EXPERT INTERVIEW | Exercise tips for pregnancy + new mums

Have you wondered if it is really possible to bounce back after birth – just like they seem to do in celebrity land?

Of course, ‘bouncing’ is not the right term – especially when we want to take care of our pelvic floor. This week, the wonderful Kimmy Smith chats to us all about pre and post-natal fitness.

Kimmy is the founder of the Fit Mummy Project App and creator of the postnatal fitness and wellbeing hub, www.kimmysmithfit.com. She has also just launched the Nourished Mummy Project App with over 100 nutritionist approved recipes for you and your family!

Kimmy is an ex-professional athlete, fitness instructor, qualified yoga teacher and mother to two girls – and currently awaiting the arrival of baby number 3 (while completing our She Births® Online Course)!

For expecting mamas, Kimmy shares her to top health and wellness tips, as well as which exercises to prioritise, and which to avoid.

For new mums, Kimmy has some great advice for returning to exercise – including how to protect your precious pelvic floor, and why we need to remove the term ‘bounce-back’ from our vocabulary.

AND we have an exclusive offer for our She Births® community.

Receive 30% off the Fit Mummy Project Ebooks with the code SHEBIRTHS. This special offer for our She Births® community is valid until 30 June 2018. Enjoy! kimmysmithfit.com

Love and gratitude,
Nadine xxx

P.S. Congratulations to the winner of our Pukka tea gift pack: GRACE KIERNAN. Enjoy!


What are your top 3 health and wellness tips for pregnant women?

  1. Move in a way that makes you feel good. Pregnancy is such an incredible and exciting time. It can also be an extremely challenging, confronting and uncomfortable time. Morning sickness, back pain, reflux, pelvic pain, sciatica, exhaustion and insomnia are just some of the things that come part and parcel with growing a new human! Every pregnancy is different and the way we handle it, how we feel and our priorities are also hugely different. My advice to pregnant women is always to listen to your intuition and honour the signals your body is sending to you. Move in a way that makes you feel good.
  2. Nourish your body and mind. A healthy pregnancy extends far beyond just how we move our bodies. What we eat, what we think and how we feel all affect how much energy we have and how well we handle the changes that pregnancy brings. It is a time to really nurture and care for yourself. I love to do this through healthy movement, nourishing foods and taking time to rest and be still. I try to recommend doing 10 minutes of meditation or mindfulness practices such as deep breathing first thing in the morning. I find that this helps to create a calm start to my day. I also try to eat as well as I can when I can. No-one is perfect and eating well during your pregnancy can be hard – especially during the first trimester. My advice is to nourish your body with whole foods and quality fats and proteins when you can, and enjoy the guilt free treats when you are craving them!
  3. Create a support team. A pregnant woman isn’t sick or injured, she is often strong and highly capable, but we do need extra support during this special time. I recommend to all pregnant women to create a network of friends, family and health care professionals who will support them during this special time and also during the first year of their babies life. It is up to you who you include in your support network, but a Women’s Health Physio should make the list somewhere! They can asses your body and recommend the types of exercise you should and shouldn’t be doing. This will help you to be able to maintain an active pregnancy, but also recover from birth faster and more effectively.

Are there any types of exercise women should prioritise or avoid throughout their pregnancy?

I advise pregnant women to prioritise a combination of strengthening exercises and movements together with stability and mobility.

  • I love doing strength exercises workouts to help maintain a strong body.
  • Pilates and Barre exercises to create stability and pelvic floor and deep core strength and function.
  • Prenatal yoga for mobility, emotional balance and connection.

In terms of what to avoid, pregnant women should listen to their body and also avoid:

  • Lifting Weights that are too heavy or which cause you to hold your breath.
  • Crunches + Twists. Exercises like crunches, planks holds, twists, V-Sit Ups and weighted ab exercises can put too much downward pressure on your pelvic floor and can also make stomach separation worse. Avoid them if you have any pelvic floor or core issues and try some post-natal specific core exercises instead.
  • Jumping or high intensity exercise such as squat jumps, box jumps and skipping.
  • Exercise in a heated environment such as Heated Vinyasa Yoga or exercising in the middle of the day in summer.

For many (most!) women it can take a while for our bodies to recover from birth – longer than the 6 weeks we are told to wait before exercising. What’s your advice for returning to exercise after giving birth?

Every woman recovers from pregnancy at a different rate and in different ways. I believe it takes at least 6 months to a year to recover from pregnancy and birth and during that time, I still consider a woman to be ‘postpartum.’ This doesn’t mean she can’t exercise, but should choose exercises that are safe for her postpartum body and help her to build strength from the inside out.

I focus initially on creating strength from the inside out. One of the most empowering things you can do is strengthen your body from the inside out. Having a strong pelvic floor and core will help you to build your inner strength and resolve, and are the foundations of your fitness and strength. Start strengthening and toning your deep core muscles with post-natal specific exercises.

I then advise women to include functional movements using just their body weight or the weight of their baby. Motherhood is a very physical job, so I try to support women to do functional movements using similar weights to what they are lifting in a normal day. Things such as squats, lunges, pushing and pulling exercises all mimic real life. I focus on learning how to do these movements whilst maintaining good posture and pelvic floor engagement.

If you focus on the above two things and seek support from a Women’s Health Physio you will be able to return to the types of exercise you love a lot faster and a lot more safely.

How can we protect and strengthen our pelvic floor?  

Protecting and strengthening your pelvic floor starts with understanding the role of the pelvic floor, what it feels like to properly engage your pelvic floor and how to engage your pelvic floor in a functional way.

The first step for all pregnant or postpartum women should be to see a women’s health physio to have your Pelvic Floor assessed under ultrasound or internal examination. This will help you to understand what a pelvic floor contraction feels like and will allow you to properly engage and strengthen your pelvic floor.

One of my favourite visualisation cues to help you get a good contraction on your pelvic floor is to imagine the 4 walls of your vagina like an open flower with 4 petals. Draw the four petals into the centre and lift the closed bud. Take a breath into hold and exhale to fully release.

You can then focus on three types of contractions:

Endurance Holds.

Here you are trying to maintain a pelvic floor contraction for an extended period of time.

  • Engage and lift your pelvic floor for 3-4 seconds before releasing fully.
  • Repeat 8-10 rounds.
  • Slowly build up by increasing by 1 to 2 seconds each day.

Power Lifts.

  • Engage your pelvic floor as quickly and powerfully as you can.
  • Fully release.
  • Lift straight back up with no rest in between.
  • Aim for 10 power contractions.

Functional Movement.

Combine your pelvic floor exercises with function movements such as squats, lunges and push ups.

What would you say to women who are hoping to ‘bounce back’ to their pre-baby bodies?

I would love to remove the phrase ‘bounce back’ from our vocabulary when it comes to talking about the postpartum body. I believe that pregnancy and motherhood change us in so many incredible ways. We discover a level of strength and love that we never knew existed.

But yet, as soon as we give birth, our goal is often to look like we used to. To act like nothing has changed when so much has changed both physically and emotionally. Giving birth was the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. It was the first time that I felt completely embodied. I don’t want to forget that my body was able to hold a baby for 9 months. I don’t want to forget the fact that after 9 months in and 5 months out, my body was the only source of nourishment my children had received.

I want to celebrate that fact. I want every woman to celebrate just how truly amazing their bodies are. In the Fit Mummy Project I encourage women to create a new goal of building a new strong and healthy body. Rather than looking back at who they were, look forward to create a new healthy and strong body that celebrates all the changes that motherhood has bought with it.

I feel that this is a much more empowering goal and one that will help us to lose the baby weight in a much more safe and positive way. I would love to see a generation of women who don’t feel pressured to bounce back or to look a certain way, but who find strength and grace in motherhood no matter how that looks for them.

Tell us about the Fit Mummy Project app and the inspiration behind it.

I launched the Fit Mummy Project in August 2016. My core mission at the time was to help new Mums to return to exercise in a safe and positive way. I also wanted to make postpartum exercise accessible for all women, not just the ones who were lucky enough to live close to a gym, yoga or pilates studio. As Mums, we often put our own health and wellbeing last. So it was a huge goal of mine to help women to shift their perspective and to realise that when they are thriving, so to will their family. My dream is to be able to continue to inspire women to take care of their health and wellbeing and to provide them with really simple ways to do so. I launched the Fit Mummy Project App in 2017 as a way of providing women with safe + really effective workouts that they could do from home with little or no equipment! It has been receiving incredible reviews and feedback since it first launched and has helped over 3,000 women to return to exercise in a safe and positive way.

About Kimmy Smith

Kimmy Smith is the founder of the Fit Mummy Project App – the complete post-natal fitness and wellbeing App. Kimmy is also an ex-professional athlete, fitness instructor, qualified yoga teacher and mother to two girls. Kimmy is on a mission to support and empower women to embrace the journey of motherhood. In 2016, Kimmy launched the postnatal fitness and wellbeing hub, www.kimmysmithfit.com, an online destination that encompasses fitness, food and healthy mindset essentials including tips, advice, workouts, meal plans and recipes. It aims to help all new mums create a beautiful, fit and strong new body and life.

Connect with Kimmy:

Facebook: @fitmummyproject

Instagram: @kimmysmithfit

Website www.kimmysmithfit.com


Photo credit: Candice Cooper-Williams @ccdoubleyou

Kimmy Smith
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