard. Sometimes I had to drag myself off the sofa, put a smile on my face but I did it. I felt better and more able to cope, I was more positive and knew that a ‘bad day’ was just that ‘a bad day’ as there was a new one just around the corner! I found that these ‘feelings’  were ok, others felt overwhelmed too and that by getting out and about, talking about a bad night and finding others going through the same journey a massive help.

I have to say at this point, I found Fit and Healthy Mums so welcoming and I immersed myself in all the classes and groups on offer. Not only have I met some lifelong friends and have a continual stream of playdates for my now walking toddler. But the exercise and social aspects of the classes with other women was simply amazing. I truly believe that exercise had a positive impact on my postnatal mental health recovery, as well as making up for eating too many biscuits – because we are all human!

Anon.

Thank you for such an honest account of your maternity leave, it is very humbling to know that we do truly help women in the community. You will all know that exercise is great for your body, but we know now that it has such a positive impact on your mind too:

– Regular exercise is a great way to help manage anxiety, depression and stress.

– Modest amounts of exercise are enough, you don’t need to spend hours in a gym.

-You experience a sense of well-being, achievement, enjoy a better mood and have greater self-esteem.

– Exercise can aid your memory, sleep quality and releases endorphins.

– But most of all, it is fun and we have a chat and a giggle along the way!

Why Should I Exercise Outside?

Buggyfit the ultimate fitness class for mums and their babies

Buggyfit the ultimate fitness class for mums and their babies

Getting out of the house can feel like a major achievement when you have a baby in tow! With the car seat, pushchair and a bag of ‘just in case’ to weigh you down. It may seem like a bit of an effort, but getting out and about is so important for postnatal ladies.

Social interaction with other Mums, sharing baby tips and the reality that everyone else is going through the same thing is a brilliant way to make you feel good and boost your confidence.

Being out and about and enjoying the fresh air is great for you, it helps to clear your mind and get away from that ‘cabin fever’. And babies love the fresh air too, it often settles them and helps them sleep.

So imagine all the benefits of exercising, plus being outside and meeting other Mums must be a winning combination!
My top reasons to exercise outside:

– Being outside is much more fun than doing a workout in the gym! Enjoy the scenery, fresh air and take note of all the little things we are often too busy to notice.

– The varied terrain and weather will make you work that little bit harder – and burn more calories in the process.

– Exercising outside also creates greater feelings of revitalization, energy, and positive thinking. All really important for postnatal ladies on a broken night’s sleep!

– In recent psychological tests, ladies scored significantly higher on measures of vitality, enthusiasm, and self-esteem and lower on tension, depression and fatigue after they exercised outside.

– The time outside flies by compared to being in a gym  environment – no more counting the minutes left on the treadmill!

Buggyfit classes are outdoor sessions for postnatal ladies. All structured in a way that means anyone can take part, no matter your level of fitness. Intervals of cardio and toning work plus the all-important abs and pelvic floor feature in these classes. And as your fitness improves along with your confidence you can easily make it harder and more challenging!

These sessions run all year through and there is no need for childcare – bonus!

Why not have a look at the buggyfit page for more details?

New Child Friendly Summer Boot Camp

This Summer why not try our new child friendly bootcamp? Lots of fun and games to get you fit and healthy, where babies, toddlers and the kids can come along too!

A mixture of circuits, cardio games, aerobics and kettlebells. Plus lots of toning and strengthening work for abs, back, arms and legs. Throw in some pelvic floor and you have the perfect mix for Summer fitness!

There is lots going on in these classes to keep little ones entertained, and the bigger ones are welcome to join in with you!

Monday’s 1.30 pm Wootton Community Centre.

Summer new child friendly bootcamp

1 hour session

Starts on Monday 13th July and runs for 7 weeks until the 24th August.

£35 for all 7 sessions – and if you miss one you can come along to the Abingdon buggyfit class on a Tuesday at 10.30 am instead; which also runs through the Summer.

Spaces are limited so book now!

Why Fixing Abdominal Separation Needs A New Broader Approach

When it comes to fixing abdominal separation, gone are the days when I can just say:

Here are 4 exercises for you. Do them every day for the next month and then come back and we can assess the progress

Focussing solely on your mid-section and training just your abdominal muscles in an effort to ‘fix’ any distension in your tummy muscles is what’s called ‘spot reducing’.

Put simply, ‘spot reducing’ is where you focus on just one muscle group, one body part, or just one area of your body and try and tone the hell out of it!

Fixing Abdominal Separation

Diastasis Detective

And if you’re doing sit ups and suspect you have abdominal separation – they aren’t the answer - in fact, sit ups will make abdominal separation worse.

The human body is made up of hundreds of muscles and bones.  And if the muscles in your body can find an easy way of doing something – they will.

And, they’ll do it over and over and over again until a nice little muscle imbalance has found its way in there.

Have a think about your habits as a new mum…

How do you think these everyday mummy movements affect your overall alignment?

  • Always holding baby with your dominate arm
  • Winding baby over the same shoulder all the time (colic anyone ?)
  • Sitting slumped over feeding baby...for hours and hours and hours...
  • Propping baby up on one hip,
  • Pushing a buggy uphill with your arms out-stretched and shoulders lifted
  • Carrying that car seat on your forearm.

These things all create muscular imbalances, don’t they?

If even one of your muscles is tight, weak or stretched, does it make sense that other muscles will try and compensate?

Because this is what they do. Your body is great at adapting to what you need it to do, but often this leads to pain sites and general tightness or discomfort.

There are many reasons why postnatal women suffer with diastasis recti after birth

But the great news is there are many ways of fixing abdominal separation.

Education is key here particularly when it comes to discovering the ‘cause and effect’ of abdominal separation – and all of your other postural traits.

Here are some points I consider when treating you for abdominal separation:

  • Is this your first/second/third/fourth baby?
  • Do you suspect you had abdominal separation that went untreated if it’s not your first baby?
  • What exercise did you do prior to getting pregnant?
  • How’s your posture right now?
  • Can you breathe correctly?
  • Do you actually have any ‘core’ strength?
  • What muscles are really tight for you?
  • Which muscles dominate your entire system, without you realising it?
  • What tasks are you doing with a newborn that might be attributing to your abdominal separation?
  • Is your pelvic floor ok, or do you need help with that too?

Can you see what I mean, it’s a complex number of factors that build up over time.

Assessing, treating and rehabilitating a new mum for abdominal separation needs to move away from just doing tummy exercises.

It needs a broader, full-body approach to get your system working and functioning in a more optimal way.

What’s also encouraging is that there’s a 7 Steps to Fixing Abdominal Separation method I follow for clients with this condition.

It’s based on a whole-body approach, that gets everything working in the right way to get results!

Take a look at the Diastasis Detective programme?

Are your pelvic floor exercises up to scratch?

When it comes to training the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and after birth, as a trained Pre and Postnatal Fitness Expert who keeps her education and skills fresh and up-to-date, things in recent years have most definitely changed.

Are your pelvic floor exercises up to scratch?

Are your pelvic floor exercises up to scratch?

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles for postnatal women is really important and keeping your pelvic floor muscles in check during pregnancy is vital too. But the way in which we now do this has been given a bit of an overhaul. 

Stress incontinence happens when you laugh, cough, sneeze or do exercise and you ‘leak’. It is quite common with 30% of new mums suffering with the condition for up to 3 months after birth. Although many women don’t seek help so the figure is probably higher. 

Lots of research and testing has been done in recent years to find out more about how the pelvic floor functions; how it becomes weakened; and what causes dysfunction within it.

 Some of the most important findings are - 

When you leak, it’s often with a movement

When someone suffers the embarrassment of leakage, it’s also often associated with movement.  This could be just in day-to-day activities eg when you run up or downstairs without thinking, you chase after your toddler, you pick up a heavy object too quickly, and notice you leak.  Now we train the pelvic floor muscles WITH movement.

Full-body approach

We know that stress incontinence is linked to not just laughing, coughing or sneezing, but also when we move our body.  So now we adopt a full-body approach to exercise and the pelvic floor.  Doing movement-based exercise which incorporates involuntary work for pelvic floor muscles during your movement, means the pelvic floor is being trained.  Some exercises work the pelvic floor without you having to even think about it because the pelvic floor switches on instinctively. This is how the body should work! 

Your glutes hold the answer!

There is a link between strengthening your bum and strengthening the pelvic floor. Basically, the stronger your bum, the stronger your back and core. This means a stronger pelvic floor.   We sit down for the majority of our day and  often turn into tailbone tuckers.  This means your pelvic floor is tight, weak and loose, because your tailbone is stuck in a position closer to your pubic bone than it should be.  However, if you build your glutes your tailbone will move further away from your pubic bone making the pelvic floor work as it should. 

Squeezing is not the best way to fix

The old school style ‘squeeze and release’ and ‘draw up and hold’ Kegel exercises aren’t necessarily the answer.  This is because whilst doing a ‘squeeze’ without putting the pelvic floor muscles in a more optimum position, it’s making the pelvic floor tighter and tighter  in its current, incorrect position.  What the pelvic floor needs during pregnancy and after birth, is a good old stretch out to remain ‘flexible’ to enable your body to facilitate childbirth, and it’s your bum that wants the work.

Workshops and private sessions are available that are specifically tailored for pre and postnatal ladies to aid recovery of the pelvic floor.