Exercising. It ain’t for every mother, but for those who’re game, there opens a new and unchartered territory of mammory-related injury, ever-craftier ways of keeping offspring from hurling themselves head-first onto a gym floor and – no way of dressing it up really – our old friend, occasional incontinence. I’m not an expert, but I would count myself as a fairly regular exerciser – I attend an excellent buggy spin class a couple of times a week, held by a friend from antenatal class, I walk with the buggy whenever I can (ie, whenever she needs a nap) and I recently completed the 5k Race for Life. Note the choice of word ‘completed’ rather than anything implying speed, prowess or grace. All I can say is that it was the first time I had attempted running with a buggy and though I take great pride in saying we were the first pushchair over the finish line, I must also admit that there were only about 5 or 6 buggies involved in the race… Anyway, more on that later, for now here are some tips/ pitfalls I have encountered along the bumpy, lumpy and leaky road of exercise for the postnatal and past caring:
- Always use the toilet before embarking on any form of physical exertion otherwise your bladder will Rise Up and Sabotage You in a Manner Most Foul and Yellow. As mentioned in a previous post, the postpartum exerciser runs the risk of overly straining [what remains of] their pelvic floor. Although this does improve with time, that nagging, creeping squeam of bladder-fulldom (I could describe needing the toilet forever if I could; I even wrote a poem about it once) will indubitably make itself known approximately two minutes into any cardio activity in which said exerciser is partaking. At this point you are faced with a choice of three possible courses of action:
- Excuse yourself and find the nearest facility/suitable receptacle – be it a gym toilet, a sturdy looking bush or a nearby member of the UKIP party.
- Ride out the discomfort until it gradually disappears altogether, thus exposing your bladder as the treacherous, fat-loving fiend it is.
- In true, hardcore-mother style, complete your work out with the added onus of a sloshingly full bladder*… The downside of this option is, of course, the inevitable jigglyshuffle awkward-itch-around-your-lady-parts side effect which may befall your stride. But, on the plus side, you can pretend to be a horse when you finally get to deliver that wee of champions at the end of it.
*Truly committed followers of this discipline may want to incorporate an aspect of the jigglyshuffle into their everyday walk, so that if someone you know happens to see you out jogging, they won’t immediately assume you’ve been caught short or have an unfortunately timed lady garden itch, they’ll merely clock it up to your fantastically individual gait.
- Disaster bears mammory glands. Blokes, unless you are of a jolly size, will not be able to relate to the phenomena that is the shift in boob size during and after pregnancy. Especially if you’ve gone from a modest B/C cup to a bouncing pair of DDs and beyond. And in case those words conjure too happy a place for you, let me throw in a few more. Chafing. Sloshing. Leaking. Free movement with the momentum of two wrestling bowling balls. Never, ever can it be expressed more empathically than now to Get Them In A Sports Bra. Even if you are breastfeeding, like me, and have stupidly sensitive boobs, like me, which are prone to throwing painful blocked ducts if they find themselves ensconced in anything but the most loose, unsupportive nursing bra for more than three hours at a time. Wearing a sports bra for an hour or two is not going to do any harm. The alternative? Best case scenario, the jiggling will distract you from completing a good workout. Worst case scenario: double black eyes and facing the hereafter searching for your boobs under each arm.
Which brings us on to…
- Injuries, both real and fantasy. By real, I mean broken ankle, ruptured stitches, and extreme exhaustion/nausea/pain which overcomes all gung ho attempts to convince yourself this is all good fun really. If this is you, chill the hell out for at least a few weeks and let yourself recover. Motherhood is hard enough.
Then there are the fantasy injuries – a strange development I encountered around 400 metres after I decided to start running during last week’s RfL. Incongruously, I found myself inner monologuing along the lines of “Is my heart supposed to sound like this? Uh oh, I’m getting chest pains… Ooh, that ice cream looks good… Oof, this is really starting to hurt in the middle now… yeah, just around my c-section scar… or maybe it’s just a stitch… I’d forgotten how much stitches hurt… maybe not hurt so much as jiggle uncomfortably… and maybe not so much c-section as the loose ‘mummy apron’ of wobbles…” and so forth. Incidentally, I had stopped running around the time of the c-section scar revelation. Not that I ever actually had a c-section.
- The Importance of Being Yelled At. This revelation came during the aforementioned incidents of (fake)injury, which, combined with hotness and just plain whybother-itis, meant that at momentary intervals along the 5k track I would just stop running. God knows how I used to run 10k and more. In buggy spin, I am routinely yelled at, 9 times out of 10 because of my habitually slow legs. They can’t help it – they are slightly shorter than average and therefore make up lack of height with an excess of girth which means they a) never look good in shorts, b) resemble boiled hams* and c) find physical exertion a torment. But being routinely yelled at does at least help spur them on, marginally. Anything to further their progress away from ham-dom.
*Other Half: ‘Why hams?’ Me: ‘Because they are big and pink.’ OH: ‘Don’t be silly. They’re not pink, they’re white’
- 30 Days of Toning Exercises From Hell with the One Saving Grace of Making Your Child Think You’ve Gone Totally Mental. I’ve never been able to do a sit up. From being yelled at, Drill Sergeant-style as a member of the 200 Squadron Air Cadets at age 14, to being yelled at, Drill Sergeant-style, during mummy circuit class at age 27, I just can’t do it. My tummy ain’t got the muscle. But I attempt them, risking toenails, flatulence and dignity. And, though I’ve never been able to see an abdominal muscle on my body (I secretly don’t think I have any) I did discover a unexpected perk the other day.
And yes, that’s Chalet Girl paused on the TV in the background. I partially blame Felicity Jones’ stupid hot tub scene where she flashes in all her bony glory, for this particular misdemeanour.
So there you are – the evolution of my former self’s take on Running in the Park and Goodness or whatever the hell it was. Perhaps it is a bit more cynical, and perhaps the narrative is a bit more scattered (I’ve been drafting this post over several days due to Lara’s newfound disinclination to sleep in in the mornings and the dropping of one of her daytime naps) but hopefully it gives some small, discordant nuggets of advice for mums who exercise… Even if we have become the very creatures once bemoaned on this very blog vessel. What did I know anyway? Stupid size 8 bitch.