Fitting in exercise is never easy; fitting in exercise as a busy mum is near impossible. I think as mums we often prioritise the care of our loved ones and forget or have little time for our own wellbeing. For me, it is mainly a time issue; it is hard to find exercise that is toddler-friendly (my son is just too old for many of the mum and bub classes). I can’t be bothered popping him into casual care for an hour while I exercise, and when my husband is home, I would rather spend the time with my family than head to the gym.
A little while ago, I was invited by Bec Heelan to try out her fitness class on Wednesdays in Footscray park. It appealed to me because the class was designed specifically for mums and is child-friendly. So, I signed up for a free class. The day I signed up, I was feeling fairly chipper, but when Wednesday rolled around, it was another story.
Feeling very unfit, sluggish from jet lag (we had just returned from a holiday in South Africa) and with my slightly grumpy toddler crammed into his pram, I headed to the park feeling worried about how I would manage the exercise after being so lazy over my holidays (and admittedly, while away, eating a lot of cake and biltong – an South African delicacy). I had also had the experience in other fitness classes where my bored son ran amok while I spent the entire time apologising and suffering sympathetic glances from mums whose newborns slept soundly in their prams.
As soon as I arrived, all my worries were put aside. There was Bec smiling and welcoming, and other toddlers for my son to play with! The exercises were also fun, varied and, as the class is small, were tailored to our individual needs. My son had a ball, laughing at us doing funny exercises, running up and down to the slide while we used the play equipment as an impromptu gym, squashing me during my floor exercises and swapping drink bottles and train books with the other toddler there. After one class, we were hooked and duly signed up for more.
In teaching, we talk about helping students reach their ‘challenge point’. This is the point where learning is sufficiently difficult to stretch students, but also not so hard that it de-motivates them. Bec has a knack for working out what point I (and others) can be stretched to. This keeps the fitness class interesting and after each class I feel a real sense of achievement. I also like that each class is different and at every class I have attended I have learnt something new. Exercises are varied and include boxing, cardio, lifting (cleverly using the park equipment) and core strengthening.
With what our bodies go through to give birth to our kids, it makes sense to have exercise tailored to our needs. Bec passionately believes that exercise should be about healing our bodies as well as strengthening them. In her own words: ‘there is a huge gap between when a woman has a baby and when she can return to exercise at an intense level, and it’s often during this time they will be given bad advice, or none at all. It’s nobody’s fault; it’s just a gap. One in three women who have had a baby experience incontinence, but it doesn’t have to be the norm and, if left untreated, can result in prolapse. It’s really important during this time to have someone on your team who knows how to work around this and provide safe exercises, rather than just ignoring the symptoms or putting up with them.’
I think what I find most reassuring about the class is that Bec is a mum like me (her son has just turned one). She gets how hard it can be to stay motivated to keep fit, to wrangle a toddler into clothing, gulp down breakfast and make it on time to classes, and to rebuild often fragile bodies. Having rebuilt her own post-baby body through targeted training and physio, Bec was inspired to get her own qualification in pre- and postnatal fitness in order to help other women in her position.
I, for one, have found the classes an empowering experience and I think this has to do with being able to push my body again without worrying about the consequences. Having tried lots of different fitness classes since I had a baby, I have come to the conclusion that empowerment can only happen when women feel safe in the knowledge that the exercises they do are tailored to their bodies.
So, if you are feeling like you need a kick start on your fitness journey, give Bec’s classes a go. Hopefully I will see you there!
A little bit about the sessions from Bec: