Boy, where do I start? I suppose with where I am right now; I’m in a good place, thanks in part to returning to work, having a regular training pattern established, and a very supportive Husband.
My pregnancy was a good one; apart from the first 3 months of sickness, I loved being pregnant. I continued training throughout pregnancy, although I did become despondent with not being able to lift heavy in my usual powerlifting-style, so my style of training changed. I turned to circuits. Something I really had not given much merit to before. I learned a LOT about me, different training methods, new exercises, and how to adapt everything to my ever increasing bump. Some of this I have carried over in to training clients.
The birth of my Daughter Ella was a fairly normal one...I had no complications, and, for the following post-birth weeks, I was on a high. My stomach was shrinking back nicely and I felt completely in control, even putting a few posts on Facebook. Then, a month on, my hormones started to play games with me, I felt positively bi-polar! One day, I was energetic, positive, super Mum. The next day, I was fearful of my Husband leaving the house, crying uncontrollably, and the feeling of despair at not having my freedom was crushing, at times. I had this new baby totally dependent on me, I didn’t want to be left alone. I also have a 6 year old Son and thought I knew what to expect, but you forget how it “feels”. My Husband and I own our own gym and I felt a lot of pressure to be super-fit and support him through the long hours he did to compensate for my maternity leave. All pressure I put on myself, not from anyone else. Oh, and then there’s Facebook. I un-followed a few people because they seemed so effortless in their ability to juggle work, kids, training and eating clean. All of this added to my self-made insecurities. I ate dirty, it comforted me. All of this I knew was not right, but I wanted instant gratification!
About 3 months post birth, on my good days I began doing a few home workouts and this helped my sanity immensely. All bodyweight exercises. I also joined a Facebook group for support. Again, there was conflict in me about doing this, as I am a Personal Trainer...why do I need the help of others, when I know what to do and I should be motivating myself, right? Women…we are complicated. It’s taken me until now to be able to admit it and feel comfortable sharing my experience.
I laughed at not being able to hold a plank for more than 5 seconds. I incorporated my Son into a few sessions, which was fun. A few workouts led to better food choices. I put my Daughter on the bottle after 2 months, which enabled me to get out and train at the gym. Absolute heaven! With my Son (first born), I found breastfeeding stressful and didn’t want to go through that again.
I started in the gym gently and light, sticking to my circuit-style of training that I had adopted. I hated cardio and this saved precious time too. I added strength training in to my routine about 5 months post birth, due to my pelvis still feeling loose (not a great choice of word). I had some groin twinges when going heavy(ish) on squats, so just backed off and let my body tell me when to go for it again. I also took into account that I am an older Mum...at 44, my body is taking longer to recover.
I am happy to report that although I lost about 25% of my original strength post birth, my lifts are now where they were pre-birth. So, 10 months post birth, I have my brain back and am happily training with no limitations. 10 months might seem like a long time to any new Mum's out there, but I decided not to push it...I did what I felt comfortable doing and what was best for me, both mentally and physically. Having said that, I did get very annoyed with people who I would talk to about being frustrated at my lack of motivation, they'd say “don’t worry, you’ve just had a baby”. Argh! I’m looking for ways to help me, not brush it under the carpet.
I had a couple of events to help me along also. My Husband decided this was his year to compete in powerlifting and we had the European Championships to go to. Meeting like minded people, and just feeling the love that you get from comps, spurred me on with my own training even more. Then, Vegas. Yeah, not an ideal choice for children and I would not recommend it, but it was the World Championships for my Husband. I love supporting him and being in the arena when he lifts. This gave me another motivational stepping stone to get ready to return to work and, since returning, I haven’t looked back.
I still have the odd wobble where I am just too tired to think, the house is a tip, and there’s a million things on my 'to do' list, but I deal better with it now...more like my old self. Its hard juggling everything and I am constantly looking for ways to “streamline” things. Some days I am successful and look and feel like Wonder Woman and other days I’ve forgotten to wash my Son’s rugby kit (because he only has one particular outfit he will wear!) and there’s a mad dash to find where he last left it, while feeding my Daughter, or, endure the complete meltdown of 2 kids having a hissy fit. These are the realities of my life, but I wouldn’t change it...I love my kids, they bring so much happiness and I am excited for their future.
I have come back to work with renewed enthusiasm for the sport and the industry. This New Year, I started a ladies only strength training group where I hope to dispel the popular myths and show how lifting weights can be so empowering for women. Maybe because I now have a Daughter, I want her to grow up strong, in every sense of the word.
This is a guest article from Michelle Humphreys. Michelle is a natural (drug-free) bodybuilder and runs Oxygen Strength & Fitness gym in Penzance, Cornwall, alongside her Husband, Ian. If you visit Penzance, be sure to visit their gym!
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