While springing back into shape within minutes of having a baby is an unrealistic and unhealthy goal, becoming a mummy doesn't mean waving goodbye to your fitness goals or pre-baby body forever. With buggy workouts on the rise, which combine cardio and strength for a great, outdoor workout – I thought iI'd share my top tips about post-natal exercise.
Start at the right time
Starting too soon could be detrimental to your health; it's important to wait until you are ready.
"Ideally you would start after your GP check, which is usually around six weeks. Before that, we recommend only walking and pelvic floor exercises."
Starting a new class can be daunting, but learning as much as you can about what you're signing up for should make you feel more comfortable. Don't forget to take water – and possibly a mat for exercising on the grass. You don't have to buy a jogging pushchair for a buggy workout class, but if you want to check them out, take a look at our favourites here.
"We understand this can be a tough period and confidence may be low. If new starters contact their expert post-natal instructor beforehand, they will not only receive full details of the class, including where to meet and what to bring, but the instructor will be expecting them too and will be able to do some introductions and make them feel welcome.
"Our classes are suitable for all buggy types. It is more important that baby is comfortable.
Wear sensible clothing
If you turn up to a buggy workout class with no bra, or flip flops and a dress, you're not going to get very far. That's not to say you need to go out and spend a fortune on new gear, either! Just be sensible. Exercising is about being safe and comfortable; buggy workout is not a fashion parade.
Dress baby according to the weather that day – bearing in mind that while you'll be running around to keep warm, baby won't. So don't forget gloves for them if it's cold!
"You need a sports bra, comfortable clothes and good trainers. "Sometimes mums might find they need slightly bigger shoes after pregnancy due to the relaxin hormone in the tendons and ligaments allowing the feet to flatten very slightly during pregnancy."
Push yourself – but not too hard
Most mums have not exercised for quite a while before their baby is born, so fitness levels usually drop during that time.
"Mums should listen to their bodies. Post-natal fitness should leave them with a sense of effort, accomplishment and a general sense of wellbeing – not exhaustion. They may feel a little stiff the following days at first, but this is to be expected when embarking on a fitness regime.
Don't fret if baby does!
Every newborn that has ever graced the earth has been unpredictable. Who knows when they might cry, poo or decide that they want yet another feed? At a buggy workout class, everyone is in the same boat and nobody will judge.
"It's never a problem if a baby cries in a Pramtastic session – the instructor will always reiterate that. All babies cry! Mum can either console baby or leave baby to settle themselves. It doesn't happen often as we keep them moving and they enjoy watching and listening to their surroundings and the session. And the instructor often has a free hand (or two) to rock a buggy!
"Similarly, mum can stop to feed or change if need be, but we advise doing it before the class so there's no need to take time out from the session. Feeding before will mean baby feels content and, for breastfeeding mums, it will make for a more comfortable session."
Prep that pelvic floor
One of the most soul destroying effects of motherhood on our bodies can be a weakened pelvic floor. No woman under the age of 70 wants to be reaching for the Tena Lady just so they can go for a jog! The good news is that you can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with simple exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere.
"Exercise your pelvic floor lots, and/or arrange to see a specialist postnatal fitness instructor or specialist women's health physiotherapist. If there are certain exercises that you know make it worse, you could ask your instructor for an alternative activity. This is a very common problem, especially in a class full of new mums! It's nothing we haven't heard before. We are all trained in pelvic floor restoration and strengthening, so do communicate with your Pramtastic trainer if you have concerns."
Recruit a pal
Sometimes, signing up to an exercise class with a friend can provide that incentive you need to keep going back.
"Exercising with a friend can be more fun and you may stick with it longer. But doing it without a friend takes away the element of having to both be available, so it can be more convenient.
"However, research shows that signing up to a programme of classes such as Pramtastic will keep you going for longer and achieving the results you're looking for as you're more committed and the class is structured to gain results."
Build up your fitness slowly
Rome wasn't built in a day – and neither will your fitness level be. So don't expect miracles overnight, and take it session by session.
"Build up slowly, with a mix of cardiovascular and strength training, ideally in a class environment with a fully qualified and insured post-natal instructor who understands exactly what your body has been through and how to rehabilitate it.
"If there isn't a class nearby, then walking is great alongside a post-natal DVD or YouTube video.
"Or there's always the recently-launched Pramtastic facebook group, for tips on how to workout at home and regain strength lost in pregnancy and childbirth – safely."
So, there you have it – our top tips on getting back into exercise. We think it's a great way to spend some of your maternity leave and an opportunity to make new friends while getting healthy, fit and gorgeous and feeling great about yourself.
Good luck, mums!