Mum and baby fitness

This weekend I enjoyed my first session back in the pool since giving birth (full set below). This came at the end of a fun and diverse week of postpartum fitness classes helping me to feel more like myself again. 

Having had our six week check and been signed off by the doctor on Monday, Tuesday saw me and Florence at a restore and repair class with Warrior Mums (http://elizaflynn.co.uk/warriorrr-workouts/warriorrr-mums-babies/) in Highbury. I tend to struggle to put Florence down without her crying so it was great that I could do a lot of the exercises while holding her. We began with core work, followed by a quick cardio warm-up and a circuit of resistance and weighted toning exercises. It was really fun and I felt like I was getting a workout, albeit a suitability gentle one. The GP and trainer at Warrior Mums confirmed that I have approximately 1.5cm separation in my abdominals, which is totally normal and doesn’t classify as fully-blown diastasis recti, although I still need the avoid crunches, planks and anything that engages my six pack until the muscles have come back together again. 

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Wednesday was a bit more sedate with a trip to the cinema for a baby screening of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’. We took a brisk walk to the Screen on the Green in Angel, Islington to meet the NCT girls (https://www.everymancinema.com/screen-on-the-green). Here we enjoyed a two-man sofa to ourselves, free tea served to our seat and, of course, a good movie, which Florence slept and fed through – perfect! We followed it up with a trip to Planet Organic for a healthy lunch of vegan sushi and a smoothie and a walk home via a slightly elongated route. 

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On Thursday we attended a mum and baby yoga class at Yoga Home in Stoke Newington (http://yogahome.com/). This was our second attempt at the class and for a second time Florence cried for most of it. The crèche worker helped, as did the ‘tummy time’ toy I took along, but overall it was a struggle and the amount of yoga I actually got done was questionable! On the one hand, it is good practice for me to put Florence down, for her to see other babies and for us to do an activity together, on the other, it’s not an inexpensive class and if she really doesn’t like it, is it worth persisting? I’m still unsure. 

On Thursday evening, I enjoyed a run while Florence had some daddy time. It was my third run back and felt great. I’m taking it really slow and steady at the moment (10 minute miles for 3 1/2 miles); I’m being mindful to take care of my body and enjoy being out rather than pushing myself, but it feels so great all the same. 

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On Friday we enjoyed a workout in Clissold Park with the Buggy Belles (http://www.buggy-belles.com/). Florence slept in the sling for the whole class and was good for ‘weighting’ my step-ups, squats and lunges! It was a really fun class on a beautiful sunny morning and we will definitely be going back next week!

Today I had a visit from a women’s health physio from My French Physio (http://myfrenchphysio.london/). She checked my section scar, abdominal separation and pelvic floor. She gave me some exercises to strengthen my transverse abdominal muscles and to help me to fully relax my pelvic floor. We also discussed my return to exercise and it was good to be able to ask about my decision to start running again and for her to let me know what to look out for in terms of discomfort, pain and symptoms of pushing myself too hard too soon. It was good to feel supported by an expert in this area and I made another appointment for further checks and exercises in three weeks. 

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On the whole it’s been a great week for exercise; now I just need to cut back on my Brazil and cashew nut snacking!!

My swimming session from Sunday is below, enjoy.

7 weeks postpartum, swim:

Warm up:

200m front crawl

Main set:

200m backstroke 

200m breaststroke 

200m front crawl

200m front crawl kick 

200m front crawl pull 

200m front crawl full stroke

200m backstroke kick 

100m alternating 25m breaststroke kick, 25m front crawl kick 

100m front crawl pull 

Cool down:

200m front crawl 

Total: 2,000m, 45 minutes 

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A postpartum comeback?

I am acutely aware that for a blog ostensibly about exercise I haven’t written much on this subject in a little while. The various changes over the past ten months to my life, lifestyle and body as a result of pregnancy and childbirth have resulted in a shift in my fitness routine, with a significant decrease in the frequency and intensity of my workouts. While I continued to exercise throughout my pregnancy, yoga, weights, walking and swimming took the spotlight, while running played more of a supporting role. 

On 10 August my baby was born by caesarean section. It may be quite telling that while in the operating theatre one of my first questions to the obstetrician was when can I exercise again? I was told I could do a ‘gentle cycle on a stationary bike’ from four weeks, but no running or swimming until after six weeks. At the time six weeks seemed like a lifetime away, yet now, with the six week mark fast approaching, I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone! Florence has occupied so much of my headspace and my physical and emotional energy, the thought of going for a run has been so low down in my list of priorities as not even to register, that is, until now. 

Over the past week or so I’ve started to feel more like myself again and I’m eager to start getting back into shape. I’m adapting to the new sleep pattern, walking further and faster and my milk supply and appetite seem to have regulated, meaning that Florence is more satisfied and I’m no longer filled with the desire to guzzle Vego and peanut butter! My ability to multitask is returning (I’m feeding Florence as I write this) and this week I ordered a stack of books to read, treated myself to a manicure, got back on my yoga mat and ventured to the gym. 

While I’m taking it really easy, I was pleasantly surprised by my strength and fitness both on the mat and the bike. It’s amazing how much easier it is to chaturanga without an enormous stomach weighing you down and I can easily reach the handlebars of the bike again! My tummy does still leave a lot to be desired – I have a distinctive paunch now and it’s pretty squishy, as is my bum! But I hope once I can get back into a proper routine they will begin to firm up again.

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I’m really looking forward to returning to the pool once I’ve had the all clear from the doctor and I can’t wait to get Florence in too (she already has three swimming cossies just waiting!). I’m also looking forward to eventually lacing up my trainers again for a run, although at the moment, with my scar still tender and my ligaments still quite loose, I’m conscious not to race back into it and risk damage or injury.

While I’ve earmarked some mother and baby yoga, Pilates and buggy workout classes, to make sure my reintroduction to exercise is safe and properly paced, I’ve booked an appointment with a women’s health physio for the six week mark. This was something that other sporty mums recommended and will make sure that I’ve had a full MOT before embarking on a full comeback. 

I will be keeping you up to date on how I progress and the workouts I’m doing. If you are getting your fitness back after childbirth or injury, or if you have been through a similar experience do share any tips and advice with me, I always love to hear from you. 

Taking the ‘work’ out of ‘workout’

On those occasions when someone remarks on how ‘good’ or ‘disciplined’ I am to exercise on a regular basis I always feel like a little bit of a fraud. It’s not like I have to drag myself to the gym, or force myself to lace up my trainers, shunning a favoured spot on the sofa or an evening in the pub; the truth is, I actually really enjoy exercise and want to workout.

While for many people exercise may seem like a drag, or something that needs to be ticked off a weekly to do list, for me it is an escape and a way to pacify my restless legs and even more restless mind. I find relaxation in my runs, ‘me time’ in my yoga practice and serenity in the swimming pool. I love attending spinning classes with my friends, or spending time alone in the gym, headphones in, focusing on form and technique, leaving all of my stresses and worries outside. That’s not to say that I never miss a workout, or that I never have those days when I’d rather lay in the bath than lift weights, but in recent years, finding the sports and workout times that work for me has made keeping fit a whole lot easier.

What I’ve learned, through trial and error, is that working out doesn’t have to be hard work. If you can find the types of exercise you enjoy, done at the right time of day and driven by the right motivating factors, you may find that a 6am slog can be transformed into an 8pm indulgence.

So how can this magical transformation occur? I’ve outlined a few things here that have worked for me.

Find a sport that you enjoy

This may sound obvious, but so often I hear of people forcing themselves to pursue an activity that they dislike simply because they feel they ought to do it. Instead of pushing yourself in a direction that you don’t want to go, think about what it is you enjoy doing and how you like to do it. If you know you prefer social activities to solitary sports then look for team games rather than solo pursuits, or join a running/swimming/cycling club instead of going it alone. Consider whether you need a coach or trainer to motivate you and therefore whether PT sessions or classes would work well for you, or, if you prefer to have the freedom to undertake workouts at your own pace, maybe look to more ‘open’ activities instead of things like boot camps and Cross Fit. Ask yourself if you would rather spend more time outside and therefore whether running, kayaking or paddle boarding would be fun for you, or if you favour being inside, look at activities within gyms or studio spaces, such as yoga, zumba, box fit or spinning.

And remember, the answers to these questions don’t always have to be the same.

I love doing yoga on my own in the morning, but equally enjoy a group dance class with someone telling me what to do. I love running and swimming outside, but also like  lifting weights in the gym. The secret is when you don’t enjoy something, figuring out specifically what it is about that thing that you don’t like. For example, running for me is an escape and a chance for some internal processing, so I have no interest in having a coach dictate my pace or forcing me to run track. I know that I dislike getting on the bike in the gym as I find it really hard to motivate myself, but I love going to spinning classes and I know I will put in a really good session with the help of an instructor shouting directions from the front of the room.

Of course, all of this comes with the caveat that for most activities it can take a little time for enjoyment to grow while you build up your fitness, confidence and competence, but if after a couple of months of persevering you still don’t feel like the regime you are following is working for you, then don’t feel like you have to stick it out, simply change it up.

Time it right

It’s not just what you are doing that can impact on your enjoyment of different types of exercise, but also when you are doing it. It so often seems that when people take on a new fitness regime they automatically opt for the 6am workout window, which to me seems like they are making it unnecessarily hard work for themselves. While I appreciate that for some people this is the only option available, for many others it is just one of the multifarious slots in the day when we can sneak in some exercise.

I’ve learned that while I love running I have no interest in going before work in the mornings. I find that I am sluggish and uncomfortable running at this time, my stomach is never happy and my limbs are heavy. Come lunchtime, however, I’ve got my trainers on and I’m ready to bound out of the door like a gazelle! I’ve discovered that my favourite way of starting the day is with a yoga session, preparing my mind and body for the day ahead, but it is very rare that I will take to my mat after this 6:30-7:30am window. Swimming is a lot more flexible for me, I love an early morning swim, a sneaky lunchtime dip, or a post work session, but that said, I find getting into the pool a whole lot easier in the summer when it’s warm outside, than stripping down and diving in when there is snow on the ground! The weather impacts on my running motivation too, and my husband and I joke that we are the opposite of ‘fair weather runners’ as we much prefer running in the cold than in the heat and do our best training and races between late September and early April.

Where you are in your life can also impact on the types of exercise that feel right for you. While pregnant, for example, swimming, walking, Pilates and yoga have definitely taken priority, and I’ve put running on the back burner for now. Injury and illness may also dictate what you feel you can do and you may find lower impact exercises or strengthening workouts take over from HIIT or intense cardio sessions.

Remember, you can be a seasonal and time specific athlete and can workout on rotation if that works best for you.

There’s no ‘I’ in team

While there are times when working out alone seems like the best option, for me, there is nothing like accountability to others for getting me out of the door for a training session. Whether it is going on a run with a pal, agreeing with colleagues that we will head to the gym together after work, or playing a team sport, knowing that others are relying on me to be there is often all the motivation I need. Even on the days when I would rather train alone, it can help to agree to meet a friend at the pool or gym, knowing that we will do our own sessions once there, but then may go for a coffee together afterwards.

The secret with group training is not to let being with others give you an excuse not to train as hard as you might otherwise do. Remember that standing chatting at the water fountain in the gym or gossiping at the end of the pool isn’t going to help you hit your fitness goals!

I hope that this is all helpful and that it motivates you to try a new sport or at least to try shifting the timings of your exercise to see if it improves how you feel about working out. If you have any additional motivation tips I’d love to hear them.

Until my next, stay fit!

Podcast episodes to enjoy while you are…

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that the discovery of the Serial Podcast a couple of years back changed my listening habits for good. I was training for the Paris marathon at the time and found myself chain listening to episode after episode on my long runs. From that point on, podcasts rapidly replaced music during runs and gym sessions, while my at home listening switched from exclusively Radio 4 to an array of podcasts covering everything from sports to true crime and from love to politics.

Three years later, podcasts have become an integral part of my life. Whether I listen for extra motivation while running, relaxation while in the bath, entertainment while cleaning or inspiration while cooking, I’m rarely without the dulcet tones of one of my favourite podcast hosts.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve discovered a few new podcasts and like any evangelical listener I wanted to pass these recommendations on. Of course, if you have been living under a rock for the past few years and haven’t yet heard the first series of Serial, this is the gateway drug I would recommend to start you on your podcasting journey. From there you could do worse than to delve into the archives of This American Life, (one of my favourite episodes will always be ‘Our Friend David‘), or continue down the Serial path with S Town (from the makers of Serial and This American Life).

But if you have already enjoyed these series and are looking for something new, or else, you would like something a little different in tone, the below may be for you.

Podcasts for while you are…walking

Happy Place Podcast with Fearne Cottone: Kirsty Young
Hosted by Fearne Cotton, Happy Place explores the experiences and shares the advice of guests on how to find joy every day.
I only discovered this podcast a couple of days ago but have already walked over 50,000 steps, eschewing buses and tubes, so that I could keep listening! I’ve just finished the episode with Gok Wan, which I loved, but I think if I was to recommend a single episode it would have to be the Kirsty Young interview. If you love Desert Island Discs you will really love this episode: thought provoking, engaging and calming, what more could you want from a podcast? I’m really excited to mine the Happy Place back-catalogue of episodes to find some more gems.
The Rich Roll Podcast – Finding joy in simplicity with the Happy Pear

Regular readers will know that I’m a big Rich Roll fan. I find his interviews inspiring, motivating and great for getting me through long runs (not least because he takes the ‘long form’ format to the extreme with interviews running, in some cases, over 2 hours!). While sometimes this sort of time investment can seem a bit of a daunting prospect, and I have found myself losing momentum with some of the seriously long episodes, this relatively snappy episode with The Happy Pear, (Dave and Steve, the Irish, plant-based, sporty twins behind The Happy Pear food product, cafe and book brand) really made my day.

I love these guys so much; they are two of the most charismatic and emphatic advocates for healthy living that I’ve ever encountered. Their philosophy: ‘if you’re happy with really simple things, it’s a lot easier to find joy every day.’

I can guarantee this episode will make you smile and the enthusiasm from Dave and Steve for healthy living, their dedication to family and their attitude towards keeping active will certainly rub off.

Podcasts for while you are…in the bath

Love Stories with Dolly Alderton: Emma Freud

I discovered the wonderful author and journalist Dolly Alderton through the podcast series The High Low (see below), and when I found out that she had released this solo podcast I immediately jumped on the bandwagon.

In this series, Dolly talks to guests about their most defining relationships: the passion, heartbreak, longing, familiarity and fondness that have formed who they are.

My favourite episode has to be this interview with broadcaster, writer and script editor Emma Freud, the woman behind the man that is Richard Curtis. If anyone is well-placed to talk about love in a sincere yet lighthearted way, it is the partner one of the biggest names in romantic comedy.

The High Low with Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes: The Dangers of Self-Deprecation; & A Deep-Dive Into ‘Nanette’

The High Low came to me as a recommendation from one of my great friends, Helen, and after a car journey of episodes together I immediately got home and downloaded the back list. I’ve subsequently got a whole host of other friends hooked and post-episode debriefs always result in some really interesting conversations.

It pitches itself as a ‘news and pop-culture podcast’, which translate as a really nice mix of high- and low-brow culture, from issues of race, gender and politics to reality TV, romance and celebrity. Whenever I pass this recommendation on I always feel like I have to caveat it with a note that the hosts, while amazing, are incredibly posh (perhaps not something I need to point out given that one of them is called Pandora). While they are hyper-aware of this and don’t shy away from it, it is something that strikes you the moment you start listening and could put some people off without giving it a chance.

There are lots of episodes that I could recommend, but this recent one about ‘Nanette’, a stand-up show by Australian comic, Hannah Gadsby, provides a lot of food for thought. From comedy to the dangers of self-deprecation, I hope this episode gets you thinking and as hooked on The High Low as I am.

Podcasts for while you are…cleaning

Ear Hustle – Left Behind 

I discovered Ear Hustle via the Radio 4 Extra Podcast Radio Hour, when they played a short clip from one of the episodes. I was immediately intrigued and after listening to the previewed episode in full, quickly caught up on the entire first series. The podcast presents stories of life inside San Quentin State Prison, shared and produced by those living it. The hosts, Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods, are a visual artist employed by the prison and an inmate respectively. The stories they explore are honest, funny, difficult and thought provoking and offer a new and nuanced view of people living within the American prison system.

The episode I would recommend you start with is called ‘Left Behind‘ and is about prisoner Curtis Roberts, who was sentenced to 50 years to life for stealing under the three strikes law for committing three non-violent robberies. The story explores how he ended up becoming a thief and how has has struggled to maintain a sense of hope during his years in prison. It is really moving and will certainly start to make you think differently about the people incarcerated in the US as well as the American judicial system.

30 for 30, Bikram: Arrival 

Recommended to me by friend and fellow podcast addict, Anna, this series of 30 for 30 explores the life of yogi Bikram Choudhury, from his rise to fame and fortune to stories of scandal and sexual assault.

If you have heard of Bikram yoga but know nothing about the man behind the moves, then this podcast is definitely for you. I knew nothing of how Bikram took Beverly Hills by storm, using his Hollywood connections and rags-to-riches origin story to build a devoted following and lay the foundation for a yoga empire. Nor did I know about the seedy underworld of this empire and the mental and physical abuse suffered by many of his followers at his own hands.

For this series you will need to start at the beginning with the first episode, ‘Arrival’, but you will soon find yourself at the end!

Podcasts for while you are…working out

Running for Real with Tina Muir: Colin McCourt

I migrated over to the Running for Real podcast with Tina Muir after she left another podcast favourite of mine, Run to the Top. As a presenter, I find her relatable and easy to listen to and she always has interesting guest on the show. I know I’ve mentioned this episode with Colin McCourt on the blog previously, but it is so good it bears repeating. McCourt was a middle distance runner who competed at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and was on track to race in the Olympics in 2012. However, when at the age of 27 he didn’t make the 2012 GB team he stepped away from running for what he thought would be for good.

During the years that ensued he struggled with his mental state and with his weight until one day, when he saw an old photograph of himself running, he decided to seriously rethink how he was living his life. By reintroducing running and structured training, as well a by improving his diet, he regained control of his life.

If you need a little motivation to get you out of the door for a run or to the gym, or if you need something to spur you on while you are running, this is the podcast for you.

Fit and Fearless: How to be Healthy when Hectic with Alice Liveing 

I discovered Fit and Fearless via my friend and fellow fitness fanatic, Sophie. She had spotted an episode on pre- and post-natal training and sent me a link and I started listening from there. The episodes are short and easy to digest. They are good for shorter runs or gym sessions rather than longer slogs.

As a starter, this episode with fitness guru Alice Liveing is great for tips on how to be healthy when you’re snowed under, but as I think I’ve mentioned this before, I will also recommend this more recent episode with dancer and singer Fleur East.

Podcasts for while you are…cooking

Table manners with Jessie Ware: Yotam Ottolenghi 

In this podcast, singer-songwriter Jessie Ware and her mum, Lennie, host a series of guest from the worlds of music, culture and politics, for dinner. Discussions centre on food and family with a soupçon of oversharing. I first head about this podcast a few months back when it was mentioned on High Low by Dolly Alderton, but I only got round to listening this week.

I really loved this episode with one of my favourite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi. In it they discuss Yotam’s children, husband and their surrogacy process, as well as his new book in which he will be (finally!) simplifying some of his dishes. Perfect listening while you are cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

As the sun sets on the first six months of 2018…

As June draws to a close, and with just over five weeks before Suze is due to be born, I wanted to reflect on the past six months. I suspect the next six months will be quite different to the last, so I wanted to take this opportunity to digest the first half of the year and allow myself to enjoy some of the memories.

January

We started 2018 with our traditional New Year’s Day walk. This year we headed along the canal through Camden and Regent’s Park to the top of Primrose Hill. As always, it was a refreshing and satisfying way to kick off the year and a good way to blow away the cobwebs of the previous evening.

 

On 5 January we had our 9 week scan and were able to see baby Suze for the first time (although at that point we didn’t know she was a she!).

Our good friend Mark came to visit from Canada and joined us, along with my sister- and brother-in-law for some iceskating at Somerset House and a trip to see Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum.

 

We spent a relaxing weekend in Yorkshire with my father-in-law and his wife, and my parents also joined us for a lovely walk in the Yorkshire countryside.

 

And I headed to Birmingham for a perfect day with the polo pals, Katie, Helen, Suze and Mark for a reunion with our teammates Sophie, Cheri and Collette.

Back in London I took Mr S to see Girl from the North Country for his birthday and we finished the month by passing the 12 week pregnancy mark and finally being able to tell our friends and family our news (although I’m sure many had their suspicions after my booze-free Christmas!).

February

February saw us heading off to Slovenia for skiing in Kransjska Gora, enjoying time outdoors at Lake Bled and sightseeing in Ljubljana.

 

We also had a really great visit from my parents, sister, brother-in-law and the boys. We took them to the Science Museum, to see Buckingham Palace and for tea and cake on the South Bank.

 

March

If we hadn’t had enough snow in Slovenia, March saw plenty in London.

 

Surprisingly, there was a lot less up north when we headed to Manchester to spend time with our pals Becks and James. Snow did hit when I returned to Manchester two week later for Becks’s birthday celebrations, but that didn’t dampen a perfect day with some of my oldest friends.

 

This second trip up north also provided a perfect opportunity to see mum and dad and enjoy a rather chilly walk with my good friend Laura and her baby Alexander.

 

We also enjoyed a few jaunts to suburban London for walks, lunches and lovely long chats with our wonderful pals Mairead and Steve and Ceri and Ed.

 

The month concluded with a delicious vegan afternoon tea and trip to Tate Britain to see the Impressionists in London show with my fabulous friend Georgina.

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April

April kicked off with another exhibition, this time Picasso at Tate Modern, followed by cake at Harvest E8, one of my favourite north London vegan-friendly cafes.

Finally the daffodils opened in Green Park after a very snowy winter, making my walk into the office a lot jollier. Being greeted by flowers on my desk from another happy author also helped!

 

April was also marked by a truly fabulous surprise trip to Versailles and Paris with my wonderful water polo girls, Katie, Helen and Soph.

 

Mr S and I enjoyed plenty of London walks during the sunny weekends, exploring the river Lea and Walthamstow Wetlands sustained by a feast from the vegan food market in Hackney.

 

And I enjoyed an early morning view of the Monet and Architecture exhibition at the National Gallery with my fabulous colleagues Polly, Rosie and Tom.

We finished the month with a wonderful trip to Copenhagen to visit our lovely pals Kathryn and Greg and their beautiful baby Rose (and managed to squish in some sightseeing too!).

 

We returned to London ready for the renovation work on our kitchen to kick off on 30 April.

May

The first weekend in May saw Helen, Soph and I at BeFit London where we enjoyed a killer spin class and a relaxing yoga class, as well as getting onto the leaderboard for a skipping competition!

 

Sunny Sundays offered plenty of opportunities for London walks and I enjoyed a stroll through Finsbury Park, Highgate and Waterlow Park with Mr S and through Victoria Park with my lovely pals Ariana and Antonia.

 

A trip to Birmingham, ostensibly for the Eurovision Song Contest, also saw me enjoying a surprise baby shower.

 

And on the Sunday we went stand-up paddle boarding, although for me it was just a spectator sport! Still, I participated fully in the vegan roast dinner afterwards and was so pleased for the chance to see my lovely pal Letty while there.

 

In May we also enjoyed a trip to Centre Parcs to celebrate mum’s birthday. We marked the Royal Wedding with our own tea party, as well as getting stuck into all of the Centre Parcs fun of running, kayaking, swimming and archery!

 

The following weekend I enjoyed the Regent’s Park Race for Life with my fabulous running partner Lou to mark her 30th birthday and my 30 weeks of pregnancy.

 

And we closed the month with a Garden party at the Palace in the glorious sunshine.

 

June

June began with a trip to see Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’ with the lovely Georgina and her husband Tes, followed by lots of lovely chats and delicious food at By Chloe in Soho.

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I enjoyed the exhibition Splendours of the Subcontinent at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace and put on my own (very small) exhibition of drawings from our life drawing class.

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We also headed off on our treehouse adventures in Wales, marked by plenty of relaxing, strolls in the countryside and deliciously indulgent ‘us time’.

 

I also got to see Legally Blonde the musical, as a belated birthday gift from my pals Katie, Helen and Soph. And got round to redecorating the spare room ready for our new arrival.

 


We enjoyed a weekend in Hampshire at a mini family festival of fun organised by our friends Ben and Fern, where we were able to catch up with lots of Mr S’s old uni pals on what was a truly perfect day.

 

We had a lovely visit from my mother-in-law and I enjoyed a wonderful morning in the sun with my sister-in-law in Potters Bar.

So that brings me up to today.

It’s been six months, five exhibitions, four countries, three theatre trips, two rooms (and a hall) redecorated and one race. We’ve enjoyed many of walks, lots of spinning classes, even more yoga and swims, and all of the best friends and family.

While I’m so excited about the future I’m also really grateful for the now and all of the experiences we have had.

So are we ready for the next six months? I guess we’ll see…

On exercise during pregnancy, getting larger and the fear of leaving work

As my last few posts have been interview or podcast based I thought I’d write a quick post to update you on my fitness and pregnancy progress over the past couple of months.

I’m now just over 24 weeks pregnant (or five and a half months for those working in normal time) with a little girl who, for reasons I won’t go into here, we are currently calling Crêpe Suzette. Getting past the 20 week scan was a big relief, and although this revealed an issue with one of Suze’s kidneys, which initially caused us a little shock and upset (her right kidney is multicystic and will never fully develop or function), having seen the specialist and knowing that they will be keeping an eye on how she develops, I am feeling a lot more positive about the prognosis. We are so excited about introducing her into the world and determined that even with one kidney she will be a strong and empowered little lady. Even if she can’t play contact sports such as water polo like her mum, we already have grand plans for her triathlon career!

She is clearly growing at a good pace (she is over a 33cm in length now), and in response my body has been rapidly expanding. Many of my clothes (sports wear included) have now fallen by the wayside and I’m embracing my new (enforced) capsule wardrobe.

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I made a few additions to this last week, investing in a new pair of running leggings – which are sufficiently baggy to see me through for a little longer and sufficiently jazzy to make me want to exercise – and a couple of oversized sports vests, which are a bit more forgiving when surrounded by mirrors in the gym!

In terms of exercise, I’ve been really enjoying going to spinning classes as I feel like I’m getting a pretty killer workout without Suze bouncing around too much. Similarly, I’ve been spending more time in the gym, trading my Sunday long run for a long gym session. When I’m lifting weights I feel strong (not just large) and the cross trainer provides a great low-impact cardio workout. I’m still going to yoga classes and modifying where necessary, and I start each day with 15 to 20 minutes of home practice.

I am still running, although it is becoming increasingly hard work, so it’s nice to have some other options available. I max out at around 5 miles now and I have to intersperse jogging with short periods of walking. I’ve noticed that my calves and hamstrings are a lot tighter and burn a lot more than ever before, which I am putting down to the change in my weight distribution. All the same, I’m determined to keep getting out for as long as I’m still enjoying it, especially now that the weather is improving and the parks are open later in the evening. I’m just really grateful at the moment that I have the time to run as I know this will change come August!

Another wardrobe addition I’ve fallen in love with, this time courtesy of my mum, is my maternity swimsuit. It is the first time ever that I’ve had a non-training/racing suit and instead I’m embracing a cute little polka dot, halter neck number! It took a bit of getting used to pushing off the wall and tumble turning whilst trusting that I was retaining my modesty, but I’m pretty comfortable with it now and I love the looks on people’s faces as I overtake them in my casual cossie with my enormous stomach! When I swim I feel pretty much normal, which is wonderful.

I’m really determined to keep my body moving, not least as it helps with the swollen ankles and ‘pasty feet’ I’ve suddenly started getting as a result of water retention when I sit down for too long. But also, when I exercise I am a better version of myself and a better person to be around. Exercise means that I still feel strong and confident in my body and even at times, dare I say it, sexy.

Although exercising is proving more physically taxing than ever before, it is still such a huge and valuable part of my life I wouldn’t go without it. Even if exercise now means a walk around Green Park at lunchtime rather than a 10k run along the river, I know I’ll always feel better for doing a little bit of something, and it’s still a good way to catch up on a podcast and see some sunshine.
Changes to my body and workout schedule are not the only things I’m having to get used to. At the moment the prospect of taking time away from work is totally terrifying. I love my job and my team so much and I have so many great projects on the go at the moment that it’s impossible to imagine stepping away, even if only for a year. I know that I will only have that first year with Suze once and how important that will be, and I’m sure when the time comes I’ll revel in our time together, but for the time being I feel like I want to cling onto my job tighter than ever, terrified that it won’t be waiting for me on my return.

I’m sure lots of parents-to-be go through all of these emotions. I’m hoping that my inability to control and plan for everything during this period will prove a positive lesson for the future. I’m having to learn to let go a little and go with the flow and, while for now I feel very out of my comfort zone, I hope that it will stand me in good stead for when Suze arrives and I can’t control anything at all!

If you’ve been through a similar experience, or are going through something similar I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Until my next, keep moving.

Beware the judgemental eyebrow, ditch the hot baths and go decaf: Lessons from a 17 week pregnant running vegan

(Image © babycentre.co.uk)

The other day it really struck me: there is another human being growing inside me. At this very moment, there is a future person dwelling in my ever-expanding uterus, coming to work with me, bobbing up and down on my runs, getting shifted around as I do yoga, hanging out with me as I hang out with friends and enjoying (in it’s own way) everything I eat and drink. And all being well, at some point in the not so distant future, that little being will walk and talk out here in the world. I know all of this is glaringly obvious, but at the same time it’s really weird and totally amazing.

As week 16 comes to a close and I’ve started to look pretty pregnant, I’m finally beginning to let myself hope and believe that this (not so) little bump will become a healthy baby. So what have I learned and experienced over the past weeks (aside from anxious excitement!)?

1. Morning sickness is a misnomer

While some people escape morning sickness altogether, for me it was more of an all day nausea. While it was pretty rough, I was lucky that it only lasted from about week 7 to week 13. Beige food really helped during this time and my go-to meals became porridge, avocado on crackers, peanut butter and apple on rye toast, butternut squash risotto and (bizarrely) vegan curry. I found myself trying to sneak veggies into my meals where I could stomach it, made sure I took my pregnancy vitamins plus a vitamin b complex and daily dose of liquid iron, but if I’m honest it wasn’t my finest few weeks in terms of nutrition. When it passed and I started fancying salad again it was amazing and I welcomed back all of the vegetables with open arms! Now I’m pretty much back to my usual diet with the addition of a 4pm banana or Trek bar snack and maybe the occasional weekend piece of vegan cake (because right now it’s hard to tell baby from belly!).

2. Get ready to slow down and get breathless

I would compare the tiredness of pregnancy with the feeling you get on a Sunday afternoon having done a long run that morning: one minute you’re fine and the next you’re flat out asleep on the sofa, still fully dressed. The benefit of this is that you sleep like a baby (or like a pregnant woman), and during the first trimester I’d be tucked up in bed fast asleep by 9:30 pm.

I’ve also found that I have an in-built slowdown mechanism that kicks in during pregnancy runs and prevents me from going much faster than 8.50 minute miles, but often sees me much closer to 9.30s. I have taught myself to embrace this sedate pace and enjoy the fact that I’m still able to run, rather than worrying about how fast I’m going.

There is also an, initially alarming, breathlessness that comes with being pregnant. In early pregnancy the boost in progesterone causes breathlessness, while later the baby pushing up on your diaphragm and lungs has the same impact. It is still pretty disconcerting finding myself out of puff having only walked up the stairs, but at least I know now what’s causing it and that it’s not indicative of a sudden dramatic drop-off in fitness!

3. Keep moving

Despite being slow and breathless, I still feel best in my body while I’m working out. I’m still able to run 4 or 5 times a week (normally between 3 and 8 miles, but if I have to cut a run short due to discomfort I don’t beat myself up about it), I still do yoga every morning (with some adjustments to allow for the bump) and I’m trying to fit in at least one weights session at the gym a week.

It’s recommended that you don’t take up new sports during pregnancy and that you avoid high-risk and contact sports, but if you worked out before you became pregnant, and still feel ok exercising, then generally there is no need to stop. If you have any doubts or concerns do check with your doctor or midwife and make sure you always listen to your body; if you feel uncomfortable or if something twinges take a step back or call it a day. Exercise at this time should be for general physical and mental wellbeing rather than for any particular goals, so it’s silly to push yourself unnecessarily (that’s what I have to keep reminding myself anyway!).

4. Treat yourself to maternity wear

While in the grand scheme of things you’re only pregnant for a short time, while you are living it, 9 months feels like an age. Now my body is dramatically changing shape I’ve made the decision to treat myself to some new pregnancy-body essentials: underwear (including non-underwired bras, which are a must for growing breast tissue, as well as sports bras, not least as mine have become slightly indecent in light of my recent growth spurt!), maternity jeans (I’ve received two hand-me-down pairs from a good friend of mine and they are the most comfortable things ever! They are still a little big for me at the moment but I don’t doubt I’ll grow into them), and some stretchy skirts and dresses for work. I’m also on the lookout for some over the bump smart black trousers for work so if anyone has any recommendations do pass them on.

While I don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes that I’m only going to wear for a limited time, I do still want to feel like myself and attractive* (*or at least not like an enormous frump!). At a time when you are feeling more than a little ill at ease in your body – getting used to your new lumps and bumps, and accepting and trying to embrace a larger belly and breasts –  the last thing you want is to feel uncomfortable and self-conscious in your clothes as well as your skin. While I don’t condone fast fashion or materialism, I do think it’s ok to treat yourself to a few new pieces that will keep you feeling good throughout your pregnancy.

5. Don’t play the comparison game

If you Google ’16 week baby bump’ (and I have, many times) the range in the size of bumps and bodies is dramatic. This is a good reminder that every body and every pregnancy is different. While at first I was very anxious to ascertain if I was growing at a ‘normal’ rate and regularly comparing myself with friends at a similar stage of pregnancy, I’ve come to realise that this is really unhelpful. We all grow at different rates and in different places. I feel massive at the moment, especially compared to my tiny friends, but I’m hoping that the growth will come in fits and starts and that I won’t be totally humongous come August! I also know that many women worry about not growing quickly enough in early pregnancy and are concerned that their bumps are too small, so it’s important to remember that one size most certainly doesn’t fit all.

6. Your body will become public property

While you are going through these changes, and trying to get used to them yourself, be prepared for an onslaught of personal, body-related comments from others. Apparently when you are pregnant you are fair game in this regard, who knew?! Some days it will feel like everyone has something to say about your growing body, and not everyone will be tactful about it. Some people will use sensitive euphemisms such as ‘bloom’ and ‘glow’, while there will be others whose comments fall wide of the tact mark (‘I thought you’d put on weight’ and ‘wow you’re so big’ are a couple that I have been treated with). The only thing you can do is try to remain confident in your body and feel proud that you are growing another human (!!!), which will inevitably involve some changes in your shape.

I’ve certainly had a lot of insecure moments lately – my rib cage has pushed out making me feel a lot wider, I’ve gone from being practically flat chested to having a serious rack, any sign of abs that I had are a distant memory and side-on I’m now positively ‘deep’ – but I’m trying to own my new shape and remain focused on the bigger picture (not just my bigger belly!).

7. Beware the judging eyebrow

While the body comments can be taken with a pinch (or two) of salt, the judgemental raised eyebrow, which accompanies observations about your lifestyle choices and what you should, or more often, shouldn’t, be doing, can cut a little closer to the bone. Whether it’s a comment on your exercise regime (‘are you sure you should be running’), diet (‘but you’ll give up veganism now you’re pregnant, right?’), your holidays (‘but you didn’t actually ski did you?’), or your decision to drink one of the two the NHS-approved cups of caffeinated tea a day (‘don’t you want decaf?’) it’s amazing how suddenly judgemental the world seems to be.

Although I know that as a pregnant woman there is a seemingly infinite list of dos and don’ts, when I do make a decision it is usually after an agonisingly long conversation with my husband/mum/sister/mother-in-law/midwife and much careful consideration, not just on the spur of the moment. That said, I also live in permanent fear that I will do something that may damage the baby – should I have used a hot water bottle when i had that stomach ache? Was my bath cool enough? Was that swimming pool water too warm? How long was I asleep on my back before I woke up and realised? Am I getting too stressed at work?  – so rest assured all of you with the raised eyebrow, I don’t need external judgement to send me into a tailspin over whether I’m doing things ‘the right way’.

While I still haven’t mastered turning the other cheek to the judgemental eyebrow, the best advice I can offer is to do things in a considered way, seek advice from those you trust, do your research and feel confident that what you are doing is right for you.

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If anyone else is going through pregnancy at the moment I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences. Until my next, happy growing!