Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Will Jessica Ennis get back on track after having her baby?

The athletic world is watching Jessica Ennis as she prepares to give birth to her first child. The current Olympic heptathlon champion is due any day now and much of the talk around the impending arrival is not focussed on the normal things like will it be a boy or girl or how will she cope with being a mom for the first time. It’s all about will she be fit in time for Rio, to defend her title? Will she have the ability or indeed the interest to come back to such a gruelling, time-demanding sport? Only time will tell, but there’s one thing she will have that most women won’t – unlimited professional support and help to get her back to peak fitness should she want it.

There is much debate about when you should start exercising again post baby. Some women are afraid to get back into it too soon, in case they injure or overstretch themselves. This fear is fed by the over-conservative attitude of many doctors and other health professionals.  The figure of 6 weeks is frequently touted about, but in reality no one can put a time limit on it – its one of those things that is entirely dependent on the individual. How fit they were before they got pregnant, if they continued exercising right through and at what level , how the birth went and so on, will all play a part.  However, these factors are actually only of minor importance. What really determines when a woman gets back into exercise again is what support and encouragement she gets to do so.

Like many women, I struggled with baby blues after the life changing shock that is having your first child. I wondered would I ever get back on my bike again, let alone get back to competing at a decent level. Thankfully, what actually happened was I managed to get rolling again only two and a half weeks after the birth of Tori. I suddenly felt like myself, temporarily freed from the weight of responsibility that comes with becoming a parent. I came home from my first training session, which involved me pedaling gently around the track, energised and happy with the fuzzy brain that accompanies the sleep deprivation from a new baby gone.  All of this was enabled by one fundamental thing – a supportive encouraging partner and family that went out of their way to help out.

Its important to note his type of support doesn’t always happen naturally however, and indeed in most cases the partner may need some gentle encouragement. I found standing in the doorway as the hubby arrived home from work with bike in one hand, baby in other and a swift handover was the most efficient method of exit! I did get the odd panicky phone call when a nappy needed changing or the baby was crying but I assured him that the particular skills required to deal with either were not natural female instinct but a set process that could be performed successfully by either mom or dad! 

Bottom line is every new mother needs someone close to support them in getting back to fitness. No matter what professional help Jessica Ennis has, it will in some part boil down to her partner’s willingness to help out. We mightn’t all be aiming for Rio in 2016, but whatever level we are participating in sport we should be given the chance to strive to be our best.

Next week’s blog will be about where to actually find the time and how to fit everything in

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