Fitness Expert Carys Jackson Answers Your Mum Tone-Up Questions

by Alison Coldridge |

From questions on mum tums to safe post-birth exercises, our Q+A session covered all of your new mum fitness issues

Every week at Mother&Baby we bring you the Wednesday Lunch Club – a chance to get brilliant advice for your fertility, pregnancy and parenting questions from a top expert.  

This week, fitness expert Carys Jackson was on hand to answer your questions.

As well as setting up her own fitness business, Carys’ impressive career has included helping to prepare GB athletes for the Beijing and the London Olympics and Paralympics.  

After having her first daughter, Carys changed her focus to help women and mums and set up Activewoman, while still retaining her love of sport through her consulting role for the British Equestrain Federation. Since then Activewoman has grown to allow mums to train from their own homes, at a time that suits them.

Here’s what happened…

I really want to shape up and my husband wants to as well. I thought we could motivate each other but he isn’t all that keen. Are there any good classes that we could do together?

Carys: There are so many great classes about so you could grab a timetable of somewhere locally and look through together. Otherwise, take up a sport such as tennis, running or swimming. I find men need a push to start, but once they get going and see the changes, competitive instinct kicks in. Alternatively, pick a home workout you can do from home and together a couple of evenings a week.

I'm really paranoid about my bingo wings. What are the best exercises I can do to tone my arms up?

Carys: These are your triceps. Here are some good exercises you can try…

1. Tricep extensions using a band: 12-15 and repeat on each arm twice, three to four times a week (you must allow the muscle to rest for toning to occur).

2. Dips: Do nine to 15 sets and repeat with each arm twice.

3. Press up and planks if your core is healed and you haven’t recently given birth.

I'm not sure I've got the hang of pelvic floor exercises. Can you talk me through them please?

Carys: Put simply, your pelvic floor is the band of muscles we use to hold in a pee and poo (sorry baby terms stuck in my head as youngest is potty training) when we need the loo.

You need to not only be able to switch them on and off easily, but also hold them, and do squeezes. The you can incorporate them into your core activation and do more dynamic exercises. Here is a great video from our women's health physic to help further.

When out walking with the buggy, do periods of brisk walking, stop and do 10 to 15 squats or do some walking lunges

I'm a stay-at-home mum and have a two month old and three year old – so I don't have much time to work out. Any suggestions as to how I can stay fit with my kids in tow?

Carys: Make the day more active. Walk places, play fun and active games. When out walking with the buggy, do periods of brisk walking, stop and do 10 to 15 squats or do some walking lunges. Obviously, you may not want to do this in the high street…

Some great workouts are short and can be down when your little one is asleep and your toddler can join in as best he can for fun.

Look for local buggy classes as another option, but make sure your instructor is well qualified.

What is the best way to tone my stomach and get rid of my muffin top?

Carys: A combination of healthy eating (not dieting, just making good choices), plenty of exercise, and (believe it or not) relaxation. These work together to balance out the hormones and burn fat that is encouraged to settle there during pregnancy as a food source for our babies.

In terms of your core, how far postnatal are you? Has your stomach healed back together? If you are not sure let me know and I shall share a link with you on how to check.

If so, you need a mix of toning exercises for the whole body, as this builds lean muscle (not bulky muscle) and therefore you burn more energy in your everyday life. Core exercises are also great – not sit ups but more functional exercises such as squatting and moving the upper limbs and good breathing techniques.

How soon after a natural birth should you start exercising again? And are there any particular exercises/classes that are best to start with?

Carys: You must have had your six to eight week check-up first. However, you can do pelvic floor and basic core activation work (just engaging the muscles, no more) as soon as you feel ready. Any pain, or if things don't feel right, stop!

The key is allowing the body time to recover especially the core and pelvic floor. The core stretches a lot to allow room for your baby, and commonly the abdominals separate to allow for the baby to grow. These need to be allowed to heal. Classes wise, look for postnatal, Pilates or buggy classes.

I've injured my back and I'm 20 weeks post labour. When it’s better, what would be the best exercise to strengthen this?

Carys: Start with some gentle activation exercises and progress from there. There are three key areas to address:

1) How are you abdominals post labour? Are they back together? 

2) Are you tilting your pelvis when bending as it is very common with back injuries to lock through here, as we feel it will protect the back but it actually puts the back under more strain. 

3) What is your upper back posture like? Do you need to stretch out the chest and work on strengthening the lower shoulder blade muscles?

Are there any quick and effective exercises that busy, multi-tasking women can do while on the go? Any exercises that you can repeat throughout the day?

One area that is easy to do is make your everyday life more active.

Carys: One area that is easy to do is make your everyday life more active. So try walking to the shops, parking your car at the furthest car parking space and doing active activities with the kids like dancing.

On top of that, workouts don't need to be long. Some of my hardest and favourite workouts are only 10 minutes long. Try and include exercises using many muscles groups like squats and pushes, lunges and twists and planks with movements.

No matter what I do, I can't seem to tone my tummy up after having had two kids. Are there any simple exercises I can use to focus on this problem area? I still look pregnant even though my youngest is almost two!

Carys: This can be due to a combination of factors.

1) What is your nutrition like?

2) What is your upper back posture like? If you slouch, this compresses the abdominals and makes the stomach protrude out. 

3) What is your core like? Can you activate your deep front abdominals (called your transverse abdominals)? 

4) Stress. You have more than one child, which probably means you will get no rest up at all during the day. Do you have 'you' time? I know it is seen as a luxury, but even 10 to 20 minutes every day to do something you like and one activity for you a week helps relax and unwind. This relaxation helps balance out the hormones, telling the body to burn fat and not store so much of it on the stomach.

Which topics would you like covered in our Wednesday Lunch Clubs? Let us know in the comments box below.

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