Getting back to fitness after childbirth

Guest blog by Cat Baxendale

I always dreamed of becoming a mother, but when the dream became reality, it certainly didn’t come easily. Monty’s grand entrance was 12 days late and at the end of a labour which stretched beyond 48 hours. With one dramatic, final big push and a pair of forceps, I found a strength I didn’t know I had and, having narrowly avoided a trip to theatre, I was holding my crying, healthy little bundle of joy.

As I lay there gazing in awe at the little miracle in my arms, little did I know of the brutal aftermath that would follow such a protracted and traumatic birth. I have been a personal trainer at the Hogarth for eight years and have specialised in pre and post-natal for nearly six. I had an idea of what was ahead of me on the journey to recovery and the safest ways to feel strong again, but what I learned through my own experience is that every single one of us is different and we all have a different story.

I was fit and strong and exercised throughout pregnancy, and I believe that gave me the strength and stamina to deliver Monty, yet my body took a very long time to recover. We all have a different birth experience, a different fourth trimester. When GPs give us a six week check up to confirm we are safe to exercise, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed if you don’t feel up to it physically or mentally. Our story needs to be considered. For me it took months.

My first step back into The Hogarth to exercise, I felt like a shell of the person I used to be. I feared people could see through my exterior exposing the weakness I felt. I lost all my strength. My core was none existent. When I coached other mums in the same position I would say “be patient, be kind to yourself, you have just created a human being! You pushed it out and now you’re keeping it alive. To top it off you’re dealing with a bucket load of hormones!” But I was much harder on myself. I was afraid that my body wouldn’t be able to do it again.

Yet I was greeted with such warmth, smiles and kindness. I felt a real sense of community which was such a beautiful reminder because at times, parenthood can feel incredibly isolating and lonely. Exercise has always been one of the key components of my week. Since having Monty it has given me that little bit of “me time” and helped me feel stronger and more energised to tackle a day of feeding, crying, winding and nappy changing! It is key to listen to your body, to not push your body before its ready. It takes nine months to make a baby it can take just as long to recover.

Photographs above: Cat’s fitness class and Cat with baby Monty

I began with gentle core-related exercises, staying clear of anything high impact. The cross trainer made me feel good and the bike helped gently raise my heart rate, which then brought that burst of natural endorphins. It was eight months before I felt ready to run again. When the time came to go back to work, finding child care that I trusted and felt comfortable with was the first anxiety-inducing task. Then there was the feeling of guilt for leaving my child. But I also felt excitement about having adult conversations again! I still feel waves of guilt for leaving Monty but now, as I wave goodbye to him he skips on in to see his child minder. Knowing he’s happy allows me to relax at work.

It took a few months to adjust to being back at work. I would feel an urge to check my phone a lot, and there were days when Monty waved me off with a smile and I would be crying inside. But this is parenthood for you. What is important is balance. I take so much joy from working in such a positive environment. I get to meet interesting people daily and help with their exercise needs. I get to talk to adults, finish a hot cup of tea on my lunch break and I also get a little me time. I always treasured the time I had with Monty but it has made me appreciate it so much more. My confidence has grown as each month has passed. I now enjoy teaching HIIT classes weekly, training my clients and teaching a mums’ class on the green. It’s a class for mums to exercise safely, with their child if need be, helping them to feel stronger and connect with other mums, knowing we are all in this together.

Cat is a Personal Trainer at The Hogarth. Follow Cat on Instagram @mummyfit_pt. Her mums’ fitness class on Acton Green Common every Monday at 10:15-11am for £10.

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