Paula Radcliffe: Getting fit after having a baby
New mum and marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe gives her top tips for getting fit after having a baby
Sleepless nights, weight gain and lack of exercise can leave new mums feeling a physical wreck.
But, just weeks after the London Marathon showed how much so many people get out of running, marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, a new mum herself, has raced in to help other mums get back into shape.
Radcliffe, who gave birth to her second child, Raphael, in September, started exercising again just a week afterwards.
She says: "What's really important is not to place too much stress on your body so soon after giving birth, so this time round I really took my time, and eased myself back into it slowly.
"I started using the cross-trainer a week after the birth, really light running and for shorter amounts of time, and two weeks later I went out on my first real run."
The 37-year-old says she took her return to exercise much slower than she did after the birth of her first child Isla, who's now four, and points out: "Because I'd run throughout my pregnancy it wasn't such a shock to my body.
"Exercising after childbirth is great for your wellbeing, and I'm glad I exercised during pregnancy too.
"There are lots of myths out there about not doing exercise but if you do it at an appropriate level for your body, it's beneficial."
Radcliffe is now fit enough to take part in her first race after Raphael's birth, which will be the Great Manchester Run on May 15, followed by the Race for Life in Battersea Park on May 18.
She gives these training tips for new mums who want to try running:
Give yourself time to recover and enjoy spending bonding time with your baby. Don't feel pressured to exercise before you're ready, and listen to your body.
Ease yourself back into exercise gently. If you rush too soon it'll catch up with you later. Remember, if in doubt you should consult your doctor, midwife or health visitor who will be able to advise you on how to get back into exercising sensibly.
Start pelvic floor muscle exercises in the first few days post-partum. To practise pelvic floor exercises imagine that you need to stop yourself from going for a wee, pull the muscles up and in. Hold the position for five counts, then release back to the starting position.
Start with low-impact exercise such as walking round the garden or local park before gradually building back to running. It's supposed to take up to four months for your ligaments to regain their usual tension and strength, and until they do this, your joints will take more of the impact.
When you're ready to start running again, run off road as much as possible to begin with. Build up gradually.
Keep well hydrated, especially if you're breastfeeding.
A decent bra is hugely important for new mums who run, whether you're breastfeeding or not.
Your posture is important when exercising, especially post-pregnancy, as your abdominal muscles will be stretched and impact on the stability of the spine. Allow the weight to be evenly balanced through three points in the foot, balance your weight evenly between each leg, tuck buttocks under and tighten, pull in your tummy muscles and lift up through the rib cage, and don't forget to keep shoulders back and down.
Try to build in some muscle strengthening resistance exercises with light dumbbells and thera-band resistance to get the strength and resilience back in your muscles before doing too much weight-bearing activity.
Don't be too hard on yourself if your exercise plans go awry - anything you do to keep your body moving will help, and there's a lot of work involved in caring for a baby. Above all, have fun and enjoy your new-found role.
Radcliffe says her husband, Gary, looks after the children when she trains, and they've just hired a nanny for the first time to help while Radcliffe's on her longest runs.
"It does get a little manic but we manage, and it's a little easier now as Isla's at school," she says.
She advises mums who want to run but don't have anyone to look after the kids to run with baby in the buggy.
And for those less enthusiastic about running than she is, she gives the following motivation tips:
Put on some music - it's a great distraction.
Run with a training partner or running group. If you don't know anyone to run with, check out your local running club.
Leave your watch at home and just run for the enjoyment of it without worrying about time goals.
Change the time of day you normally run.
Find new running routes and change them often.
Alter the distance you normally run.
Challenge yourself by adding some speed or hills to your workout.
Incorporate some other activities to your workout that can increase your strength and flexibility, so mix in some cycling, roller-skating or hiking.
When you succeed, make sure to do something nice for yourself - a new running shirt, a watch, or perhaps a meal at a nice restaurant.
Radcliffe adds: "I love to run, running is who I am and is such a big passion.
"I don't run to get away from Isla and Raphael, I run for enjoyment - I'm very lucky that it has become my career."