Happy (Fit) Mama's Day!
Posted on May 08 2016
Here's an interview-styled blog post as we speak to Hui this mother's day about what it means to be a fit mama, and her fitness efforts during pregnancy and after giving birth to her baby girl in December 2015!
29th January 2016 - 1.5 months after delivering Asha
Were you involved in fitness before pregnancy? If so, what type of fitness and where?
The last trail race I did was 45km at Kemensah Krazy in April 2015 – I finished 4th but struggled throughout the race, cramping in my toes for the first time ever in a race! I felt so drained and exhausted with a massive headache right after the race, which all made sense as I found out a week later that I was pregnant.
That same week of the race my husband and I had also signed up for a 150km multi-stage trail race in Chiang Mai (UTCM) to be held in December 2015, which we clearly had no idea would be the same month our baby was going to be due! When I found out I was pregnant the first thought that came to mind was “Oh no we just signed up for that race in Chiang Mai!”
I was also doing Muay Thai at least once a week prior to pregnancy – and I stopped this completely as it was too risky, especially during the first trimester. I was going to Knockout FC in TTDI, and prior to that X-Studio in Brickfields. I love Muay Thai as it is a great all round, high intensity workout with a lot of technique and coordination involved so it engages mind and body!
Yoga once a week as well at KiaKaha Fitness with my beloved instructor Chin Lai who has since left for Melbourne
Muay Thai and Yoga are quite essential to my routine as it helps as cross-training for the trail running that I do, helping me strengthen my core, build on flexibility, footwork and heart rate.
What type of fitness were you involved in throughout your pregnancy?
First trimester I did slow trail runs at Kiara Hill and maintained my weekly yoga classes.
Second trimester I continued my trail runs and picked up the pace more, continuing yoga as welll
Third trimester I did hikes only and continued yoga including inversions but did modified poses that would not compress the belly
The key is to make sure you are staying hydrated, not overheating and low risk of falling with impact to the abdomen area
Did it help you with your morning sickness or any other pregnancy related hiccups? How did it help you during labour?
I was lucky not to have any morning sickness or any swelling of the feet – I think keeping active and being on my feet helped with this. I did feel extremely tired in the first trimester so made sure I got plenty of sleep
6 months before I fell pregnant, my husband and I did a 70km ultra trail race in Bromo (outside Surabaya), so I told myself if I could last 15.5 hours on my feet running, experiencing fatigue, pain, heat, cold and wind then that is as good a mental preparation as anything for the labour. During the most intense parts of my labour contractions where I felt quite delirious, husband helped me visualise each cm of dilation as the next race checkpoint (CP)! “Hang in there, we’re at CP8! 2 more to go! Breathing techniques practiced during yoga helped me focus and deal with the pain also
How long did it take you to jump back up into fitness postpartum?
I actually lost quite a lot of blood during the delivery and was anaemic so advice from doctors was to have a good rest and wait til my haemoglobin count returned to normal (it dropped by half as I lost close to a litre of blood). I started exercising by just doing some quick walks and hikes 6 weeks after delivery.
It was very daunting the first time I set out to put my shoes on and go for a walk around the block – testing to see whether various parts and bits still work and weren’t in pain! Also because I was still quite dizzy during the first 3 weeks post –delivery so I was very nervous and cautious.
I put on about 11 kg during pregnancy so was able to get back into shape very quickly within 2 months – but still with a soft belly at the moment! ☺ I’m now 55kg at 3 months post-partum, I barely weigh myself, no weighing scales at home. My focus is more on getting healthier and stronger and building my stamina back up, and not on shape and weight.
I did feel very self conscious of my belly in the first month but grew to love my body for what it had gone through during labour and the fact that it held another human being for 9 months!
I started running again at 8 weeks but have been taking it easy to make sure my body still has time to recover and replenish itself. I’m giving myself 6 months to get back into pre-pregnancy toned belly state! I think it is more important to have a healthy, balanced and full diet to ensure adequate milk production and prevent risk of osteoporosis or arthritis in the future from not allowing bones and joints to get enough nutrients.
I honestly believe that fitness level prior to pregnancy helped me maintain fitness regime throughout pregnancy. Coupled with watching what I ate helped me ease back into fitness postpartum.
9th February 2016 - 2 months after giving birth to Asha
How did you feel (body-wise) before and after pregnancy? Were there any fears that you will not get the body back or were you looking forward to a better mom-body?
I’ll be honest – it took me 6 months into pregnancy to actually be comfortable with my huge round belly . The moment I started loving it was when I could feel the baby kick inside my belly, that was magical and that was when it truly dawned on me that there is life inside!
Finding clothes that fit and cover up well are not easy!
Am quite relieved I can lie and sleep on my belly again and bend over to touch my toes and cut my own toe nails now ☺
I was and am less concerned about getting the same shape and weight back, but am more concerned about getting my stamina and strength back so I can start doing trail races again. I love being out in the trails and doing competitions, especially the ultra’s which are usuallly 50km and above. I did about 6-7 runs in the trails now since 2.5 months post partum and have a long way to go to build up my stamina. I can barely do 2km in the trails without stopping and walking for a good stretch.
In the first month post-partum I felt very weak, vulnerable and uncomfortable. I was a bit frustrated that my recovery wasn’t as quick as other people expected me to. Everyone expected me to be up and about in a few days, which wasn’t the case due to the tough delivery! But I told myself I would give myself at least 2 months of rest and no exercise so that my body could heal and rest.
One of the things I find challenging but amusing is making sure you have good support from your sportsbras post-partum, as your breasts are heavier from carrying milk! No one warned me about this! ☺ It is also another reason why it will be difficult to do longer races (which may also involve traveling time to race venue) as someone will have to bring baby or a breastpump to the race midway to help me lighten the load! Many guys are obviously unaware of this if they are not married with kids, or have wives who run. Most of them will also not know how uncomfortable it can get when your breasts are too full!
What were the challenges you faced when you were carrying out your fitness routine during pregnancy and after pregnancy?
For starters its mainly others being concerned you are over-doing it, and also your own uncertainty of what works and what doesn’t, as it was my first pregnancy
Secondly, when you’re tired and feeling heavy you may not want to drag yourself out for exercise. So staying motivated was not easy – but I told myself endorphins are good for me and the baby, and keeping strong and fit would help me with the pregnancy and delivery!
Thirdly would be being careful and creative: making sure I brought water on my hikes, arranged for people to come with me if husband was not able to so I wouldn’t be alone, getting yoga instructor to modify poses for me, getting a heart rate monitor so I could make sure I wasn’t pushing myself too much when I ran during the 2nd trimester (heart rate should stay within 140-160 for people accustomed to exercising 3-4 times a week quite intensely pre-pregnancy)
How involved are your children in your fitness?
I started taking my baby on hikes at 3 months ☺ I waited until she got most of her vaccinations before taking her out to be safe. I use a front carrier for our hikes together or a running pram. I try to get us outdoors together once a week. She falls asleep usually 15 minutes into the hike.
I’ve also trialled out some strengthening mat exercises with my baby on my belly or in my arms so it keeps her calm, occupied and involved as well! This way I don’t need someone minding her while I work out!
In your opinion, what is the best benefit of being a fit mom?
It’s a sowing and reaping relationship with energy – the more you spend, the more you get back (provided you sleep well too!
Great stress relief – for me it’s a mental ‘detox’ as well – when you focus on physical challenges, it helps put your problems in perspective as your mind takes a break from thinking and worrying about anything else but breathing and moving.
Some of the loveliest friends I’ve made have been through my fitness activities, and going running and hiking together has brought me closer to my husband and other family members as well – you have more to bond with!
What are the do’s and don’ts of getting into fitness right after pregnancy?
Prioritise rest and sleep – make sure your muscles, tears, tendons have time to heal before you start your cardio
Don’t go on a diet in the sense of cutting down on healthy and nutritious carbs and other foods – your body needs it to replenish and build things back into shape AND for breastfeeding too!
Do incremental activities, go slow, set yourself little goals, don’t push 100% – I tried 600m walk on my first attempt, then 1.2km, then 3km hike, then a 4km hike, then a 15 minute trail run, then 40 minutes mix of run and walk, then a 1 hour hike, then another 45 minute run
Do get your husband to support – we take turns running and taking care of the baby: Saturday he runs, Sunday I run! :)
What are the biggest taboo/myth you heard about mothers getting back into fitness right after pregnancy. Did you break those myths?
The myths I heard was more DURING pregnancy, that you should stay at home, indoors, don’t run, don’t move around too much. I definitely broke those myths but I was wise and careful about it. I sought my doctor’s advice, I did my own research, I used tools like a heart rate monitor to track myself, and I listened to my body: if I was uncomfortable or felt uneasy I would stop or slow down. I never went anywhere alone when I exercised, and I always made sure my husband knew what time to expect me home.
What would you like your children to learn from you as a fit mom?
Being active is fun and a natural part of your day!
Listen to Hui on radio by clicking here for the podcast - she did an interview for BFM 89.9 on the topic: fit, pregnant women.
About the radio interview: Karen Siah, certified personal trainer for pregnant women, she speaks on what's safe and what's not for pregnant women and postpartum mothers keeping fit or getting back in shape. Joining her is fellow fitness enthusiast Hui Mathews, who managed to stay fit throughout her recent pregnancy.