Body

Lianne Powles from Super Mumma Fitness on how to return to exercise after having a baby

Interviewed by Mama Loves Chelmsford as part of the #EveryMumEssex campaign

If you’ve ever met Lianne Powles, who runs Super Mumma Fitness classes for new mums in Essex, you’ll know just how infectious her energy and her laughter is. She’s tiny, but don’t be fooled by her stature because she’s made of rock solid muscle.

Small but mighty Lianne Powles

When I had my baby 18 months ago, it was personal trainer Lianne and her Super Mumma Fitness classes that I turned to for some help and motivation in getting back to exercise. I’d had a terrible pregnancy and an even worse birth, so I was in a bit of a state. The idea of a buggy bootcamp, which is just one of the classes that Lianne runs in Essex, was terrifying — but I signed up for it in an optimistic moment, to start when my baby was around 3 months old. I was very nervous and the night before my first class I managed to convince myself that I absolutely would not be able to do it. After a sleepless night breastfeeding a cranky baby, I surprised myself by putting my trainers on and dragging my sorry arse out of the door. I really wasn’t sure what I was in for. My baby and I were both tired and fed up when we arrived at Admirals Park in Chelmsford, but we had a warm welcome and gave it a shot.

Okay, so I wont lie — it was TOUGH. The idea is that along with around 15–20 other new mums, you take the baby (wrapped up warm in the buggy) to the park where Lianne puts you through your paces, safely and properly for a body that has gone through some enormous stresses. My muscles weren’t used to exercise, it was a cold (and muddy) October day, and my fitness levels were at rock bottom. I also couldn’t run or jump as my pelvic floor was more of a pelvic trapdoor. But Lianne adapts her classes around new mothers, and I soon found that I really loved it — getting outdoors and just breathing did wonders for my mental health that day. My baby slept through most of the class, bundled up in his pram. On my way home I realised that I no longer felt exhausted and miserable — I was tired but I was happy. There had been loads of laughter and my cheeks were flushed from the cold air and the exertion. My leg muscles screamed at me in protest for a few days afterwards (repeated lunges up a hill while pushing a buggy, anyone?) but I was actually looking forward to the next session. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I ended up going to that buggy bootcamp session for an entire year before I returned to work, and it paid off with countless benefits to both my physical and mental health.

Lianne Powles

Because the classes did so much for me, I wanted to speak to Lianne as part of the #EveryMumEssex campaign. Something that can do so much good for mothers both physically and mentally deserves to be shouted about.

I spoke to Lianne in Coffee Squared (my favourite cafe in Chelmsford, just opposite Beaulieu Community Centre where Lianne runs one of her Super Abs and Bums classes) to ask her some questions about Super Mumma Fitness and postnatal exercise. Lianne drank a fruit tea and I had a coffee (and didn’t tell her about the cake I had before she arrived). We chat about how she got into training new mums. “I completed a gym trainer level 2 qualification, and then I did the work to become a personal trainer. When I qualified, I realised that I particularly enjoyed training women, and I was good at it,” she says. “But I needed a niche so I did a course with the YMCA, qualifying in a level 3 award in Adapting Exercise for Antenatal and Postnatal Clients. In 2014 I set up Super Mumma Fitness. I absolutely love my job. I love working with new mums, I love helping them gain their confidence and just having a giggle with them while doing something so good for their well-being.”

Lianne’s training has given her a thorough understanding of the postnatal body and she always offers two options during her classes for different levels of postnatal recovery. She is really careful to always offer a pelvic-floor friendly option, and you never have to run unless you are ready to (and want to). I really appreciated this, as it was something that worried me before I tried a class. “I always stress to my mums that they shouldn’t feel any peer pressure and that they need to do what’s right for them. The changes to your body are dependent on so many things during your pregnancy and birth, and you need to recover in your own time.”

Bootcamp in the park

Another issue for new mums that Lianne watches out for is around nursing, as breastfeeding and sports bras are an uneasy mix. “I hear this a lot, especially from the bigger busted girls! And you might need a sports bra you can feed in. There are some with zip-up fronts in M&S. And you can stop and feed any time you need to. Babies always come first.” Personally, I invested in a nursing-specific sports bra that I got from www.figleaves.com, and I wore it with a vest and a loose t-shirt over so that I could do one top up, one top down in the park if I needed to (and I often needed to). “But apart from a sports bra,” says Lianne, “you just need a good pair of trainers, a bottle of water and some layers to keep you warm and comfortable. The great thing about having a pushchair with you is you can chuck anything else in it you might need.”

Always happy to hold a baby

I ask Lianne if there are any other tips she would give new mums on returning to exercise. “Make sure you’ve had your GP check up. And then the nature of your birth affects when you can start — if you’ve had a section give it at least 10–12 weeks minimum otherwise you risk infection. For a vaginal birth it can be 6–8 weeks. But wait until you feel ready, don’t push it. And don’t be swayed by the images you see on social media of new mums — a lot of it just isn’t realistic. I think Photoshop and flattering angles have a lot to answer for!” I have to agree, as my Instagram feed seemed to be full of flat stomachs at 3 weeks postpartum. “I really want to stick up for mums,” says Lianne, “they’re under so much pressure already. And every single new mother has some degree of diastasis recti (muscle separation) and the extent of it depends on all sorts of factors. New mums need to avoid high pressure abs work, so I can measure the separation and make sure the right exercises are done properly.’ And indeed, Lianne’s classes are a sit-up and crunch-free zone. When Lianne assessed my muscle separation I was relatively embarrassed about my jelly belly as she does it by feeling the centre of your tummy when you’re lying down. There’s no pressure at all to have this assessed incidentally — but my curiosity was stronger than my embarrassment. And of course everybody has a spongy tummy after giving birth.

Lianne tells me how her main aim with Super Mumma Fitness is to build a safe community for mums where they can find their confidence. “I love watching the progression — whatever a mum’s goals are, be it weight-loss, fitness or improved mental health. You’d be surprised how many people have told me in confidence that they started coming to class to help with their post-natal depression.” I actually wouldn’t be surprised at all, as Lianne is such an open and friendly person that it’s very easy to be open with her in return. “The endorphins from exercise and the positive energy it creates can really help.”

I think what Lianne doesn’t see is that a huge amount of that positive energy helping her class out is not coming from any endorphins — it’s coming from her. She radiates an infectious enthusiasm, which is an outstanding trait in a personal trainer.

Bootcamp might not be for everyone, but I recommend you give Super Mumma Fitness a shot to find out. I didn’t think I’d particularly enjoy it, but it became one of my absolute rocks during my maternity year and could well do the same for you.


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