As a hugely popular LES MILLS presenter and trainer, fitness has been a huge part of your life. Cast your mind back to pre-pregnancy, what was life like?
“Two years ago life was very different! Before falling pregnant with Bella, I was pretty fit! I was doing shift work as a nurse, filming LES MILLS release videos every quarter, delivering Instructor workshops for Les Mills Asia Pacific, teaching three or four RPM classes a week, and doing my own training – which involved quite a lot of long-distance running. I was definitely the fittest I’d ever been. But that changed very quickly…
I was definitely the fittest I’d ever been. But that changed very quickly…
I actually first fell pregnant in January of 2020, but unfortunately, I ended up miscarrying. Pregnancy loss is hard. It was early on, and I was still feeling pretty fit (I’d just traveled to New Zealand for the quarterly filming) but I was tired and the filming was a real struggle. Then, losing the baby brought a whole new level of tiredness and dealing with all the emotional stuff that goes with the loss. I was very lucky as I quickly fell pregnant again. But I felt like I started this second pregnancy on the back foot. I hadn't been training as I was recovering from the pregnancy loss, so right from the very start I felt drained – physically and emotionally.”
Keeping fit and active during your pregnancy was 100 percent part of your plan. How did that go?
“I know how valuable exercise is during pregnancy, so I wanted to stay fit and active. But although my earlier loss wasn't because of anything I was doing physically, I was still so cautious. I had a very low placenta, so I was told to be really careful with any physical activity because of the risk of my placenta detaching.
I stopped running, but I was still doing cycle classes. Timing-wise, COVID was kind of a blessing. The gyms were closed, so I didn't have to worry about teaching classes, filming or anything like that. And everyone was exploring new ways to exercise, so I didn't feel like I was missing out. I started doing LES MILLS+ workouts, mostly RPM, THE TRIP and BODYBALANCE. I did BODYATTACK up until the second trimester when my pelvic floor just started to feel a bit average, so I pulled back on that.”
You were also kept fit working full-time as a nurse …
“I work on the renal ward and general medical. It’s heavy. There’s lots of chronic illness, lots of manual handling, and it’s very busy. You’re dealing with very acutely ill patients and it’s high stress. COVID made it an extremely tense time. I was working on the front line and at the same time felt so worried about protecting my baby. It was really hard. I had a lot of really hard shifts at work where I felt very vulnerable. And I was always tired!
I found it really hard to adjust to the fact I couldn't train like I used to. I really missed that mental clarity I would get from going for a run or pushing myself during BODYATTACK or BODYCOMBAT – that used to be my normal stress relief, especially after a hard day at the hospital.”
I really missed that mental clarity I would get from going for a run or pushing myself during BODYATTACK or BODYCOMBAT – that used to be my normal stress relief, especially after a hard day at the hospital.
Despite drastically reducing your training during pregnancy, you were still pretty fit for birth. But I understand that was rather traumatic?
“Labor was the hardest thing I’ve ever done; but at the same time it was wonderful.
During the birth I lost a lot of blood. I almost didn't make it, as well as my baby, Bella. It was very traumatic, but my body seemed to recover really quickly. I didn’t need any transfusions or anything. I was on my feet 12 hours after the birth, walking down to see my new baby on another floor. The doctors did say to me ‘you recovered very well considering what happened’. I'm very thankful I was fit and healthy going into it. It definitely helped.”
And your return to fitness didn't go to plan either?
“I’ve not been one of those women who’s just been able to bounce back, have a six-week postpartum checkup and then get back into exercise. That was not me! And that was hard for me to get my head around. Deep down, I 100 percent thought I would just get the all-clear from my doctor and jump back to my favorite classes. I knew it would be hard because I wouldn't be as physically fit, but I still had this expectation that I would be back at it after six weeks.
The realization that wouldn't happen came crashing down on me at five weeks post-partum. Suddenly things didn't feel right, and it was terrifying. That’s when I knew this was not going to be a ‘six-pack at six weeks’. That was not my journey."
I would hate for women to think that someone like me, who was super fit prior to pregnancy, was just going to bounce back. That's not been my journey at all!
"Sharing this detail is pretty personal, but I don’t mind because I think it’s important to talk about. I would hate for women to think that someone like me, who was super fit prior to pregnancy, was just going to bounce back. That's not been my journey at all!
Coming to terms with this major setback was the toughest moment in my recovery. I didn't try to fight it. I just knew that I wanted to get professional help so I had the best chance at recovery. Not the quickest. The best. I really feel all new moms should see a women’s health physio, regardless of whether something feels right or wrong, especially if it's your first child, because you don’t know what feels right or wrong!”
How have you adjusted your mindset to make sure you feel good about your body and your fitness?
“I am 11 months post-partum, and I am nowhere near back where I was. There’s no bounce back here! But I do feel really good. I tell myself that my body has grown a human and it might not ever look the same or function in the same kind of way that it did. I hope it does eventually. But I made a promise to give myself time and grace and remember what my body has been through. An aesthetic goal has never been in my mind. I just want to be fit and strong.
The emergency surgery (to clear some placenta out of my uterus) and subsequent prolapse really messed with my core and pelvic floor. So I do feel really weak. My goal is just to be stronger. Anything else is just a bonus.”
I made a promise to give myself time and grace and remember what my body has been through. An aesthetic goal has never been in my mind. I just want to be fit and strong.
What does your current exercise regime look like?
“I’m doing heaps of Pilates and working on engaging those deep core muscles. I've got a new appreciation for moving slower. I used to be jumping around … all up, up, up cardio bunny. Now I really love being slower and focusing more on strength. I’ve fallen in love with BODYBALANCE, while I love doing THE TRIP at home. And just recently I’ve gotten back into teaching live RPM classes.”
No one should feel pressure to bounce back or recover quickly after birth. Our journeys during conception, pregnancy and postpartum are all different, so we just need to do what feels right.
How was teaching your first class back?
“It almost killed me. Teaching my first RPM class was really, really tough. But I decided to take the approach of ‘fake it till you make it’. I think there's a bit of muscle memory that kicks in when you get back to it. It was hard, but with each class, it’s gotten a little bit easier. Your fitness definitely comes back pretty quickly once you get on the bike.
I now have a fresh appreciation for the beginner or, someone coming back from injury or illness. Because I've been teaching for so long, I’d forgotten what it’s like to start from the beginning. This experience has helped me remember – it’s opened my eyes to what it feels like to be a beginner and I now teach my class a little bit differently as a result.
I hope to start teaching a few more classes in the coming months. But I’ll be listening to my body, and not putting too much pressure on myself.
And I really hope all other women do the same. No one should feel pressure to bounce back or recover quickly after birth. Our journeys during conception, pregnancy and postpartum are all different, so we just need to do what feels right.”