Sunday 19 November 2017

Shape Up: Get fit for parenthood

Library image. Photo: Getty Images
Library image. Photo: Getty Images

Damien Maher

The recent arrival of my sister's new baby, Conor, did not make the same headlines as the birth of David Cameron's daughter, Florence Rose, or Jamie Oliver's son Buddy but it will mean massive changes in all of their lives.

The birth of my sister's first child saw her and her husband enter hospital as a couple, come home as a family and now, as their personal time becomes limited, it is important that they sometimes think like an individual in terms of their fitness.

The addition of a baby to a family brings joy, wonder and delight. It also brings changes, some anticipated, like formula and nappies, and some completely unexpected. Even the most informed parents may be taken aback at the huge impact their tiny bundle has on their lives.

One person who has decided to take a proactive approach is UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who was photographed out running on the streets of London days after Florence's birth. With a personal trainer by his side, it's obvious that David Cameron is taking fatherhood and fitness seriously.

Women need to be realistic about their post-natal weight-loss goals. You need to start by eating fresh healthy proteins and vegetables and give your body time to recover as it takes about six months after pregnancy for your body to return to normal.

Being responsible for a new baby can be very stressful, especially if you are breast-feeding, so give your body the raw materials necessary for energy, particularly as you get to grips with night feeds and all the other demands of a new infant!

If you feel ready to exercise after that, get clearance from your doctor before recommencing any regime. Your body is still in an unstable condition so focus on stability for your joints through weight training and core exercises for your pelvic floor.

During pregnancy the body increases its production of the hormones relaxin, oestrogen and progesterone, which relax the ligaments, joints and soft tissue, enlarge the breasts but more importantly alter the centre of gravity, putting extra stress on the lower back.

This takes at least three months to return to normal so you will need to modify the intensity and exercises you do from time to time based on your body and own personal day to day energy levels.

This is why weight training is excellent as it gives your body more stability and control than something like running.

Relaxin made the joints unstable, similar to a bike with loose spokes. Would you cycle a bike where the spokes were loose and the bike unstable? Your body is no different, so get the spokes stable before you get back on your bike.

The quickest way to get in shape after pregnancy is to be in shape during your pregnancy. A structured weight-training programme helps keep your joints stable and the maintenance of lean muscle stabilises your joints and keeps your metabolism running at a higher level so your recovery is quicker.

The length of time it takes you to return to your pre-pregnancy weight and shape largely depends on how much weight you gained while pregnant. The average gain is 25-35 pounds. During the birth, mothers typically lose 12-14 pounds, leaving a remainder to be lost afterwards.

It is important to be selfish with your time management. Organise a child minder and schedule your training with a personal trainer. This is an appointment that should not be missed as it is too easy to make excuses.

As children get older, a common mistake I see clients making is cleaning off the kid's plate. Your child's food is not your food. These calories are often overlooked when someone is on a body-shape programme. They may be minutes on your lips but for many, they end up spending years on the hips. When you take the c out of chips, you are left with hips!

A major challenge on your return to training is lack of sleep. Lack of sleep disturbs our blood-lipid profiles, our ability to metabolise sugar, our immune system, our testosterone production to build fat-burning muscle and it can also raise blood pressure.

For sleep-deprived new parents, I would normally start them on a 15-minute workout initially -- one set each of six exercises. They gradually build that up over the course of their subsequent workouts.

Because weight-training sessions are anabolic (muscle building), the more muscle you have, the better your body is at transporting oxygen and nutrients around the body and the better you'll feel.

The workout's aim is to leave you feeling less stressed, more energised and able to cope. Your energy levels will always dictate the workout.

Sleep should not be seen as a luxury but a necessity. As mammals, we are genetically hardwired to store fat when we are exposed to long days. It is normal for animals to eat more in the summer as they prepare for their winter hibernations. Since we are staying awake longer our bodies are programmed to seek more food.

Parents with newborns are similar to shift workers but sometimes they can be putting in a double shift so I would often recommend a jet-lag approach.

When you need to fall asleep eat carbohydrates and when you need to stay awake eat protein. Eat regularly and eliminate the gaps between your meals.

As Abraham Lincoln said, the best way to help the poor is not become one of them so get sleep, eat well and exercise and above all give yourself permission to make time for training that will see your energy, confidence and self-esteem reach new heights.

Irish Independent

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