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‘Do what’s right for you' – Kathryn Thomas on exercising while pregnant and why ‘bouncing back’ comments annoy her

Best known as a broadcaster, Kathryn Thomas is also the founder of Pure Results fitness retreats and Bump Fit for pregnancy and post-natal fitness. She lives in Dublin with her husband and two daughters

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Kathryn Thomas. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan

Kathryn Thomas. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan

Kathryn Thomas

Kathryn Thomas

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Kathryn Thomas. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan

For years, we’ve been told that when we get pregnant, we should lie on the couch and eat for two and wrap ourselves in cotton wool. My thinking is that carrying a human and childbirth are not easy tasks for the body, and the stronger you can have your body for doing that, the better.

Recently, at the end of my second pregnancy, I was in Dunnes carrying duvets and duvet covers and a woman came over, “Give it to me. Give it to me.”

We’re all told not to lift and carry in pregnancy, and so it’s understandable that when people see you lifting kettlebells it seems odd to them. But the science says it’s about position, what to lift, your position when you lift, how your centre of gravity changes — and you adapt to it. Then, in the third trimester, you exercise, but no lying on the back and no lifting from certain points.

There’s still a lot of uncertainty and mixed information about what women should be doing about keeping up fitness in pregnancy. On my first pregnancy, the doctor said I could go back to exercise at eight weeks, but mentally I wasn’t there. We had gone through so much trying and fertility stuff, and I was so anxious. I was scared to jeopardise the chances of going to full term.

I went down a YouTube rabbit hole of pregnancy workouts, and then I went to my good friend and personal trainer Róisín Jones, who has huge expertise in pregnancy and post-natal exercise. She devised a plan and worked with me through the pregnancy and we had the idea of putting it on paper.

Then, very early on in my second pregnancy, I took it out and dusted it off and we took it to the next level by shooting video content for it. Every couple of weeks, from week 12 to 36, we shot a new video and ended up with 96 workouts in total.

It’s lovely now to look back at how, when we started, there was no bump and then I’m growing all the time as it goes.

The programme is three workouts a week, but you can do as many or as few as you like. And there were days when I went in there and said to the camera, “If you’re not feeling like it today, turn me off, because I don’t feel like it either.”

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I like that the programme takes the guesswork out of what you can and can’t do. It explains what you shouldn’t be doing at certain stages of the pregnancy and what’s OK and how to do things properly. It’s everything under one roof.

There will always be judgments, of course. Whether we should be exercising or not exercising, whether you should wear high heels, when you go back to work, if you breastfeed. Most often, people have your best interests at heart.

After I had my first baby, Ellie, I got really annoyed with online comments about “Kathryn bouncing back”. Some people lose that weight after a baby quicker than others, but I don’t know anyone who bounced. And it’s about more than weight. I remember Ellie was about five or six months and one day just having this moment like a light switching on, where I thought, “Oh, there I am!” My head felt like me. My body felt like me.

You have to go easy on yourself. Of course, exercise isn’t for everyone. I know people on 18 weeks’ bedrest. And if you’re not doing exercise beforehand, then don’t start in pregnancy.

I also have a great relationship with my doctor, and no question is a stupid one — and it’s important to ask the questions before you start, but you do what’s right for you. And remember, you won’t be able to please everyone.

Recovery is so individual. The Bump Fit workouts are designed so that they can also be done post-natally. I thought I’d be back to exercise five weeks after my first baby, but it took me nine weeks. I’d advise no one to rush. The most important thing is that you do what’s right for you.

Read

A good-humoured, practical handbook for appropriate pregnancy pre- and post-natally is Charlie Barker’s . Written through her first pregnancy, it covers all three trimesters. She knows her stuff, with 36 workouts suited to pregnancy and beyond.

Listen

In March of this year, The Runner’s World UK Podcast talked to ultra-runner Sophie Power about running during and after pregnancy, the pelvic floor and female fitness. Worth noting that at the time of the interview, Power was returning to running after her third child.

Take action

Subscription to Kathryn Thomas’s Bump Fit programme is available through pureresults.ie at €129. It comprises unlimited access to all 96 workouts, tailored to the three trimesters and for post-natal workouts. A PDF version of the programme is included. See


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