It’s one of life’s cruel ironies that, at the time you need the gym the most, you have zero time or energy to get to there.
I was a total gym bunny until Big Sis arrived and was desperate to get back into my fitness routine after she was born. Unfortunately OH worked long hours and I couldn’t justify the cost of a sitter. On the days he was home I was too busy catching up on endless piles of laundry, or too exhausted to drag myself out of the front door. The gym quickly became a distant memory.
It definitely affected my self confidence: I’m not talking so much about weight loss – yes, I had some to lose, but I was fine with that coming off slowly – but more about my overall strength and fitness. I have slight hyper-mobility in my joints, so my posture began to suffer, giving me stiff, sore shoulders and a constant ache in my lower back. I’d struggle for breath during those gruelling mum tasks – hoisting the baby carrier in and out of the car, juggling baby and groceries, bumping the pram up and down stairs – and don’t even get me started on my pelvic floor.
Which is exactly why I’m so thrilled to introduce you all to personal trainer and pilates instructor Charlene Hutsebaut. A fitness professional with 26 years experience in the industry, Charlene says lack of time is a common problem for mums, who regularly ask her for exercise advice via her INSTAGRAM page.
She has very kindly agreed to provide her ‘Top 10 Sneaky Fitness Hacks for Busy Mums’, so you can seamlessly incorporate exercise into your time-pressed daily routine (if you are a new mum please ensure you’re cleared by your doctor before you begin any form of post-natal exercise; you may need to wait longer if you have had a caesarean section).
On every move, be sure to engage your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles: let’s get you moving in fun ways to improve your posture, get you fit and work that pelvic floor.
1: STACKED POSITION
This versatile little gem is a foundation move I use to get people ready for a workout or individual exercise; I also teach this as a way for office workers to have a desk break. You can do this twice a day while brushing your teeth – dentists recommend two minutes, which is the perfect time to ‘stack up’.
Stand with your arms hanging easily by your sides, shoulder blades down and back, abdominal muscles gently contracted and your pelvic floor engaged (this will most likely turn off quickly but bring your mind back to it often, and re-engage).
Looking straight ahead, make sure your head and neck are sitting evenly above your shoulder girdle, which should be sitting neutrally above your rib cage and hovering above your core unit (the soft tissue between your rib cage and pelvis) and finishing with your pelvis. Imagine the spinal column with all its natural curves. Stand easily, feeling long and lean.
Pick up your tooth brush and hold the stacked position of the body while you brush.
2: ONE LEG STAND
(perfect for when you’re doing dishes, packing lunches, applying makeup, etc… )
This one is brilliant for balance, and also for anyone with hip, knee or ankle issues. Start in the stacked position then lift one foot off the floor and hold it up, engaging your abs to support you. Try holding one leg off the floor for 10 counts then switch. This may take some practice, but keep at it and you’ll quickly work your way up to whatever time you want.
If you are a free-style hair drier like me, where you just blow it dry without needing to pull a brush through your hair, this is a great option for you. Don’t just stand there while you’re drying your hair – add in some squats for the duration, and make them slow and deep for maximum effect.
4: BABY SHOULDER RAISES:
If your child is still light enough, stand in the stacked position (remembering to wrap your abs, and engage your pelvic floor) and hold them out in front of you with both hands. Keeping your body neutral, raise bubs to the ceiling just in front of your shoulders (not straight overhead), then lower them back down to the start position.
This one is a delight for both you and your child, as you’ll have some lovely eye contact as you exercise. They’ll also work their core and neck muscles at the same time.
5: FLANNEL LUNGES:
This is particularly great if you don’t have any equipment at home.
Lay a flannel or cloth on a hard wood or tiled floor and place one foot on top of it. Use the flannel to help you slide your foot along the floor – out behind you and back again.
Keep your supporting leg still, but bend both knees to get a nice deep dip (you can find this one on my IG feed @positivelyslim where I am in my kitchen – DIY Workout), then swap legs. This is a brilliant move for your legs, hips, bottom and core.
When you master this move on its own, add the baby shoulder raise – just be sure you’ve got your balance first.
6: KITCHEN TOP PRESS UPS:
While you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, place your hands on the work surface so they’re in line with your shoulders and shoulder width apart.
Engage your body by wrapping those abs and engaging that pelvic floor. Bend your elbows to ease your chest towards the counter then push back up to the start position.
For added posture work, keep your shoulder blades neutral (pulled down and drawn back) throughout.
7: BABY TWISTS:
A caution on this one – only perform this if you know you have a healthy back, as it’s a twist with some weight.
Sit on a mat or cushion with your knees bent and your feet on floor, holding your little one out in front of you (see photo above for the correct position, just add your little one!). Engage your abs and pelvic floor.
Twist your torso to one side and touch your baby’s feet to the floor, then come back to centre and twist to the other side. Make the twist small and controlled, as this is about quality of the movement rather than how far you can turn, and a smaller range will protect your back. Check your abdominal muscles are still engaged.
This is a great move while your baby is still little and light; once they’re toddlers, invest in a medicine ball or dumbbell.
8: SHOPPING BAG BICEP CURLS
While carrying the groceries or the baby carrier inside, add in a few bicep exercises.
Keeping your upper arms tight to your body, hinge from your elbows to lift your forearms up and down. Make the movement slow and controlled, and keep your elbows locked in place so you’re really targeting the bicep muscles (otherwise your shoulders take over).
Repeat evenly on both sides.
9: STAIR CASE CALF RAISES
Part of being a parent is constantly picking up after the kids: make these trips more productive by adding a few calf raises each time you climb the stairs.
Stand on the bottom step with your heels hanging off the edge. Holding the bannister, lift up until you’re on your toes, then drop back down so your heels have dipped below the step level, then lift back up to your tippy-toes again.
Make the movement controlled – try not to bounce – so you really feel it targeting the calf muscles in the backs of your lower legs.
10: TV CIRCUIT
We all have our ‘guilty pleasure’ telly programmes – alleviate that guilt with short circuit of moves while indulging in a little box watching.
Start with the squats from exercise three for one minute, then go to the work surface press-ups (12 repetitions). Stand on one leg (one minute each side), then do some baby twists (six-12 twists on each side) and finish with flannel lunges (six-12 on each leg).
If you’re a beginner go through the circuit once; if you feel ready to challenge yourself, complete it four or five times through, and even add your own moves.
If you’re ready for the next challenge, I also have an eight week self-guided health and fitness programme – click here to find out more about EMPOWER YOUR INNER GODDESS. And feel free to join my WELLNESS MASTERMIND online group, where you will find loads of support, ideas and motivation.
• photo©John Cassidy The Headshot Guy®, www.theheadshotguy.co.uk
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