Confessions of a fit family

CHRIS and I are often amused by the assumptions people make about us. ‘Fitties’ are often labelled as the fun police. We get invited to dinner only for our hosts to call a little scared as to what we eat. ‘Would fat be offensive?’ ‘Are they life long vegans?’

On the whole we stick to the 80/20 rule. 80% on track and 20% treat, although to be honest too much of the wrong foods can make both of us feel pretty rotten. We aren’t fitness and health saints but we do have some absolute no go rulings. So in order to put a few myths to bed, here are our confessions.

  1. We eat chocolate. In fact we generally keep a supply of good quality dark chocolate (and occasionally milk sea salt because it’s just too yummy) in the cupboard. We rarely have a dessert so a few squares (more if it’s Chris) are a little evening treat once the kids are in bed. If you keep good stuff in you are less likely to buy cheap stuff.
  2. Although on that note we also love a Snickers bar – after a round of golf usually (oh those were the days).
  3. A family favourite meal is pie. Chicken pie. We make it from scratch, usually from roast chicken leftovers.
  4. We don’t officially exercise every day, rest days are important too. But we will make excuses to be active. A brisk walk up to the shops if it’s rush hour, half an hour out with Isaac on his scooter or Chris’ frequent squash games with clients.
  5. Sometimes we can’t be bothered to exercise but know it will do us good so throw ourselves out of the door or drive to the gym. On these days it’s most important to go and exercise because usually your brain needs it more than your body.
  6. The above was mainly about me (Karen), Chris has some weird motivational chip which means he can exercise really hard, on his own. I am more likely to walk the last few yards before I get to my house after a run. Chris would keep going and then do another lap.
  7. We aren’t ‘runners’ – Chris is more of a power athlete and having had knee surgery in his 20s an endurance run would not do him any favours. The most I’ve run is a half marathon and had the most horrendous digestive issues for half a day after that I’ve decided 10K is my absolute limit.
  8. We do exercise for fun. A family swim, a trip to the gym or obstacles in the forest or front room is great Friday night entertainment.
  9. We do workout in the garden, so look out for us when you’re departing Epping on the tube.
  10. We like a drink but only ever when it’s a celebration or a happy/relaxed occasion, never if we’re stressed or angry. Again this is more about me since Chris could never drink again and not miss it.  I would.  In fact I wish I didn’t get drunk on alcohol because I’d love to sample the entire cocktail menu but 1 mojito or champagne cocktail is generally my limit!
  11. We have fit friends. When we have dinner with them we eat A LOT! Chris and the man friend usually talk shop/science/anatomy endlessly. Me and the girl friend usually drink G&Ts and discuss fashion, life etc …
  12. We eat a lot of food. When we don’t, we get HANGRY.
  13. We rarely discuss fit or food tips with family. Never offer unsolicited advice.

And those rulings:

We just don’t do cheap/processed food. Spaghetti hoops or delivery pizzas are just asking for indigestion and a bad night’s sleep.

All meat is organic or free range and where possible sourced from the butcher. I’d rather cook a cheap cut from a good quality animal than bother with a supermarket steak.

All cake is home-made. It tastes better and we know what goes into it.

Advertisements

Are you so driven that you can’t see the daffodils?

Driven. Ambitious. Go getter. Super fit. High energy.

These terms are usually viewed as positive attributes. Perhaps how we might like to be described. Certainly, if I’m honest, I love living life with a sense of direction towards goals. Yes I’m ambitious but it isn’t necessarily good for us.

At home, in our careers, in our workouts, sometimes even in our leisure time we can swing too far towards the ‘success’ or ‘aim’ of it that we forget to enjoy it and life swings a little out of balance.

  • ‘When the house is tidy/decorated/re-developed I’ll be happy.’
  • ‘When I’ve achieved noteriety/published my book (make that my tenth book)/got a promotion, I’ll be happy.’
  • ‘When I’ve burned 500 calories/lost a stone/run 5k in under 30 minutes, I’ll be happy.’
  • ‘When I’ve got my golf handicap down/outings for every day of the kids’ school holidays/booked the optimal vacation resort, I’ll be happy.’

Isn’t it funny when you look at it like that?

But this is what we do to ourselves on a regular basis.

Our environments are saturated with messages that encourage us to be ‘driven’ and it can be hard to slow down or even recognise our need for more balance.

At the weekend I was privileged to be invited, as a guest, to the inaugural WIFE conference in Guildford (Women in Fitness Empowerment – hosted by Jacqueline Hooton). Of all the speakers, the one that spoke to me most clearly (and that if I’m honest – I wasn’t expecting to) was Nicola Hobbs. Nicola is a yogi and a GB weightlifter. ‘Now wow – that’s balance,’ I thought.

Nicola reminded me of the ancient Eastern wisdom of yin and yang. It’s not a concept recognised by modern medicine but has been used in healing and wellness for centuries.

Nicola had practical suggestions for creating more yin, if your life has got a bit yang. And woah I thought – I think I’m a bit yang.

When, in my conference chair, I considered all the thinks that truly make me feel happy and blessed, it’s all those little things that I absent mindedly just do because they make me feel balanced:

naomiisaacswingmar15

  • Hanging out the washing (yes – don’t start me on laundry).
  • Walks out in the forest or round a lake, spotting wild fowl with my kids.
  • Just running – for little purpose – just to enjoy the outdoors.
  • Reading – being absorbed in the moment.
  • Down time with the kids, when nothing is planned. Just playing with bubbles, having a bath, or having family hugs/tickle time/rough play.
  • Baking – at a time when I can really get lost in the process.
  • Inversions, like the shoulder bridge or rollover in Pilates.
  • Swimming and enjoying a shower alone (perhaps the main reason I have a gym membership at the moment)!

And guess what. All these things are yin things. So rather than doing them absentmindedly, I plan to keep doing them. They aren’t big things that take time, money or planning. These are things I do on a weekly or daily basis.

This is what I really got from Nicola. You don’t have to change your life to get yin. You just need to change the way you think about it or the way you do the things you are already doing.

So for this week – I challenge you to take one area of your life, perhaps your workout and just enjoy it, for the love of doing it. Nothing else.

It’s Spring and it’s beautiful out there. So perhaps just take a walk and spot the buds and the daffodils. For yin’s sakes.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Chocolate Cake and why women are f*bomb brilliant #WIFE2015

Today I’m brimful of energy and enthusiasm. Which is strange considering I started the weekend on very little sleep (children with coughs related), drove over 100 miles in a day on my own (I’m a nervous motorway driver) and spent yesterday digesting a ton of information. I should be exhausted.

But yesterday I attended a fitness event like no other.

I was at the #WIFEconference 2015. The brainchild of Jacqueline Hooton who also reminded me of the main I’ve forged a career in fitness. I hated school P.E. too. Especially the misery of bitterly cold and humiliating cross country running through Epping Forest.

KarenJacquelineHooton

I’m in fitness because I want to inspire people, women mainly, to find enjoyment in activity. You don’t have to be brilliant at tennis to play it recreationally. There’s no need to run a sub-25 minute 5k to enjoy going out for a run. In short. I’m in fitness to encourage as many people as possible to just get a little bit fitter and hopefully not pee themselves in the process (post natal health is my passion).

This really for me was also the ethos of the day (not the peeing – the inclusivity). Every fitness professional is unique but our role as a corporate body is to make fitness available. As Jacqueline said, ‘If we think we [fitness professionals] are an exclusive tribe then we should be ashamed of ourselves.’

So why just women?

The weekend coincided with International Women’s Day but mainly it was because women are massively under represented at the majority (if not all) major fitness events. And we’re good. In fact if the minds, careers and energy of the women presenting at yesterday’s event are anything to go by. We’re f*bomb brilliant.

As women, we have a unique ability to nurture and encourage, we don’t have to try to be men to be at the top of our field.

There was no man bashing (well perhaps a little between the lines man bashing) and no glass ceilings. I’ve been at events before designed to inspire but only really selling a franchise. Yesterday I absolutely felt I could and am going it alone. I felt and feel inspired.

No one was on a pedestal. Everyone has accepted my friend request. And everyone who I tag will share this post (please).

As for content and learning, I have inspirational notes, already re-written on giant pink post its enough to last me some time. And yes, Charlotte Ord, I will re-visit them at least annually and I’ll be re-evaluating my idea of success. Love that idea.

Christianne Wolff reminded me of the importance of passion, that’s what draws people to you. The magic.

RachelHolmesWIFE

From Rachel Holmes, the standout idea was chocolate cake (you had to be there)! I already have an idea brewing on that one. And speaking of ideas, Rachel’s top tip to get the ideas from my head onto cards, so I can actually sort them out, was genius. As a working mum I have periods where ideas are like popcorn in my head and it can be hard to know how to process them.

KarenKatieBulmerCooke

The brilliant Katie Bulmer-Cooke made me cry. Her story reassured the ‘guilty working mum’ in me that building my own business and breaking the ‘slave to the pay cheque’ mould could be the best gift I ever give my children in terms of their education.

In half an hour Yvonne Radley made me believe I’ll be on the radio before the month is out. I’ll let you know.

And then there’s balance. Thank you so much Nicola Hobbs for reminding me of the importance of balance. Today I took a muddy walk in Epping Forest with my family to help find some yin and made bread with my four-year-old – and, thanks to the fantastic Rachel Anne Hobbs I added extra flaxseed and walnuts!

Thanks Jacqueline and thanks to everyone involved. I can’t wait to come back next year for #WIFE2016.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Pilates isn’t about sculpting body beautiful

I’VE been teaching Pilates for at least 10 years now and I confess, I look back at my early days and cringe a little at how I taught or what I focused on. Of course at the time, my theory and practical knowledge was up to date but modern science combined with Joseph Pilates’ original exercises, my own experiences and education (most recently from the brilliant JPilates) have created a very different ‘Karen’s Pilates’ from what I taught 10 years ago. I was also much more likely then to be swayed by the more vocal participants in my classes!

As in all professions, experience and training influences and shapes you. I believe that where I’m at now would hopefully let Joe P rest easy under his daisies. It’s true to me and to the participants I work with.

Of course as my experience evolves I get a bit ‘fussy’ about what other forms of ‘Pilates’ are out there. I don’t believe in one size fits all but I am in this profession to improve lives and health. Wellbeing.

So I’m penning a series of articles about what Pilates isn’t. That doesn’t mean if you enjoy your chosen class it’s wrong – it just might not be Pilates. And there is a brilliant magic and flow in the process of Pilates, which you, your body and your wellbeing might just be missing out on.

PILATES IS NOT ABOUT SCULPTING BODY BEAUTIFUL. PILATES ISN’T AESTHETIC LIKE A FIGURE MODEL’S GYM PROGRAMME. PILATES COMES FROM THE INSIDE OUT. PILATES WON’T MAKE YOU THIN AND IT WON’T WHITTLE YOUR WAISTLINE.

  1. THE FAT THING.

Fat is fat. No amount of roll ups, teasers or gym crunches will drop belly fat. Fat loss starts in the kitchen, continues in the gym (with weights or interval training), is massively complemented by Pilates and graduates with a happy symbiosis of all of the above.

  1. PILATES IS INSIDE OUT

If we focus first on the outside, we are likely to neglect the inside. By inside I mean back and joint health, muscle imbalances, pelvic floor health, hips, shoulders, breathing, stress and TENSION. In fact years of experience have shown me that the Pilates participant who comes from the physiotherapist, where pain has motivated them is generally much better at Pilates (if there is such a thing) and progresses quicker than the gym bunny who wants to get thin.

  1. PILATES ISN’T ABOUT BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

You know what I mean. All those stock photos of models looking serene and just occasionally doing a bit of Pilates in a well lit studio without a squidge of fat or under-eye baggage in sight. Now I’m not anti-pretty (I should say I consider all my participants beautiful) but I am anti putting anyone off exercise. In my classes we have fat rolls, we have ‘retro’ workout gear and the occasional hairy leg (sometimes a little parp too) but we are all doing it. Striving to look after our bodies, not just to show them off.

Of course, I’m not ignorant to the fact that how we look is a driving factor behind exercise but let’s not lose sight of wellbeing and let’s not lose sight of Pilates.

Focusing on toned tummies to the detriment of our backs will not serve us long term. And when your motivation is looks over health you are far less likely to stick to exercise.

If you DO want to change the way you look, then yes do Pilates but do HIIT training, eat clean, cut out alcohol and processed sugars, sleep more, unwind, train with weights and have fun.

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/06/04/sit-ups-the-fastest-way-to-a-flat-tummy-after-having-a-baby-i-lied/

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/10/22/want-a-flat-tummy-my-top-5-dos-and-donts/

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/06/07/10-golden-rules-for-a-flat-holiday-ready-tummy/

Next up … Pilates is’t an ab workout.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.

Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.

TWITTER: @fitschoolessex

FACEBOOK: ccfitschool

WEBSITE: http://www.fit-school.co.uk

Back to School (by guest blogger Lucy Bannister)

Back to School. Back to Mind

By guest blogger Lucy Bannister (http://www.lucyoga.co.uk/)

Yep, no matter if you have kids or not, September has a ‘Back to School’ feeling about it. And for me September is always a busy month and if I’m not careful I’m steaming headlong into Christmas before I’ve blinked.

So that’s why today’s email is about taking time to blink. To stop. To breathe. To go with the flow.

I want to encourage you to slow down a bit repeatedly throughout the day.

All this is inspired by a quote that popped into me Facebook feed this week: “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” (Ghandi)

PinkFlowers

We are so conditioned to be busy, to keep going at all costs, to push through, that we can easily forget that by stopping to meditate or do yoga we can actually achieve more. We can slow down, appreciate what is happening, where we are and have clarity of purpose and task.

Many of you have commented that you find it hard to do yoga at home. But you don’t have to make it a special thing (although that is lovely and I strongly encouraging finding a space in your week to have a home yoga practice); you can do yoga anywhere at any time. Yoga is the unity of body and mind, being still in the present moment not getting sweaty, throwing crazy shapes or standing on a rubber mat.

Your challenge:

Set an alarm or reminder for every two hours during your working day. When your reminder goes off take five minutes to sit and breathe or go for a silent walk outside or find somewhere to do your favourite yoga pose or meditate – whatever you like as long as it doesn’t involve technology, cigarettes, stimulants or other people!

If every two hours is too frequent, try twice a day to start with and see if you can build it up through the week.

Like the results? Try doing it outside of work too, taking regular ‘time outs’ in the evening and weekends to bring body and mind together.

If you can spare 10 minutes for your ‘time out’ and you have access to You Tube on your mobile device, grab some headphones and head out to the park or quiet place near work and use this mediation, made especially for busy people: http://youtu.be/zIsg5voCmuY

Don’t forget to let me know how you get on. I am joining you with this challenge too so we can share our experiences.

Lucy teaches Dru yoga in London. She teaches yoga for Fit School at Northern Trust as well as popular rooftop yoga sessions in Peckham. http://www.lucyoga.co.uk/

Are you an encourager?

ABOUT 13 years ago I first learned to run. Before then I would try but would set off all keen and then have to stop and walk for a bit. It was very discouraging. Years of school inter-form running or cross country (AKA running around the school) had hammered into me that I was pretty useless at it (as for most sports) and my memories are of getting really cold, falling in muddy ditches and generally never getting clean or dry before I then had to go straight to band practice! I wanted to enjoy it but couldn’t get a rhythm. I’d get a stitch or couldn’t breathe. I loved dancing, aerobics and training in the gym but running – no. It was my nemesis. So when – with the help of a keen runner, Mike Hall (no relation) who was on my team at the PRS whilst we built them a new IT system (these were the days of Karen, the management consultant) – I completed my first ever 5k Corporate Chase Challenge back in 2001 it was a really big deal.

The team

(clockwise from far left) Amy, Nicola, Simona (Simona’s mum not in shot), Sally, Gemma, Hayley, me (Karen), Angustias

Roll on to 2014 and I somehow sit here with a snoozing six month old next to me and a three and a half year old at preschool. I run my own business and can remember little about coding in java or C (these are probably outdated now) but I do remember I always loved getting the team ‘on board’ and getting results. So when on Wednesday, we had our first little Fit School team running in the North Weald Race for Life it might not have seemed like a big deal to many but to every woman who had never run that distance before, or taken part in a ‘race’, or felt like they were a bit rubbish at sports, I knew how it felt. I also knew, that a now very dear friend, who lost her mum to cancer last summer, would be running 10k. Amy is a sunshiny, giving person and I wanted to be there for her too.

I’ve run in events since my first 5k but I’ve always felt pretty nervous due to the ‘pressure’ of doing a time. This event was different. I was going to get everyone round because that’s what I love doing. I could never have imagined just how incredible it was to see the perimeter of North Weald Airfield covered in little pink running and walking dots as runners, joggers, plodders and walkers just got out there and did something defiant and amazing.

photo 3

The team all made it round and all felt amazing afterwards. I got laughed at for running in the wrong direction at times but then I wasn’t going to leave anyone out there on the field!

It’s very easy to sit back and think, ‘It’s okay for her – she’s thin,’ or, ‘it’s okay for her, she has the time,’ or, ‘I can’t run because …’ but events like this are great for just getting everyone out, off their behinds, and sharing time, effort and hugs.

So perhaps you need a little encouragement to do some exercise or you’d like some guidance – or perhaps you’re feeling a bit low, or maybe a lot low. That’s okay. It doesn’t make you stupid or a nuisance. It makes you human. And there are always people like me who get a complete buzz out of being an encourager because I had enough of feeling like I was useless at sports when I was a teenager.

photo 1

Oh and for all my cross country efforts, I’ve since discovered that endurance events are in my genes – so it’s time for me to stop making excuses, learn how to run and just do it!

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Get updates from the alittlefitter post natal newsletter: http://eepurl.com/YVmD9

 

Chocolate Polenta Cake

This cake evolved from a Nigella recipe and a rainy afternoon activity with Isaac, who is rather partial to chocolate cake and munching on walnuts while mummy mixes (many batches of banana cake from spotty bananas have meant walnut munching is now a baking staple).

I didn’t intend for it to be a polenta cake but had no ground almonds in (shocker for me) and was amazed by the result. I also didn’t intend it to be dairy free but my butter was in the fridge and I couldn’t be bothered to dirty a pan melting some.

So here it is. I just made a little cake which struggled to make it to day 2!

Naomi was happily sat in her chair watching proceedings so it is fully family proof!

Ingredients:

  • 30g cocoa (I used Green & Blacks)
  • 90 ml freshly boiled water
  • Generous tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g fine polenta (cornmeal) – Nigella’s original recipe uses ground almonds so you could try a mixture
  • 100ml olive oil (light – you could also use sunflower)
  • 1/3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 100g coconut sugar (this is what makes it sugar free since coconut sugar is GI neutral but you could use unrefined sugar if you don’t have any)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs

Method:

Combine the boiled water and cocoa in a small boil until they are a cream like consistency.

In a separate bowl mix together the polenta, salt and bicarb.

Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, olive oil and sugar for a couple of minutes until they are really thick and light.

Finally combine all 3 mixtures maintaining as much air as possible

I used an 8″ lined, round sandwich tin.

Cook at Gas Mark 3 (170) for 20-30 minutes or until just coming away from the sides.

Et voila!

20140606-145312.jpg

Black Eyed Bean Chilli (Vegetarian)

WHILST I’m a confirmed meat eater I’ve recently been dabbling with vegetarian meals. When we’ve had an excess of meat or rich foods, we like to have the odd non-meat dinner. We’re also aware that whilst we are happy omnivores, not everyone is.

So here’s my latest veggie recipe. It appealed to me because I had some ripe plantains, so wanted a rice and bean dish to go with it but Chris’ mum’s African black eyed beans we had lurking in the freezer were way too spicy for my palate. This is sooooo quick (literally ten minutes to prepare and less than 30 minutes to cook) that it makes a great store cupboard, easy dinner and only requires a chopping board, knife and a tin opener. Plus the black eyed beans are really meaty. I used beef stock to meat it up (obviously veggies can use a non-meat equivalent).

We aren’t dieticans or nutritionists so would always recommend if you are following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s really important for you to seek the advice of a nutritionist to ensure you are still getting enough amino acids, protein and fats into your diet.

BLACK EYED BEAN CHILLI

(serves 3 hungry people or 2 with leftovers for lunch)

blackeyedpeas

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tin chopped or plum tomatoes
  • 1 dessert spoon tomato puree
  • 1 450g tin black eyed beans
  • 1/2 tin chickpeas (optional)
  • 100mls water and stock cube (I used a Knorr beef stock pot)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

METHOD:

Fry the chopped onions in a pan with a slug of olive oil (be generous to add fats to this recipe) until soft and slightly coloured. Then add the chopped garlic and fry for a few minutes taking care not to catch the garlic.

Make a space in the pan and add the tomato puree, cook it off then incorporate.

Add all the dry spices (to your taste) and cook for another few minutes.

Add the tomatoes and stock cube plus a little water (rinse out the tomato tin) then bring to a simmer. Season well with salt and lots of black pepper.

Add the beans and chickpeas if using and cook for around 20 minutes, or until the beans are looking a little soft.

You can add more water if it’s a little dry for you.

Once you’ve finished cooking add the balsamic vinegar to taste. It brings out the flavour.

Serve for dinner with steamed rice, fried plantains and a green salad with avocado (extra fats) or this is also great for lunch with a baked sweet potato.

Naomi’s birth story

AS a pre and post natal exercise specialist, NCT volunteer and mum of young children, I’m often surrounded by birth stories. Good, bad and ugly. I had polar opposite experiences with the births of my children, so before the memories fade, I thought the time was ripe to pen my experiences.

Just over 3 years ago I gave birth to my first child, Isaac. I had read all the stuff, done the courses, trained appropriately throughout my pregnancy, eaten well and continued with my Pilates until one month before his due date. Sadly, his birth didn’t go according to my plan and whilst I knew after the event that I was pretty traumatised, it wasn’t until I had a euphoric birth with Naomi that I realised just how much his birth had affected me and our initial bonding.

His was a typical back to back labour. My waters broke prematurely and my labour made slow (virtually no) progress. The contractions I had did little to bring on Isaac’s arrival, instead they just hurt like hell. By the time I gave birth I hadn’t slept for three nights and no matter how I tried, I could eat very little to sustain my energy. When your digestive system shuts down, it shuts down! I ended up being induced. First with gels, then with a drip and although I was given an epidural, it didn’t do anything. The final 3cms to fully dilated part of my labour happened in just under two hours and then I was pushing for another two. I won’t go into detail but the swelling was heinous and I had to push him out from a very peculiar angle. He came out hand first causing additional damage which took a while and lots of stitches to recover from (and inspired my fascination with all things pelvic floor and keeping women’s bits intact). BUT … I did push him out on my own, with no episiotomy or forceps.

It took me around six weeks to process his birth and to finally acknowledge I was proud of myself. Whilst it affected our initial bonding, once I’d accepted his birth the love hormones kicked in and I’m still falling in love with him a little more every day.

So when it came to Naomi’s birth – you can understand I was a little anxious! I didn’t really know what real labour felt like and was frightened of having a similar experience.

I went into labour naturally on the evening of 21st January. I’d been having practise contractions since before Christmas but was aware things felt more intense and the queasiness I’d felt throughout my pregnancy was back in earnest. I nibbled on my dinner in stages, drank lots and went to bed.

At around 11pm the contractions were every ten minutes. Rather than panic I took some paracetemol and decided to sleep through it (ha ha). This wasn’t really happening so I pottered downstairs so as not to disturb my husband or son and closed my eyes on the sofa. As the night progressed I read, sewed, nibbled on a banana (I’d learned from Isaac’s birth to eat what I could) and made sure all our bags were packed!

By 2am the contractions were hard to handle. We got the Tens machine going and with that and lots of positive mind talk I got through to around 6.30am on my own. At this point we called the birthing unit and my mum and dad who were going to have Isaac for us.

After a challenging but blissful shower, we made it into the car and promptly got stuck in rush hour traffic. It was a very silent, tense car journey!

At 8.50 we made it to the birthing unit. Still not sure if we’d be staying! The contractions had slowed down in the car but I was told this was very normal. I had a little cry on arrival (the fear) and then they left us to recover.

After around half an hour we were back in business. I still hadn’t timed anything so when our midwife came in and told me the contractions were lasting a minute each I was amazed! Again, she left me to labour on rather than intervene which helped me to relax and made me feel more confident. All the time I was literally nibbling crumbs of a biscuit and sipping water to try to stay strong.

By 10.15 the midwife examined me. I was 5cms dilated and ‘ripe’. I was elated to have made it this far on my own. She ran the pool and offered me gas and air (I accepted) and at this point I was suddenly aware of the contractions going through the roof. Although strangely it was as if they were happening in another room (that’s drugs for you).

My husband called my mum to let her know we were in business!

To cut a fairly short story short, within what felt like minutes the contractions escalated and felt pretty effective. I’m sure it was as a result of relaxing because of the gas and air. When I got into the birthing pool it felt heavenly. Yes I was in pain but the combination of gas and air and warm water was incredible. Again – I relaxed and again, I felt the contractions intensify. This time I felt like I couldn’t help but push.

At some point the midwife left the room (I assume to get another midwife given I’d mentioned the urge to push) and on the next contraction I felt my waters pop and immediately after a head crowned. My baby’s head (we didn’t know the sex). Aware of this and high on gas and air it was a challenge to communicate to my husband what was going on. ‘PUSH THE BUTTON’ I kept saying.

When the midwife returned (quickly) she said, ‘ooh, there are the waters,’ and then, ‘Oh and there’s a head.’ Much to my relief.

On the next contraction I didn’t have to do anything. Baby’s head slowly came out. I instinctively sat back and felt her head (truth be told I actually starting pulling but was quickly told to stop that). Then on the next contraction she came out and I held her in my arms. I’m welling up writing this now. The moment was intense. Tears. Elation. Relief. And a thank you God!

We had a little girl. Naomi Mae Akua Laing.

NaomiHospital

I tried to deliver the placenta naturally but sustained a pretty bad bleed so needed some assistance at this point. I lost around a litre of blood so had to stay in over night but had just a couple of grazes other than that.

The difference I felt between Isaac and Naomi’s birth was instant. I was euphoric and totally in love with my baby girl. But I also know that I learned from Isaac’s birth and he also paved the way. From just over 48 hours of labour with Isaac and 2 hours of pushing. I had 12 hours with Naomi and 4 minutes of ‘pushing’ (I officially went from 5cms to crowning in 40 minutes).

I don’t plan any more children. My body has had enough and I’m beyond grumpy when I’m pregnant but I’ll never forget that euphoria. Now I’m absolutely content and blessed with my beautiful family.

naomiisaacbed

The Mince Pie Workout

Many of you will know that come Yule-tide, I love to share my home baked mince pies.

My love of baking and love of fitness don’t always go together but since it’s Christmas, it’s time to marry the two and bring you my mince pie workout.

MincePie

Very Important Mince Pie Statistics (VIMPS)

According to Waitrose, their all butter mince pies contain 234 calories each … gasp! So one mince pie, plus an obligatory glass of champagne (90cals in the average glass) = 324 calories. How can we burn off 324 calories in our super shopping mince pie workout?

Shopping Basics versus VIMPS

Let’s say the average last minute Christmas shopping dash lasts 45 minutes. According to the Mince Pie Calculator (yes there is one – provided by http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/mincepiesatwork/) a 10 stone person walking for 45 minutes at a slow pace burns on average 109 calories, crank up your speed and you could burn 253 calories, so get moving!

Special Mince Pie Workout Booster

“But what about the other 65 calories?” I hear you cry. According to Australian nutritionist Matt O’Neill (www.smartshape.com.au ) caffeine before a workout can help you burn 30% more calories. So grab an espresso en route and you could turn your 253 calories into 329.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com