Earlier in the year the fitness and lifestyle coach Jessie Mundell shared this meme:

And as the anniversary of the passing of Maya Angelou approaches, I find my mind wondering back to it as I read one of my favourite of her poems.

We are so quick to celebrate the pregnant body in all its glory, but what about the post natal body? If anything our society is quick to remind us that we should feel shame at this new and unfamiliar shape, hiding behind a blanket, shrinking into ourselves as we perform the natural and beautiful act of breastfeeding our baby.

And all the diet and exercise tips are to banish that unsightly ‘mummy tummy’, or creams to get rid of those stretch marks.

If you want to change, that’s fine. In fact it’s normal: obviously we all want to get back in shape. But that doesn’t mean you need to look (or even not look) down at yourself with horror at the stretched skin and the extra lumps and bumps. Because every contour, every line, is a mark that shows you’ve created life.

This body is the one that has just endured hours of pain, even complications, and withstood more than the old you ever did. It has pushed through every challenge thrown at it. Celebrate that power, because for many who convince themselves ‘when I reach this weight/ size I’ll be happy’, the goalposts then shift to a new target.

Sure, you want to lose the extra weight and tone the belly. But enjoy the journey and celebrate every inch of your body and what it can do. Because if you hate yourself now losing weight alone is unlikely to be enough to make you love yourself. Start from a place of self-love and gratitude for what your body can do.

And stop worrying about what other women look like. Surround yourself with positive images: is your newsfeed filled with unrealistic pictures of fitness models with bodies that most of us will never achieve? Unfollow that page. I don’t find it motivational, and I doubt you do either. I don’t want to be thinking about my appearance all day, and all these pictures do is reinforce the idea that women are for public consumption, broken down into mere physical attributes to be analysed, rather than complex multifaceted personalities.

Besides, most  women look don’t look like that- head over to look at the Real Girl Belly Project for some more realisic photos.

It isn’t all about appearance.

Easy to say, harder to believe, and even harder to carry yourself with confidence in that belief. But Maya Angelou did: “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size.”

Be the person you want your baby to see, confident, embracing life, not holding back, waiting until you look right, one day. Let your baby see the joy in your feet and the sun of your smile; make sure your “head’s not bowed”.

I’ll leave you with the poem in all its glory.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.


I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman



Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.


Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,

They say they still can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.


Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

’Cause I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

By Maya Angelou


As a Fitpro, I HATE the #noexcuses hashtag. Because, as any mum will telll you, there are excuses. (Other people have excuses too, but I’m focusing on mum ones here.) This attitude does not inspire me, and I’ve written about it before here.

I love working out. It used to be a big part of my life, and it took a while for me to accept the fact that, post-baby, I just didn’t have that much time for it any more. And that’s cool. One day the kids will be bigger and I can get to the gym again: this is just a phase of my life. And it’s a phase where I have other priorities, like looking after the children, cooking dinner, and work.

Also, maybe you just don’t want to look like that! Hell, some people could have all the time in the world and they still wouldn’t spend it down the gym sculpting themselves into whatever shape the media has decided we should aspire to.

So no, you don’t need an excuse not to be at the gym getting super fit. BUT, being healthy and being fit are different things.

Having priorities other than the gym doesn’t mean my fitness has to suffer. I may not be as fit as I used to be, but I’m fit enough, and for now that’s fine with me.

Quite frankly there’s a limit to how much I can balance. Which brings me to my tips on how to stay fit and healthy when your time is monopolised by small people.

Soft play and playgrounds.

Yes, I realise other people’s children in an enclosed space with the fragrance of sweaty socks floating through the air may closely resemble hell for some of you. But if you’re there anyway, make the most of it.

GET MOVING! Chase, throw, roll with and generally play with your child. They will love you for it, and there are health benefits to any movement.

My favourite isn’t a soft play centre, but toddler time at a local leisure centre.


Try carrying an 18mo through that bouncy castle course 5 times! And when it’s quiet runningup the slide at the end is more fun and effective than a treadmill any day. Then repeat for 2 hours.

Similar thing for playgrounds in general- climbing frames, tunnels, monkey bars. Want a leg workout? Try pushing off on a see-saw against someone less than half your weight.


Any walking. Just leave the car at home. I’ll save banging on about the benefits of it for another post, but I honestly think it is one of the BEST forms of exercise. For added challenge find some good hills. I was in Winchester a few weeks back and climbed up and down this one:



And I was carrying the toddler for added ‘ow’ factor. But, as before, much more fun than the treadmill or stairclimber!


This is a basic skill we should all have, but few do. So good for upper body strength, it helps with scapular (shoulder blade) stabilisation (and I see many people who struggle with this) and is great for shoulder mobility.

Even if you can do full pull ups, I’d recommend some hanging work. See here for a beginners guide and here for more advanced challenges.

I use my chin up bar and Olympic Rings at home (although as you can see I have to wait my turn):


But again, the beauty is you can throw in some hangs when you’re at the park with the kids. (Yes, I do get the odd funny look.)

Home workouts.

They don’t even have to be long. My youngest doesn’t sleep very well, so any intense workout is liable to be interrupted, even in the evening. Plus, I’m flipping knackered by that time anyway, so can’t usually face anything mega.

I have a few little routines that I can do in 10 or so minutes. Sometimes I just work through some dynamic mobility, to maintain flexibility, and because I feel good after. I can increase or decrease the intensity to make it challenging to my strength too, and it gets my heart rate up a bit.

Deep squats.

Ok, so these alone won’t get you fit. But the ‘potty squat’ is another basic movement we should all be able to do, yet many can’t. It’s good for mobility, strength, even just sitting in it is beneficial.

Again, I could do a whole post on the squat. But it’s already been done, so head here for more benefits and beginners tips. I’m just pointing out that by squatting to pick up the hundreds of toys strewn across the floor, instead of bending over and straining your back, you can cram a LOT of reps into your day, whilst simultaneously cleaning. Hooray! Which reminds me…


Yeah, I don’t do this one much. But apparently  it’s a great calorie burner.


Yeah I know, I kind of cover this on soft play. But, for anyone a bit more advanced, locomotion is a great way to goof around with the kids, doing animal walks, while getting strong at the same time! Hip hip hooray! See here for a beginners routine. Just don’t be fooled by the inclusion of the word ‘beginner’ (some of this is quite advanced and should NOT be attempted by anyone who has given birth recently, or who is not already in pretty good shape).

Also, this isn’t really playing, but since some of those are a bit hardcore anyway, single leg squats can be done pretty much anywhere- think standing around while the kids are playing. Don’t waste time standing! Single leg squat!

Okay, I think I’m done. Hopefully these are some useful tips for getting more movement into your life when time is not your friend.

P.s. I know this is for busy mums, but if you’ve just had a baby or still have any core or pelvic floor problems some of these suggestions won’t be suitable. Remember, you are post-natal FOREVER and even if you measure your child’s age in years, not months, you could still have weaknesses resulting from pregnancy if you haven’t gone through a good restorative core programme.

If you’re interested in getting a personalised home workout designed so you can fit exercise in to your life more easily, contact me to find out about personal training.


There’s no shortage of advice on what exercises you should be doing to get your ‘pre-baby body’ back. Problem is, not all of it’s good advice.

postnatal exercise advice

First off, I hate the ‘get your pre-baby body back’ thing. It is not a race to see who can shift their pregnancy weight fastest, and it encourages mums to throw themselves into exercise and dieting to do so. Not healthy.

And whilst it’s fine (not vain) to want to change how you look, you shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of your post-baby body. You need to take it slowly and be gentle on yourself, take time out and be a little selfish (except it’s not really selfish- happy mum means happy baby).

But back to the advice itself.

The Good.

Let’s start with some exercises you CAN do. I’m going to link to someone else’s website here, so you don’t have to just take my word for it!

Marianne Ryan is a top Womem’s Health Physio, and I’ve shared this blog of hers with clients before, to reiterate what we’ve talked about in the session. It includes safe, effective exercises, that I use with personal training clients and in Restore My Core.

Good advice is about how to connect to your deep core. Training the breath and pelvic floor. Click here for Marianne’s advice on how to get a flat tummy.

The Bad.

Here’s a blog with ‘4 Moves to Target Your Mummy Tummy.’

However it’s more like 4 exercises to make your mummy tummy worse!

While this article does say to check with your GP if you have diastasis recti, it’s misleading in saying these exercises are how you should get a flat tummy post partum.

I’m not saying never do planks or crunches (although crunches would never be my exercise of choice to get a flat belly, postnatal or not), but you have to go through a progressive restorative programme first.

Any exercise that creates a lot of abdominal pressure, like these, runs a big risk of pushing your tummy out, not giving you a flat stable core. For example, the strain of the double leg lifts could lead to the low back arching, or pushing it into the ground to compensate, both of which put the pelvis in a non-optimal position for the transverse abdoninis and pelvic floor muscles. And the rectus abdominis and obliques can end up taking over, placing strain on a weakened linea alba.

Bad advice involves ab exercises, feeling the burn and anything that leaves you straining while you train.

The Ugly.

This one is actually part ugly, part good. But then I wouldn’t have had a nifty blog title, so I just went with ugly.

The first link mentioned girdles, and I want to talk about that some more. Are they a good idea postpartum?

Waist training has been in the news a lot recently, in large part thanks to the Kardashians making social media posts like this:


And because this was after giving birth (although over a year later), women can see it as a good way to get their tummy down. But wearing a supportive garment after having a baby is completely different to waist training, so please don’t confuse the two.

To start with I wouldn’t recommend this type of waist training. If you squeeze your tummy in like that, where do you think all your organs are going? Where is the pressure going?

Up or down is where. And pressure down on your pelvic floor is not a good idea, ever. Especially not when postnatal. It is going to put you at huge risk of pelvic organ prolapse.

And pressure up on the diaphragm? Hiatus hernia anyone?

On top of  which you will actually be preventing your core from functioning properly. Here’s a video from Women’s Health Physio Julie Weibe that explains this beautifully.

But a supportive belt postpartum is different. They provide support spread around the torso, rather than just squeezing one area. This can give extra support to weakened abdominal muscles, reduce postnatal swelling, and encourage them to close back together whilst regaining tension.

Because it isn’t just the gap between the muscles that’s the issue. It’s the ability to create tension along the linea alba, which is the tissue in that gap. And if you close the gap without restoring function, your core still won’t be able to do it’s job properly, and any symptoms you may be having, like pelvic girdle pain, low back pain, or incontinence, will likely remain. You need to relearn how to use the deep core muscles and address your alignment.

If you do have abdominal separation and are considering a belt, I really recommend you see a Women’s Health Physio first. They can make sure the belt is fitted correctly and address any underlying issues with a tailored programme.

You can be referred by your GP, or you can find one to see privately here, just make sure you pick Women’s Health from the drop down menu.

Anyone local to me, I recommend www.beckyastonphysiotherapy.co.uk, having seen her myself.

I hope this article helps give you a bit more confidence in being able to distinguish between the fitness advice that’s worth following, and that which is best ignored. And as a mum, I trust you’re pretty good at listening to bad advice, nodding along, then going along on your way whilst ignoring it completely!

Bone Broth is becoming quite trendy at the moment! The benefits are being touted all over the place.place. I’ve talked before about the benefits of broth here and here, but even so, let’s not go overboard! There is little evidence to back the claims up, and studies that have been done are using nutrients from the broth in a supplement, so not the same (read here for more info).

Nonetheless, I love it. For the simple fact that it’s cheap (unless you buy it out, then it’s suddenly not anymore!) and lets me add extra protein to other dishes such as soups, I like making it. And although I’m sure a lot of the claims are over-hyped (you probably won’t look 21 again from drinking collagen!) it doesn’t mean there’s not some wisdom in it: many cultures give new mums bone broth as part of their post natal diet, and I’m sure they have their reasons.

So, my recipe. I always do broth in my slow cooker, as I leave it overnight and my stove switches itself off, but you can do it in a stock pot on the hob. Just bear in mind you need to leave it for a while: I aim for 24 hours with bones this big (smaller bones like chicken don’t need as long).

First, I put this bone, which was £1.50 from the local butcher, into the oven for about 40 mins on 180 degrees. This is for 2 reasons: first, it gives the broth a much nicer flavour (and smells lovely!); second, roasting the bone helps it to break down so you get more nutrients in your stock.

This is a marrow bone, which is nutrient dense and has a great flavour, but you can use any bones you like. Bones like hooves or knuckles are more gelatin rich, and have more collagen and glucosamine in them, so great for joints and postnatal recovery.


Then I put it in the slow cooker (or stock pot), cover it with water and add about a tablespoon of cider vinegar or lemon juice (again this helps to break the bone down), and I also add a tablespoon of orange juice. I read somewhere that this helps with drawing out nutrients too, and I got a really nice flavour when I tried it so have stuck with using it!

In the slow cooker you just leave it on low, otherwise bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Over the first few hours you can get some scum rising to the top; just scrape this off. (OK, confession- I never do this. I just always read that you should. I’ve never found this scum, although I do sometimes find there’s sediment in the finished broth that I throw away.)

For the last few hours of cooking I add a few vegetables; usually whatever I have lying around. Here I’ve chopped up 2 carrots, an onion, some old celery (soup or juicing is a great way to use up fruit and veg past it’s best)  a clove of garlic (which I smashed open to help the flavour), and a couple of bay leaves:


Depending on what you’re using it for and how strong you like it, you can take the lid off and reduce it down when you’ve finished. I like to do this and get a ricker flavour. Then just cool and drain through a sieve.

You can change the concentration of the gelatin in there, which is visible on the consistency when the broth is chilled, by decreasing the ratio of water to bones. Less water and more bones will result in a higher concentration of gelatin, so the broth will be more jelly-like when cold. Sometimes I return the broth to the heat once I’ve drained it and reduce it down to get a stronger flavour.

Once chilled it looked like this:


mmmmm, yum. I scrape the fat off and you can see the consistency underneath:


I often divide it up into 500ml containers and freeze some for stock. You can use it in casseroles, or for soup, or just heat and drink it. I know this doesn’t look hugely appealing, but once you’ve warmed it it’s runny again.