Why I Exercise: Stephanie, The New Mum

Photo: Courtesy Of This Girl Can
Stephanie, right at a post-natal fitness class
Exercise looks different to everyone.

For some, it's waking up super-early to get to their 1,000 calorie-burning HIIT class at their swanky gym before work. For others, finding the time – and confidence – to exercise doesn't come quite as easily.

As part of a new series, we're interviewing some of the awesome women from This Girl Can – an inspiring campaign helping to normalise exercise and to encourage women across the UK to get involved in any way they can.

This week, we spoke to Stephanie, a new mum who loved exercise pre-pregnancy but who, after a miscarriage, struggled to figure out what her pre- and postnatal routines should look like. Luckily, she found a solution in group classes for new mums and, as well as helping her with her fitness, it's given her the confidence to tackle mumhood head-on.

“Before I got pregnant, exercise was a live, breathe thing. I’ve always been fairly self-conscious of my figure. I’m not big at all but all women have body hang-ups and by doing exercise I found something that I enjoyed with a great social side and it made me feel actually confident in myself.

“When I fell pregnant I wasn't sure what to do about exercise. Unfortunately, my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage so when I got pregnant again there was this fear. Once I got my 12-week scan I thought taking it gently was the best way. I started doing the prenatal class at Frame [London-based fitness studio chain] and it made me feel that I could be pregnant and still be 'me'. From then on, every class I went to I spoke to the instructor before and said, 'I’m X amount of weeks pregnant, can you give me modifications for certain things' and every instructor was really helpful.
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When you’re a first-time mum, you doubt yourself, you doubt everything. You’re petrified of going out in case your child starts crying, you’re so scared of judgement.

"There are people who are very vocal about the fact they think that women shouldn’t do any exercise when they’re pregnant. I think a lot of people didn’t realise that they had an opinion on it until they’d see me, a heavily pregnant woman and say, ‘Wow, you’re still doing exercise?’ I wasn’t doing heavy cardio of course, I was just doing gentle stuff that my body could take but people were a bit like, ‘Oh wow, good on you. I think…’

"My daughter is just turning five months now and I love taking her to the Mumhood classes at Frame. You do feel quite alone as a new mum – I was petrified I was going to be a recluse and just getting yourself and her up, ready, fed and changed feels like a real achievement. Just going to the classes and seeing other mums laughing about it has always made me feel a lot better.

"There are different classes focussing on different things. Some are more cardio-based, some are for the tummy for if you’ve had a caesarean or ab separation like me. You can bring your baby and leave them to sleep on the side, you can use them as a weight, you can hug them, when you’re on the floor you can hold them on your tummy and chest. There’s music playing as well so if your kid is yelling, you don’t feel like they’re drowning out the whole class. It’s just a really nice, inclusive environment.

"When you’re a first-time mum, you doubt yourself, you doubt everything. You’re petrified of going out in case your child starts crying, you’re so scared of judgement, getting from your house to a class you’ve never been to before seems like a really big deal. Like, what if I get there and my kid’s the worst? What if it doesn’t have buggy access? What if they don’t have changing facilities? It’s all these little things which after a few months you just get into the swing of.

You realise that your body has just done this amazing thing and it should be celebrated.

"Exercising as a new mum helps you feel proud of your body. Previously, I was self-conscious whereas now I’ve created a human being – all the stretch marks and lines, the breastfeeding – all this insecurity I had before doesn’t exist. You see mums at these classes and you realise that everyone has their own shape and size and you are who you are and your body has just done this amazing thing and it should be celebrated.

"It’s not always easy. Sometimes when you wake up and you’ve had a night where you’ve been up five or six times – actually getting up to go to that class isn’t easy. But if you stay at home you’ve got that fog of tiredness and being able to get out and get some fresh air puts a different perspective on it. You feel happy that you’ve managed it!

"Forget weight and forget fitting into jeans. You need to repair yourself from within. It’s more than exercise, it’s about health and making sure you look after yourself because when you’re a mum, you’re not your main priority anymore, your baby is – so it’s important that you still make time for yourself."

For more about This Girl Can, go to thisgirlcan.co.uk where you can find out about the women in the campaign, get tips on how to get active and join the national debate using #ThisGirlCan. Follow us on @thisgirlcanuk. To read more of Stephanie's story click here.
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