Postnatal Exercise: How Four Mums Got Back Into Fitness After Giving Birth

From yoga to 'buggy fit', mums share their experiences.

Finding the time and energy for exercise as a mum can be daunting. In fact, a recent survey by Sport England found six in 10 mums feel guilty taking time out of their busy schedule to up their fitness. Despite this, more than three-quarters (77%) want to work out more.

HuffPost UK asked four mums who’ve managed to find the balance how they do it – and what rediscovering fitness means to them.

“Fitness formed part of my identity prior to children and I’m looking forward to regaining some ‘me time’, even if it is just for an hour a week whilst looking after the littlies,” says 33-year-old Lucy Alexander, who played sport five times per week before becoming a mum of two, and is now easing herself back in.

Lucy and her husband Aaron with their two children.
Lucy Alexander
Lucy and her husband Aaron with their two children.

Lucy, who lives near Milton Keynes, says the biggest challenge has been finding the time to exercise. “Wake-ups in the night and mornings that start as early as 4am meant that as soon as 8pm rocked around (and we finally got our toddler to sleep) I was ready for bed too,” she says.

She felt guilty about leaving her children in a crèche while taking a class and says many were unaffordable on her maternity leave budget, anyway. Thankfully, she recently discovered an affordable local class where parents complete circuits in a sports hall while their kids play on nearby trampolines.

Lucy is one of the mums working with Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign to encourage mums to rediscover their love of fitness after giving birth, while emphasising how every woman’s return to exercise is different.

“It can be really tricky to get back into or start exercise after pregnancy, especially as some people can make unhelpful comments about ‘snapping back into shape’,” the campaign’s strategic lead Kate Dale tells HuffPost UK.

“The six-week check might mark the point at which it’s safe to gently start reintroducing exercise, but only you can decide if you feel ready to start getting active again – and that’s different for everyone.”

Like Lucy, Katie Edwards, 33, from Leicester, had always been into fitness but stopped attending much-loved classes when she became pregnant with her first child in 2016 because she simply “didn’t know what [exercise] to do”.

Katie Edwards.
Katy Cox of KCG Fitness
Katie Edwards.

But 11 weeks after her baby was born, a friend recommended she try out a local class called “buggy fit”, where mums incorporate gentle exercise and stretches during walks with their buggies.

“Exercising has been great for my mental health. I had quite a difficult labour and birth, resulting in me not bonding with my son, as I held him accountable for the pain I was in,” Katie tells HuffPost UK. “Within a few weeks of attending [buggy fit] classes and speaking to other mums, things became so much easier.”

Katie has since attended classes every week, stopping only for a six-week break after giving birth to her second child in April 2018. She’s also fallen in love with piyo – a mix of yoga and pilates to music – and swimming.

Laura Gray, 28, from Diss in Norfolk, found getting back into running after giving birth was harder than she had anticipated.

Laura Gray.
Laura Gray
Laura Gray.

“My first run I could barely manage a mile before my body said enough was enough,” she says. “I hurt all over and in places I thought wasn’t possible. I had to stop and this made me feel like I would never be as fit as I was previously. I had to fight these thoughts.”

Laura says it helped to remind herself how recently she had given birth, giving herself permission to take things more slowly.

Finally Zoe Colver, 39, from Manchester, played hockey before giving birth in February and is determined to get back into the sport and its vibrant social scene. However, like Lucy she has struggled to find classes that fit in with childcare as she is breastfeeding, so is limited to evening sessions that start after her son’s bedtime.

Zoe Colver.
Zoe Colver
Zoe Colver.

She started attending buggy boot camp, yoga and body balance classes, but found them tougher than expected.

“Physically I was surprised just how much of my core strength I had lost. Doing a plank was near impossible at the start but I’m getting better now,” she says.

To new mums, her message is simple: “There is no rush to get back to it, start gently with walking and work up to anything more strenuous. Exercise has been a great way for me to get out of the house and start feeling and looking like my old self.”