As well as physical training, my role as a Personal Trainer is to offer guidance and advice; supporting and encouraging those I train to prioritise their health above other issues – be it nutritional advice, a healthy recipe or the best form of exercise to target a problem area after birth… However, how health aware you become is irrelevant unless we also address the core issues preventing you from putting all that knowledge into practice. While you are no doubt at an advantage if you can appreciate what makes for a good protein, fat or carbohydrate source, this is only useful once you can eliminate the reasons behind their absence on your plate.
The most interesting thing to have come out of my work with ante/post-natal clients is how unique each pregnancy really is. Not in terms of biological progression but in terms of how erratic a woman’s day-to-day regimes are. Work, home, social interactions, friends, family, colleagues and the need for personal time create too much inconsistency. Life has a knack for getting in the way of health during this transforming experience. The result is that health, wellbeing and fitness get nudged down the list of priorities.
Lack of consistency and the absence of a regular health regime are often the main reasons why women struggle to take charge of their health during pregnancy and postpartum. Not for the lack of want but for the lack of time and energy left in reserve once everything else has been ticked off the agenda. Time and Energy, these two precious commodities will dictate how healthy you are in the months and years to come. Time and energy; all you want is your fair share, and no body gets hurt.
So is there a solution that balances both sides of the equation: your health on one side and everything/everyone else on the other? The short answer is that you no longer need to worry about that balance. Things as you know them have, for the forceable future, fundamentally shifted. And so should the way you look at what health means to you.
Take ownership of the situation by becoming more selfish with your time. The result will be profound from the outset
During pregnancy your body is morphing uncontrollably with no regard for the aesthetic endeavours of your past – and while the familiar way of life fades into distant memory, everything remains pretty average for most people around you. This includes their expectations and the demands they place on your time. The likelihood that you can successfully juggle your way around this minefield diminishes with every passing week. At times it may seem that it’s not just your health but your very sanity that gets threatened. This calls for extreme measures.
One way to deal is to take ownership of the situation by becoming a little more selfish with your time. By taking steps to mould the external influences in your favour you will be able to change your lifestyle to suit your health needs. In other words it is time to embrace the inner egotist that works to preserve your health interests and those of your child.
How you do this depends on your situation. It does not have to be a radical change. Even a few subtle adjustments will give you the necessary freedom to prioritise your health. As I have mentioned at the beginning no situation is alike. You may need to delegate more to free up the time, anticipate your week to plan ahead or simply learn to say “No” to certain engagements. It is up to you. The key is to take charge of those circumstances that are within your control. There are more of them than you think. The result will be profound from the outset, not least for the feeling of empowerment you get from doing what is right for you, your baby and no-one else.
Step 1. Fitness
Allocate regular time slots during the week that are dedicated/committed to exercise. These are appointments that should be given the same weight as all others e.g. friends, boss, family, etc. Just as the most important of commitments these may at times have to be shifted, however the key is not to trivialise what is essentially a time dedicated to making you healthier. The next few months I will show you how it can take as little as 15 minutes 4-5 times a week to maintain your strength, flexibility and mobility without needing to leave your house.
Step 2. Nutrition
Keep it simple. Aim for three well-spaced meals a day (sometimes 4 depending on your day) that are balanced in nutrients and calories. There is no reason why you should get hungry between meals if you are eating enough of the good stuff. But just in case, make sure to know what type of snacks keep you going between meals should you get hungry. Perfect example would be a small handful of nuts with a few slices of apple, a cup of berries with some yoghurt, or the trusted hummous with fresh vegetables. Refer to this article for more info on what you can and can’t eat during pregnancy.
Step 3. Stress management
Most people will experience stress in one form or another on daily bases. Frequently the cues are external and trigger a cascade of physiological and emotional changes that make us feel out of sorts. Finding time to calm the nerves and collect your thoughts is an important strategy for those who are particularly affected by stress. If stress is a player in your health aspirations allocate time to combat the effects through exercise, meditation or simply regular quite time.