I've definitely been here before, looking in the mirror and not recognising the person staring back at me - well, at least not recognising how my body looks. The first few months postpartum aren't just a blur of nappies and muslins and white noise machines and breastfeeding; they are also that feeling of overwhelm at how far away your body is from where it was 9 months ago, and how long it will take to get back there. Being female is often a revolving door of beating yourself up over something you are not, or that you used to have but lost. We go through so many life stages that affect our bodies (periods, hormones, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, menopause) that men just don't have to deal with. I used to look at my husband's wardrobe and think "How can you have clothes from when you were 17 that still fit you?!", and be really jealous. But, in reality, that's not how women's bodies work. We expect to stay the same weight and shape if we work at it, but the very foundation of our body is changing on a regular basis through our lives. I am working on going with the flow more...I don't really need to fit into that tube dress from Uni anyway...no-one needs to see that!
I'm Peta, by the way (pronounced like the boy's name)!
What do you need to know about me? The bullet points:
I'm 36 years old, and a mum to Ethan, aged 8 (going on 18) and Erica, aged (as I write) 16 weeks.
I married Ethan's dad, Mark when I was 24 (a baby!). Ethan was born in 2012 after a very traumatic birth ending up in an emergency c-section. We had 2 and a half lovely years as a family and then Mark sadly died from stomach cancer.
I met my husband Nick 2 years later and we married in August 2018 in a massive field in Wiltshire!
I trained as a Youth Worker and worked in various churches and organisations full and part time for 15 years, before moving into lecturing. For the last few years I've been a bookkeeper, an office administrator and an exam invigilator as I try to fit work around childcare.
Erica was born in January via a planned (ish) c-section, so I spent 6 weeks not able to drive or walk much and now I'm on maternity leave during the weirdest time in our generation, so I've had an extra 6 weeks of lockdown!
I love to exercise...I follow the Tracy Anderson Method and generally work out 5-6 days a week with a mix of cardio dance and pilates-type exercises.
Oh, and I went to primary school with My Feel Fit's founder - Ellie!
Anyway, back to what I was saying...
I have never been your stick thin model type - my family breed rugby players and the girls don't escape either! It has taken me years to accept my body and be proud of all that it can do - acknowledging that I will never be a size 8, being healthy and happy with my size 12. Before both of my pregnancies I was at the smallest and fittest of my adult life, comfortable with my exercise regime and confident that I could handle pregnancy and birth, mentally and physically. I continued exercising through the 9 months, adjusting as my growing bump made many moves difficult and the extra weight I was carrying made me more and more tired. So it came as a bit of a surprise - the body that I was left with once the baby had vacated. When you've spent 9 months highlighting your growing bump in clothes (and not having to hold you stomach in), it's a shock to be left with a midsection that looks like you're still 6 months pregnant and is suddenly something you feel the need to hide.
What has helped me both times is looking at the long term plan. It took me months to reawaken my core muscles after Ethan's c-section, and longer than I'd hoped or expected for my stamina to increase. But, with a supportive husband, and a baby who, thankfully, managed at least 45minute naps, I managed to get stronger than before. This time around I was expecting the after-bump, but it is still a bit demoralising that I find it difficult to get through fairly simple exercises that would have been a breeze previously. Sit-ups are far off right now, but I've repaired before, I can do it again. The added complication of lockdown does mean home schooling my 8 year old, so my plans to use Erica's nap time to work out in no longer fit with assisting with DT or Art lessons.
But there are always challenges when you're a mum. Fitting exercise into your lifestyle is a constant juggling act. And involves both flexibility and stubbornness. I've stuck to the same exercise regime for around 10 years now, and I have had to constantly re-jig the way I fit it in. It is sometimes a struggle, but for me, exercise is an important part of my mental health as well as my physical health. It is my de-stressor and my me time. So it is worth the complications. And over the years I have learnt a few things that help me. Maybe they'll help you too.
- Be patient - Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is core strength. You can't start a new exercise regime and be disappointed that you don't immediately get the arm definition you were looking for (Well, you can, but it's pretty pointless!).
- Have compassion - for yourself and your body. It works hard every day, even when you're not exercising. Treat it kindly and it will serve you well.
- Plan - We all have busy lives, and if you're a mum, then your life is even busier. It will often be led by the needs of others, but your needs are important too (you can't serve others unless you look after yourself). So try scheduling time each day that is your workout time. And make sure everyone you live with knows that it is your time.
- Be flexible - if you have a young child, sometimes routine goes out of the window. Don't beat yourself up if you don't get a workout done when you'd planned it. If you put your gym gear on at 9am and don't get to your workout until 7pm then chalk that up as a win, you still did it!
- Use your brain - when you're choosing your workout pick something that excites you intellectually as well as gives you good abs. If you find something interesting then you're more likely to stick to it long term.
- Sustainability - as always at My Feel Fit, we're concerned with how we can work toward sustainability - in your diet, your shopping habits, your workout gear, and your exercise regime. You need to find something that works with your lifestyle long term. Taking on too much just ends up with you beating yourself up when you don't manage it. An hour's workout 6 days a week is not sustainable for everyone, and when you're starting out you're better off making small changes at first. For some people a run is a great way to get out of the house (especially at the moment), for others being able to workout from home is key. Find your happy...or ask Ellie for help!
Thanks for having me!